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Feds Crowdsource Ideas For Improving Websites

New site asks citizens for opinions, ideas on how federal government can make better use of its Internet properties.

The White House is crowdsourcing ideas for improving federal websites as part of an overall plan to host and maintain only sites that work efficiently and prove helpful.

A new website seeks "a national dialogue" to improve federal websites, according to the site's title. On the site, the feds pose the question, "What practices, policies, and principles should guide federal websites?" and invite the public to weigh in with answers.

"If you've ever been on a .gov site and thought, 'Hey, this site could be a lot better,' we want to hear from you," U.S. Director of Digital Strategy Macon Phillips said in a White House blog post.

The site breaks down discussions into a variety of topics--such as policies and principles; content and readability; usability and design; search; accessibility; and social media--on which people already are beginning to comment.

[Take a look at the 15 Government IT Innovators honored in the 2011 InformationWeek 500 awards.]

For instance, one site user suggested the feds use "plain language" on its websites rather than complicate them with information that is "poorly written" or "too complex," a comment that has gotten 40 votes of support so far.

People have until Sept. 30 to submit their ideas for improving federal websites on the site.

The move is part of the Obama administration's "Campaign to Cut Waste," which aims to eliminate wasteful spending across the federal government wherever possible. Improving customer service by making better use of existing Web properties also is a part of the strategy, Phillips said.

Improving customer service is another overall goal of the administration, which has called for agencies to submit plans for how they can leverage the Web and other technology to better interact with public. More and more, people are using the Web to contact the federal government, according to a recent survey, and the administration wants to make this process as painless as possible for them.

Additionally, Obama's anti-waste campaign calls for the feds to cut 50% of federal websites by mid 2012. The White House already has sought public advice via Twitter and Facebook about which websites to close, via an online forum that it hosted in July.

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