Convenient. Accessible. Secure. These adjectives describe an ideal website. But the websites of federal government agencies are far from ideal.
A recent report by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) indicates that a great majority of the federal government’s websites are failing in a least one of these three areas.
The ITIF report sampled 469 out of the approximately 4,500 federal government websites that provide access to critical government services and information. The ITIF report revealed that at least 91% of the sampled websites were unsatisfactory. The websites were tested for page-load speed, security, accessibility, and compatibility with mobile phones.
Sara Friedman of GCN summarized the report findings:
“In terms of page-load speed, tests were done with both desktop computers and mobile devices. Six-three percent of federal websites passed the desktop page-load speed test — down from 73 percent in the initial report — while 27 percent passed the mobile page-load test, compared to 36 percent in the earlier report.
“Users also encountered problems caused by improper use of metatags that configure websites for mobile devices and by links or buttons that were too small for easy mobile use. Only 61 percent of websites were mobile friendly, although that was a slight improvement over the 59 percent in the initial report.
“Seventy-one percent of the websites passed the SSL test, which was an improvement from the initial report’s 67 percent. Testing for the DNSSEC protocols found 88 percent of federal websites enabled the security feature, down from 90 percent in the initial report. Sixty-four percent of websites passed both the HTTPS and DNSSEC tests, up from 61 percent.
“For users with disabilities, websites were tested on range of issues. Sixty percent of the websites were deemed accessible for users with disabilities compared to 58 percent in the original report.
The ITIF report, released November 2017, called on the Trump administration to fix these problems. The ITIF made the following suggestions to ameliorate the situation:
- Launch a website modernization sprint to fix known problems.
- Require federal websites to meet basic desktop and mobile page-load speeds.
- Launch a website consolidation initiative.
- Require all federal agencies to report website analytics.
- Appoint a federal CIO to lead federal IT modernization efforts.
- Encourage nonexecutive agencies and branches of government to adopt federal website standards and practices.