Government Web sites rank higher than private sector

Overall citizen satisfaction with government Web sites reached new levels during the last four months, as the aggregate government score nudged ahead of the private sector mark for goods and services in the third quarter of 2005.

A 1.2 percent growth in the satisfaction index - from 72.6 to 73.5 - represents a 3.2 percent increase from September 2004 and is at an all-time high. The cumulative nongovernment scores for goods and services measured by the index averaged out at 73.1.

Thirteen agency Web sites attained scores of 80 or above on the 100-point scale - four of them new to the index - while 17 remained below 70.

The measure of the public's satisfaction, compiled every four months by the American Customer Satisfaction Index, surveyed 81 agency Web sites, up from 70 sites in June. The National Quality Research Center at the University of Michigan Business School publishes the index.

Once again, the highly rated National Institutes of Health sites lead led the index, joined by newcomers from the Social Security Administration's Help with Medicare Prescription Drug Costs site and Internet-based Social Security Benefits application.

Of the five agencies with more than five sites measured by the index, the Social Security Administration had the highest average score with a 79.7 followed by the Health and Human Services Department 23 sites - which includes 21 National Institutes of Health sites - with 77.4. The Web sites of the departments of Agriculture and Treasury each averaged a score of 67.8 and the State Department scored a 73.

Larry Freed, president and CEO of the Ann Arbor, Mich.-based online strategy firm ForeSee Results, wrote in an analysis of the report that improving the ability to navigate and search a site remains a high priority for government Web sites.

"It's great that you can get 7,000 responses back, but I only want that one response," Freed said. "I don't think we're scratching the surface of search technology. I think at some point there will be some big great breakthroughs."

Freed said agencies are embracing the concept of citizen satisfaction, which is the first step towards improvement.

"The fact that the number of participants is growing so quickly says the best thing about the future of e-government," Freed said. "These sites care, and if they can get the budget, they're making improvements in the right places."

The General Services Administration's main Web site continued to score poorly on the index with a 64, but its other Web sites scored above average including its Federal Citizen Information Center, which received an 82, and its Spanish language version of the site, which received a 77. GSA's e-Library site also scored poorly with a 58.

The U.S. Mint's Online Catalog site continued its decline, dropping to 72. At the beginning of the year, it was one of the top performers with an 81.

The score for NASA's main Web site improved markedly, rising from 72 in the second quarter to 77 in the third quarter.

Agencies pay from $22,500 to $30,000 to participate in the index, depending on how many Web sites are included in the review. Participating agencies receive performance reports about every six weeks as well as comparisons of visitor types.

