How They Did It:
GSA - Mary Joy Jameson, Associate Administrator for GSA
Creation of FirstGov.gov
What did you accomplish?
GSA has created a constantly evolving tool that makes it easier for citizens to acquire services and information from the federal government.
What is the nature of the challenge you faced?
An enormous amount of government information from numerous sources, all with unique bureaucracies and cultures, exists. FirstGov.gov was created to consolidate this information and disseminate it in an organized fashion to a diverse American public.
What were the barriers/hurdles to getting it solved?
Our two greatest challenges were (and continue to be):
- Determining what the American people want most from on-line government resources, and
- Gathering and organizing those resources among the vast array of federal agencies, programs and services.
How did you overcome those barriers and solve the problem?
The first challenge has been met successfully by staying in tune with our "clients", the American people. The FirstGov.gov staff regularly collects information on the most frequently-visited pages; researches what terms are searched most often; discovers the most commonly asked questions via FirstGov.gov email and phone (1-800-FED-INFO); carefully studies customer satisfaction surveys; and uses focus groups and usability testing as well. By implementing this multifaceted approach to research, GSA is able to stay ahead of the curve in determining the on-line demands of the American public.
Overcoming the second challenge is just as critical to the success of FirstGov.gov as the first. GSA's FirstGov.gov team has worked diligently on developing partnerships with other federal agencies to determine the best methods to interconnect individual federal agency Web sites, with the goal of providing important information and easy-to-use services to American citizens. Just as the Web site continues to evolve, the E-Gov partnerships among federal agencies will continue to develop better ways to provide more resources to more people.
Did you utilize outside resources?
Most of the work on FirstGov.gov was done in-house, except for web hosting and search services, which are provided by outside contractors. FirstGov.gov is managed by GSA's Office of Citizen Services and Communications (OCSC), which serves as the center for all communications and citizen service programs within GSA.
What tools did you use to track progress?
Site improvements are continuously engineered using customer feedback and usability testing. This is augmented by information from such Internet industry sources as the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) and Internet usage studies conducted by renowned research organizations like the PEW Foundation and Hart-Teeter. WebTrends provides site usage statistics to allow us to track progress on numbers of people using the site, numbers of pages they view, and most frequently used pages, search terms and more.
Is the problem solved for good?
One job is not done. We will continue to make it easier for citizens to interact with their government. However, we have already accomplished a great deal. Millions of citizens have turned to Firstgov.gov to find the information they need in direct, simple language. The portal leads directly to government services such as "Social Security Online," "Change Your Address," "E-File Your Taxes," and "Government Shopping." The site connects visitors to a wealth of information, services and transactions on more than 180 million pages of on-line government resources from federal, state and local governments. Today, FirstGov.gov attracts about 6 million visitors per month. At this rate of growth, approximately 70 million visitors will benefit from FirstGov.gov this year.