Users less satisfied with federal government Web sites, says report

According to a report that measures the online performance of a variety of sites, user satisfaction with federal government Web sites is at its lowest point in three years.

The score for e-government sites for the first quarter of 2008 fell to 72.4 out of 100 points, a full point lower than the same time last year, and 1.5 points lower than the 74 points it scored in the second quarter of 2006, according to the first quarter report of the University of Michigan’s American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) E-Government Satisfaction Index.

User satisfaction with federal government Web sites this quarter slipped to 73.3 from 73.7 in the previous quarter, according to Ann Arbor, Mich.-based ForeSee Results Inc., a sponsor of the ACSI.

There are two possible reasons users are less satisfied with e-government sites this quarter, said Larry Freed, president of ForeSee Results and author of the report, in a statement.

“One cause may be the uncertainty leading up to the presidential election as many federal government Web sites are waiting to see what changes a new administration will effect,” Freed said.

Freed said although some of the candidates have made campaign promises about e-government, others haven’t mentioned it, so there’s no clear sense of the level of focus and resources a new administration will devote to improving e-government.

As a result, users’ online experiences are suffering because government agencies may be holding off making improvements or enhancements to their Web sites until a new administration is in place, he said.

In addition, the user satisfaction scores for the Web sites in the category of portals/department main sites fell more than three points to 71.9 since the second quarter of 2006, he said. The decline in this category is driving down the aggregate score, Freed said.

There is some good news, however. User satisfaction with the e-commerce/transaction function of federal Web sites continues to improve, Freed said.

That category climbed 1.5 per cent from last quarter to 75.7, he said. However, it wasn’t enough to offset the declines in every other category, including news/information, down 0.8 per cent to 71.7 and career/recruitment, 0.1 per cent to 77.1, he said.

“The increasing scores for the e-commerce category of e-government indicate that citizens are eager for government sites to evolve from information sources to conduits for conducting business with the government,” Freed said.

Once again, the Social Security Administration tops the e-government sites with two sites at 87 – “Help With Medicare Prescription Drug Plan Costs” and “Internet Social Security Benefits Application,” followed closely by three National Institutes of Health sites. They are MedlinePlus, with 88 points; MedlinePlus en espanol, 84 points; and National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive & Kidney Diseases, 83.

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