Thursday, August 25, 2011

Recommendations to improve the DC government website

The DC government website is undergoing some changes and I believe the public should have a formal way to offer suggestions.   They have not, so far as I know, so I conducted a survey to collect ideas.   The results are here; I will be sharing this post and the unedited results (link is below) today with the mayor's communications staff and OCTO.

The recommendations fall into three categories, DC government website general, agencies, and tech.

The recommendations include:

DC government website general
  • Daily/weekly "did you know" feature, where the city highlights a city service that residents may not know about.   For example, the city will bait your neighborhood for rats.
  • Daily/weekly tips on being a good urban resident.
  • Proactive and reactive search tool that sends request once entered.
  • Ability to hire more traffic and more traffic faster.

Agency websites
  • Make sure that everything current is on the website, no just what agencies feel like posting.
  • Get rid of the agency self promotion.
  • Top-level pages for each agency should provide detailed "where is" lists that meet the needs of users.   Government websites must be designed so information can be retrieved easily and not require a high degree of familiarity with the particular agency.
  • Searchable, staff directory for city agencies.
  • Bring back as a full-service page.   Include budget and spending information that correlates to appropriate data (key result measures) and DCPS data.   Post disaggregated DC CAS scores for the past few years (down to the class level) and feeder pattern/migration data (for each school where do kids come from, at the neighborhood level, what grade do they leave, what schools do they go to when they leave DCPS (charter? other DCPS? if possible, private?).
  • Information about ANCs—their activities, how to find yours, the role of ANCs—should be significantly more prominent.
  • Important information for renters such as renters rights, responsibilities of landlords, and how to report abuses.

Tech issues
  • Technology needs to be improved so the searches are more intuitive making it easier to find things.   If I put "zoning maps" in the search field, I should be directed to the appropriate page, not to a list of inappropriate pages.
  • Proactive and reactive search tool that sends request once entered.
  • Ability to hire more traffic and more traffic faster.

My recommendations for improving the DC government website family are:

  • Post the Children's Budget on
  • Replace the current FY 2012 budget text with "this is what happened" and this is how you can participate in the FY 2013 budget (
  • Make the glossary of budget terms printable.
  • Fix the agency template so policy documents and reports are posted and easy to find.

The complete public responses are online.

FYI, seven people—one resident and three each ANCs and advocates—offered recommendations.

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