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Government Websites Gone Bad

BY Nancy Scola | Tuesday, April 13 2010

Credit: Time.gov

A correspondent who is savvy on the ways of both technology and government writes in to note that he's found a federal government website that he judges to be even more in need of a redesign than the Federal Communications Commission's FCC.gov. That's an extremely high bar, but he thinks Time.gov might just pass over it.

Time.gov does indeed look like it hasn't been redesigned in at least a decade. That said, the site does manage to be a least a little bit useful. The site is a joint project of the "two time agencies of the United States" -- the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the Naval Observatory. The interface is clumsy and dated, but it does manage to display the current time in each of the time zones of the United States. It's useful for, say, scheduling conference calls in the middle of the country when you're on either coast.

Our correspondent thinks that a contest to find the single most federal website in need of a revamp might be in order. Not a bad idea.

On a related note, given all the talk about the federal government embracing social media, it's worth keeping in mind that these .gov websites are the way that many Americans are going to interact with their federal agencies when the time comes that they want or need services, information, or support. Anecdotally, I recently went on Variety's "Wilshire & Washington" online radio show to talk about the Obama administration's guidance to the agencies on innovative uses of social media. Among the very first questions from the hosts was one about whether this new social media push in DC was going to help them be able to navigate FCC.gov.