FirstGov, USDA Web portals score high marks

Texas, New Jersey have top state-run sites

Web sites operated by the General Services Administration and the Agriculture Department topped a recent Brown University analysis.

In its seventh annual state and federal e-government study, Brown University's Taubman Center for Public Policy ranked the states of Texas and New Jersey as the top portals operated by state governments.

Portals receiving the lowest rankings include sites operated by Alaska, Wyoming, Mississippi, and several federal appeals courts.

The study evaluated more than 1,500 state and federal Web sites based on content, including contact information, comment forms, automatic email notification, publications, databases, audio and video clips, foreign language features, disability services, advertisements, user fees, and security and privacy statements.

Overall, the study found that both state and federal government sites have shown consistent improvements in offering online services, as 77 percent of the portals surveyed have services that are fully executable on the computer, a 4 percent increase from last year. Also, 71 percent of the sites contain privacy policies, a slight boost from 69 percent last year.

"Clearly, both state and federal governments are making significant progress at placing fully executable services online," the report said.

GSA's FirstGov.gov portal and USDA's home page topped the federal government rankings, according to the study, followed by sites maintained by the departments of Housing and Urban Development, Commerce, Treasury, Education and State, as well as the IRS, the U.S. Postal Service and the Social Security Administration.

Top state sites include Texas, New Jersey, Oregon, Michigan, Utah, Montana, and New York.

Sites at the bottom of the list, including West Virginia, Mississippi, Wyoming, Alabama, Alaska, and several federal courts, received low marks because they often included too much information, creating a cluttered and confusing look, or contained outdated information, the study said.

"Sites that lead users to services by clicking on simple, intuitive menus are better than sites that list every link on the homepage," the study said.

Rob Thormeyer is a staff writer for Washington Technology's sister publication, Government Computer News.

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