State of the Web

April 2002

The Annual Report from HUD's Departmental Web Team

On March 27, 2002 - unbeknownst to HUD - America Online (AOL) spotlighted HUD's online "homes for sale," linking to the HUD page from the AOL web site. On that day, more than 1.4 million page views were recorded, compared to 833,000 the previous day. For the entire month of March, 802,437 unique visitors came to HUD's web site. That is the highest number of visitors in a one-month period since the site debuted in 1995. But the number of visitors coming to HUD's web site has been growing steadily, even before the AOL spotlight. In January, 747,500 unique visitors used HUD's web site, besting the 2001 monthly average of 624,000 by more than 100,000.

With more than 60% of Americans now "online" in their homes (according to the 2000 census) and even more gaining access through work, schools, and libraries, the Internet has become a significant force in the way Americans view and access their governments. The Pew Internet and American Life Project recently issued a study, entitled "The Rise of the E-Citizen," in which they report that 68 million American adults have used government web sites, up from 40 million in March 2000. 80% of those users have visited a Federal web site; and 49% say the Internet has actually improved the way they interact with the Federal Government. That's good news for Federal managers.

HUD remains a leader in the Federal Government in using the web to carry out its mission. HUD's web site is one of the most highly regarded web sites in the Federal Government. A summary of the awards and recognition for HUD's five web products is appended to this report (Appendix A) . The key to HUD's success is simple: we know our audiences; and we give them what they want and need, in ways that make sense to them.

HUD's Departmental Web Team has defined three strategic goals for HUD's web products:

  1. Use the web to connect people with government

    One significant concern expressed in the recent Pew study is that government agencies may be putting too much focus on making citizens consumers - rather than owners - of government. At HUD, we already are looking for new and better ways to use the web to create government by the people - not just for the people.

    Webcasts provide a great venue for letting the public interact with Federal executives. Secretary Martinez was the first to volunteer to do a Town Hall webcast, and we hope others will follow. The Web Team also is investigating "virtual team" technology that would permit groups to share files and discuss ideas and concerns, all in "real time." Once it is available, this technology can foster the creation of ad hoc groups of citizens, partners, and HUD staff who can interact to address problems.

    As Baby Boomers become retirees, it is easy to imagine that they will turn to the web as a means for influencing government. We want to offer meaningful ways to use that energy.

  2. Use the web to connect people with people

    One of the most powerful capabilities of the web is to help people connect with one another, one-to-one. This summer, a "real-time chat" pilot will put some of HUD's housing counseling grantees online, providing one-on-one counseling to citizens, via the web. Once established, real-time chat technology offers abundant opportunities:
    • We can put employee assistance and equal opportunity counseling online;
    • We can connect HUD's technical assistance providers with those who need their support; and
    • We can supplement call centers with online capability.

  1. Keep doing what we're doing - only better

    We're doing so many things right, at HUD; and we want to keep it that way. But we don't want to rest on our laurels - new technical capabilities and the ever-growing Internet-enabled audience present constant challenges to improve, to experiment, and to create new possibilities. On our agenda for the coming months are the following:

    • Public-private partnerships: The Web Team already has met with AOL to plan additional "spotlights" which will showcase HUD information through the AOL web site. Plans are in the works to contact other major web indexers - Yahoo, Microsoft, and others - to do similar marketing.

    • Content management system: A high priority for the Web Team is identifying and implementing a robust content management technology that will make creating, posting, tracking, and managing web content easier and more efficient and help us implement more effective management controls. The Team also is exploring other technologies that could draw information from current automated systems and array it in user-friendly ways, improving the information and services we provide to citizens.

    • More outreach: Web Managers throughout the Department are finding new ways to promote HUD's web site to its intended audiences and to gain audience feedback on HUD's site. The Office of Housing is scheduling focus groups with industry partners; and Field Web Managers are piggy-backing on regularly scheduled events, such as the Buffalo Healthy Homes Conference and the "Parade of Homes" in Indianapolis, to market the information and services available on HUD's web site.

    • Promoting the "good stories:" The Web Team has forged a strong partnership with the Office of Public Affairs to explore new ways to use the web to promote the Secretary's agenda and highlight HUD's "good stories."

    • Interagency web sites: The Departmental Web Team is working with the Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships to develop its interagency web site. Web Team members represent HUD at several other interagency "portal" efforts, as well. The Departmental Web Managers communicate regularly with the Web Managers at FirstGov, to ensure that HUD's information is featured on that Federal Government "one stop."

    • Learning from others: Two years ago, HUD started the Federal Web Content Managers Forum as a vehicle for sharing ideas and strategies about web management among Federal agencies. In January, at HUD's suggestion, the Forum sponsored the first Web Content Managers Seminar. More than 100 Web Content Managers from 40 Federal agencies attended, discussing issues that we all face. HUD's Web Managers will continue to lead the effort to help government Web Managers learn from one another, for the betterment of the information and services we provide to citizens.

