RealTime IT News

Study: e-Gov Sites' Usability on the Rise

Government Web sites are becoming more intuitive and user-friendly, according to a new study measuring customer satisfaction.

In its quarterly survey, research group ForeSee Results evaluated 98 government Web sites on a 100-point scale developed by the University of Michigan, known as the American Customer Satisfaction Index, or ACSI.

The aggregate score of the Web sites ForeSee reviewed was 73.9, a 1.4 percent increase from last quarter, and just slightly off from the highest mark posted since the study began in July 2003.

More sites' scores improved than declined, and 25 percent of those measured posted a score of 80 or higher, which is considered a superior score on the ACSI index.

"The government has done a remarkable job satisfying citizens with e-gov initiatives so far," wrote Larry Freed, president and CEO of ForeSee Results and author of the study. "However, we've only scratched the surface of e-gov's potential, and a change in administration is the perfect time to implement new policies, executive orders and legislation that will support the work of federal workers to deliver superior information and services to the citizenry via the Web."

The continued expansion of the volume of government information citizens can access online will yield cash-strapped agencies considerable savings in the form of streamlined bureaucracy, reduced paperwork and lower staffing requirements at government call centers, Freed said.

In addition to the operating efficiencies to be found when government agencies can put more information online, Americans seem to have a better experience when they can find the information they need online rather than in person or over the phone. The 73.9 e-government ACSI score compares to the mark of 67.8 reported in the most recent study of offline government agencies.

The convenience of a mouse-click

"E-government is smart government," Freed said. "It's a win-win proposition because consumers prefer the convenience of a mouse click, and government will benefit from improved efficiency, cost-savings, accountability and transparency."

Despite its incremental improvement, the e-government mark still comes in notably lower than the most recent ACSI scores awarded to online businesses and e-commerce sites, which posted ratings of 79.3 and 81.6, respectively.

In its study, ForeSee identified search, navigation and functionality as the areas where improvement would have the biggest impact on the sites' ACSI scores.

Among sites that offer a search tool, ForeSee said that improving that feature is the top priority for 96 percent.

Functionality -- the ability to execute an e-commerce or other type of transaction -- ranked as one of the top priorities for 57 percent of sites. Navigation was a top priority for 37 percent.