Department Agency/Office Web site Satisfactoin
this quarter
last quarter
first quarter
SSA Social Security Administration Internet Social Security Benefits Application 87 NA NA
GSA GSA Global Supply Global Supply 72 68 68
Treasury U.S. Mint Online Catalog 72 76 81
Treasury Treasury Department TreasuryDirect 71 72 NA
DHS Federal Emergency Management Agency FEMA Flood Map Store 71 71 70
GSA General Services Administration GSA Advantage 68 69 68
PBCG Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation PBGC 65 65 63
SSA SSA Retirement Planner SSA Retirement Planner NA 79 78
SSA Social Security Administration Help with Medicare Prescription Drug Costs 91 NA NA
HHS National Library of Medicine MedlinePlus 86 85 87
HHS National Library of Medicine MedlinePlus en español 84 84 83
HHS National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases NIDDK 83 84 NA
HHS Office on Women's Health National Womens Health Information Center 83 82 82
GSA General Services Administration Federal Citizen Information Center 82 79 79
SSA Social Security Administration Social Security Business Services 81 NA NA
HHS NIH resource for stem cell research NIH Stem Cell Information 80 81 NA
HHS National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders NIDCD 80 81 NA
HHS NIH Senior Health NIH Senior Health 79 NA NA
HHS National Library of Medicine AIDSinfo 79 79 80
State Bureau of Cultural Affairs State Alumni 78 79 NA
Justice National Criminal Justice Reference Service NCJRS 78 76 77
GSA General Services Administration Consumer Action Website 77 NA NA
Commerce U.S. Department of Commerce National Geodetic Society, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 77 NA NA
HHS National Library of Medicine TOXNET 76 76 76
HHS NIH Office of Research Services, National Institutes of Health, HHS Office of Research Services 76 NA NA
HHS Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality 75 NA NA
Justice National Institute of Justice NIJ 75 74 75
HHS Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality 75 74 73
SSA Social Security Administration SSA FAQ 75 73 NA
Justice Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention OJJDP 74 75 75
Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics BLS Occupational Outlook Handbook 74 71 73
NARA National Archives and Records Administration NARA Presidential Library 73 74 74
State State Department State Department Education USA 73 73 71
HHS National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases NIAID 73 73 76
Agriculture Economic Research Service, Agriculture ERS 72 71 72
Agriculture Foreign Agricultural Service, Agriculture FAS 72 70 69
State International Information Programs IIP 72 69 67
SSA Social Security Administration SSA Disability 71 72 NA
HHS Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results, National Cancer Institute SEER 71 70 NA
Commerce Bureau of Economic Analysis, Commerce BEA 70 71 71
NRC U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission 69 NA NA
State Bureau of Cultural Affairs Bureau of Cultural Affairs 68 67 71
Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service FSIS 68 66 66
Agriculture National Agricultural Library NAL 67 66 66
Treasury Financial Management Service, Treasury Financial Management Service 66 NA NA
Agriculture Forest Service Forest Service 65 66 73
DHS Federal Emergency Management Agency FEMA Mitigation Division 64 65 67
Agriculture Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service CSREES 62 62 62
GSA General Services Administration GSA E-Library 58 NA NA
Treasury Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau USTTB 57 58 0
NARA National Archives and Records Administration Access to Archival Databases 56 NA NA
Defense Military Health System TRICARE 55 57 56
Energy Energy Information Administration Energy Information Adiministration NA 67 69
State State Department Student Information NA 69 69
Portals/Department main sites
HHS National Cancer Institute National Cancer Institute 81 81 80
HHS National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, National Institutes of Health, HHS NHLBI main website 81 NA NA
HHS Office of Science Education Office of Science Education 80 80 NA
HHS National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases NIAMS 78 78 NA
Interior National Parks Service National Parks Service 78 78 79
GSA General Services Administration (Spanish) 77 75 74
Defense Defense Department Defense Department 77 75 76
NASA National Aeronautics and Space Administration NASA 77 72 74
Commerce National Institute of Standards and Technology NIST 76 78 77
HHS National Library of Medicine NLM 76 76 77
HHS National Human Genome Research Institute NIHGRI 76 75 NA
SSA Social Security Administration SSA 74 73 72
HHS National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research NIDCR 73 74 0
HHS Centers for Disease Control and Prevention CDC 73 73 74
FDIC Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation FDIC 73 73 73
GAO Government Accountability Office GAO 73 71 71
Treasury Department of the Treasury Treasury Department 73 70 69
GSA General Services Administration 72 72 71
State State Department State Department 71 71 73
HHS National Institute of General Medical Sciences NIGMS 70 71 NA
HHS Fogarty International Center Fogarty International Center 70 NA NA
NARA National Archives and Records Administration NARA 70 69 68
Treasury Internal Revenue Service IRS 67 69 70
Commerce United States Patent and Trademark Office USPTO 66 68 66
GSA General Services Administration GSA 64 65 57
FAA Federal Aviation Administration FAA NA 67 68
HUD Housing and Urban Development Department HUD NA 61 62
CIA Central Intelligence Agency CIA Recruitment 79 79 79
OPM Office of Personnel Management Government Recruitment 77 77 76
State State Department State Department Recruitment 76 76 78
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