Connecting state and local government leaders

How Good Is Your State Legislature’s Website?

www.BillionPhotos.com / Shutterstock.com

 

Connecting state and local government leaders

User experience tends to be poor in most cases. And that’s bad for citizen engagement, according to a new report.

When you look at the user experiences on state legislative websites, the majority need improvement.

Most of the state legislative sites trail those of software-as-a-service companies in meeting industry standards for mobility, analytics, security and enhancement, according to a FiscalNote report.

The Washington, D.C.-based SaaS provider found 35 of the 54 sites studied, 65 percent, were programmed in ASP.NET and running on IIS servers. Among SaaS sites, 58 percent use the PHP language with 9 percent preferring Ruby on Rails, app developers’ favorite.

According to the white paper:

“Legislatures that prioritize user experience will allow them to better understand the objectives of the state’s inhabitants. Some of these enhancements would require significant resources—many legislature websites need a full web redesign, and should be built on a CMS. Others involve one simple step – adding analytics code and installing an SSL certificate.

The certificate allows sites to employ an https protocol for encrypted data transfers—handy for securing credit card transactions—but only six state legislature sites have one.

Mobile-friendly sites in 2012 began featuring responsive design that scales to fit the browser of any device, improving user experience, but only four state legislature sites had the proper code.

(FiscalNote)

Less than 50 percent of state legislative websites rely on Google Analytics to provide user insights. Those governments have no reliable way of knowing how citizens are using their sites and which services are most sought after.

(FiscalNote)

Widgets like Google Fonts, seen on 58 percent of SaaS sites, while the API was only on four government sites.

The states with the worst legislative websites, according to FiscalNote—Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Kentucky and New Mexico—all featured open data issues, whether that meant poor formatting, bad search returns or hard-to-find information like lawmaker votes.

States with the best legislative websites—California, Michigan, Tennessee, West Virginia and Virginia—boasted clean, easily accessible data and fast load times, in addition to being mobile-friendly. In California’s case, the site even made use of an open data portal—rare for state legislatures.

The complete white paper can be viewed here.

Dave Nyczepir is News Editor for Government Executive’s Route Fifty.

NEXT STORY New Focus on End-of-Life Care and Counseling in 40 States