January 28th, 2010

Stuck on website satisfaction without social media?

Over the past few quarters the public’s overall satisfaction with United States government websites has been increasing, from 73.6 in the first and second quarter to 75.2 for both the third and final quarters of 2009 out of 100 points.

Is it all due to President Obama? Of course not. However I do find these Nextgov quotes compelling, first

“While it would be nice to give President Obama all of the recognition, much of the credit goes to the men and women who have been working to create and improve federal Web sites for years,” stated a report issued by ForeSee Results, a Web analytics firm. “Web sites that have been measuring satisfaction for five-plus years have the biggest improvements in their satisfaction scores, both long term and short term.”

and second

… the number has climbed with the increased focus on transparency by the administration and the growing use of social media and other Web 2.0 services. Those types of capabilities need to start with the Web site.”

[Larry] Freed [President of ForSee Results] added customer satisfaction should be the key indicator of whether or not the federal government is fulfilling its pledge to increase transparency.

According to the source information at the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI),  MedlinePlus (the National Library of Medicine’s (NLM) consumer health resource)  has ranked at the top of the news and information sources for the US Federal Government sector since 2003 with a score of 85-86 each year… until now. The MedlinePlus score is still 86 for the fourth quarter of 2009, but the Free Application for Student Aid (FAFSA) site surpassed it at 88 and the National Women’s Health Information Center (womenshealth.gov)  tied it.

The only other NLM website to appear in the U.S. Federal Goverment Ratings for 2009 in the Portals and Department Main Sites category is not PubMed but the main website, http://www.nlm.nih.gov/, with a score of 74. MedlinePlus in Spanish, AIDSInfo, TOXnet which ranked 84, 83 & 79 respectively in 2008? All are gone. I’m not certain if this is because these sites no longer rate highly enough with consumers to appear in the top ranking list or if NLM has decided to no longer collect ACSI data about them.

PubMed is not now and never has been listed in the ACSI data, and I don’t think I’ve seen a customer satisfaction survey pop up on PubMed the way I have on the other websites. It is my personal opinion that this needs to change in light of the significant recent and continuing changes to the PubMed interface since this is a major portal to information. User click statistics do not tell a customer satisfaction story, nor is using a Help Desk link to email feedback leading to data transparency.

It’s great that MedlinePlus’ score has not declined, but why has it also not improved at all in seven years?

Could social media presence play a role in this? Womenshealth.gov jumped to tie MedlinePlus’ 86 ranking from an 83 in 2008 and was once a low of 80 in 2005. Womenshealth.gov also has a longstanding presence on Twitter (since June 6, 2007) and almost 15,000 followers compared to relative newcomer MedlinePlus (since August 28, 2009) with almost 1,500 followers.

I’m not aware of data to prove this theory but it certainly makes me wonder.

Posted at 07 15 AM | 3 Comments » | print this post

3 Responses to “Stuck on website satisfaction without social media?”

  1. Rhonda says:

    Hello, I’m a researcher at ForeSee Results and I am involved in the reporting of our quarterly eGov releases. (Similar to your statement, my opinions are my own and not those of FSR or other entities.) As stated in our publicly-released reports, the E-Gov Index is comprised of Federal websites that measure satisfaction using FSR. A broad cross-section of types of Federal sites are currently measured (103 this past quarter). We measure department, agency, and program websites with varying purposes (portals, informational, transactional, careers). We would be delighted if more Federal sites such as PubMed would measure site visitor satisfaction and join the Index. A few recently-added concepts to our theoretical model that are very relevant to the administration’s goals are Transparency and Trust. In addition, our models help our Federal clients to understand where to focus resources and make improvements.

  2. Rachel says:

    I wonder to what extent there is an effect at the specialized sites like ToxNet because a high percentage of users are repeat/frequent users (if that is true) who do the little pop-up satisfaction survey once or not at all and then “No, thanks” it from then on.

  3. Rhonda says:

    To address Rachel’s question, most of our surveys measure visit frequency, so we can analyze the data based on whether visitors are first-timers, occasional visitors, or frequent users. There is no perfect solution for sites with very small, very specific audiences, but we randomly present the survey to a set percentage of visits so that we minimize the possibility of the same individuals receiving an invitation frequently. Because we typically see scores for specialized sites drop when they make changes that negatively impact their visitors’ satisfaction and we see them increase when they make positive changes, I think this system of measurement works well.

Leave a Reply