Federal Agencies Scramble to Enhance Mobile Compatibility of Government Websites



The vast majority of today’s consumers are using mobile devices to peruse the internet, and many federal agencies are now scrambling to keep up with the changing times.

According to GovTech Works, more than one in three visitors to government-sponsored websites are using mobile or tablet devices. It mirrors a global trend of consumers preferring to browse the web with handheld devices, as opposed to sitting down at a personal computer to perform the same task.Close up of a man using mobile smart phone

This trend is not limited to government websites, of course. In fact, Business.com recently reported that more than 20% of all Google searches are being made on mobile devices.

While mobile-optimization has been a focus of web designers for quite some time, it wasn’t until last year when federal agencies were forced to acquiesce to these new consumer demands.

In April 2015, Google made changes to its search engine algorithm that gives preference to mobile-friendly websites. When this transition was announced, government IT news site NextGov tested 24 of the government’s most trafficked websites to see how they would perform in the new algorithm.

As it turns out, most federal agencies weren’t even close to being prepared for these new determinants. Of the 24 websites tested, 11 of them failed, including Defense.gov, DHS.gov, and IRS.gov.

Now, the General Services Administration’s (GSA) 18F organization has assembled a group to develop government-wide standards for federal websites. The GSA hopes that the group’s efforts will establish clear expectations for those who design government websites, including a directive that will focus on mobile-optimization.

“When the American people go online to access government services, they’re often met with confusing navigation systems, a cacophony of visual brands, and inconsistent interaction patterns,” explained project leader Mollie Ruskin.

In a recent survey, about 48% of users said that if they arrive on a business site that isn’t working well on mobile, they take it as an indication of the business simply not caring.

Government websites play a crucial role in the lives of millions of people, allowing them to pay taxes and learn more about healthcare, among other things. Therefore, it is much more important for federal agencies to provide easy-to-use websites to consumers than it would be for a normal business.

Last year, the American Customer Satisfaction Index released a report explaining the frustrations that many Americans feel when it comes to accessing federal websites.

“Overall, the services of the federal government continue to deliver a level of customer satisfaction below the private sector and the downturn this year exacerbates the difference,” the report stated.

Citizens may be displeased with the current state of federal websites, but it seems as if the government is taking steps in the right direction to rectify this issue.

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