    • Integrating responsibility for content into HUD's organizational culture: HUD's continued success with the web depends, to great extent, on the evolving organizational culture. People come to web sites for their content; and creating effective content for HUD's web products is part of everyone's job - not just that of Web Managers. HUD's web products belong to the entire Department, and we need the help and support of the entire Department to make them successful. HUD's Web Managers are putting procedures and systems in place to encourage all HUD employees to engage in content creation.


Status and Plans for HUD's 5 Web Products

Following is a summary of the current status of each of HUD's 5 award-winning web products, major achievements of the past year, and specific plans for the future.

HUD's "Homes and Communities" Web Site

Current Status

  • Private citizens are our biggest customer - 80% of those who come to HUD's web site. When you translate that into monthly numbers, that is some 600,000 citizens who visit our web site each month - most looking for homebuying information. In March, HUD's "homes for sale" page was viewed 231,000 times; and HUD's "homebuyer's kit" was viewed 180,000 times.
  • remains a huge web site. Though recent efforts to consolidate and edit the site have reduced its size, printed in hard copy it still exceeds 1,000,000 pages.
  • Design improvements, implemented last year, have improved usability. Monthly e-mails related to the web site have reduced from 20,000 per month, in 2000, to about 9,000 per month, at present.
  • 50,763 links from outside web sites route customers to, according to AltaVista - one of the web's largest search engines.
  • To aid the growing Spanish-speaking web audience, HUD is translating its web site into "international" Spanish. 240 pages of the site are available in Spanish, with more translations underway.
Plans for the Future
  • Improved local information: By late summer, HUD's web site will have a new dimension. Citizens will be able to select information by topic (what), by audience group (who), or by state (where). New and improved local content - organized by state rather than by HUD office - will supplement the generic content currently available on HUD's web pages. This enhancement gives HUD's audiences something that they really want: the local connection.

    Local information will highlight what the states and cities are doing with HUD money, helping citizens see how their federal tax dollars turn into local opportunities. Web Coordinators and Program Web Contacts in each of HUD's local offices, working with the Field Web Managers, are playing a big role in this major effort to restructure the information on HUD's web site.
  • More webcasts: The Web Team is working with both Headquarters and Field managers to identify new opportunities to use webcasting, to inform and teach citizens and our business partners how to take advantage of government programs. The Office of Housing is in the preliminary stages of developing a webcast on "how to buy a home," and the Field Web Managers are considering ideas for webcasting training sessions on such topics as renewing Section 8 contracts.
  • Improved "search" function: Responding to one of the most common complaints about HUD's web site, the Web Team is investigating new search capabilities that will yield more productive results to users' queries.

HUD's Intranet: Hud@work

Current Status

  • In September 2001, we unveiled a new, state-of-the-art intranet web site, re-christened "hud@work." Improved technology permits HUD employees to customize their hud@work pages, making it easier to get to the information and systems they need to do their jobs.
  • Webcasts have become a popular way to provide training and information to HUD employees. Statistics show that nearly 50% of all webcast views come from within HUD.
Plans for the Future

  • Regional pages: In the Field, new "regional" hud@work pages will replace the existing 81 pages, making information more concise and current.

  • Employee information: A recent survey of HUD employees revealed that what they want most on the intranet is good employee information on subjects like jobs, benefits, and training opportunities. The Office of Administration is hard at work, addressing those desires. New web pages are being developed for the Administrative Services Centers and for the HUD Training Academy, among other improvements.

HUD Answer Machines

Current Status

  • HUD's Answer Machines provide free access to the Internet for an average 1,300 citizens, each month. To our knowledge, HUD is the only Federal agency providing free Internet access to the public, from each of its offices. The Answer Machines are just one way HUD is helping bridge the "digital divide."
  • Statistics show that Answer Machines are best used in the Storefront Offices, where they are a prominent part of the reception areas. In March 2002, 45 people used the Answer Machines in the Tucson Storefront; 71 people used the Answer Machines in the Atlanta Storefront; and 212 people used the Answer Machines in the Washington DC Storefront.

Plans for the Future

  • A recent analysis of the Answer Machines conducted by the Field Web Managers revealed some issues about placement that must be addressed; but in general, the Answer Machines present a relatively low-cost public service that we want to promote. The Web Team will be working with Public Affairs to develop some strategies for marketing this public resource.

HUD Kiosks

Current Status

  • 106 touch-screen kiosks installed in public places throughout the country offer basic information about HUD programs and services.
  • 27,000 citizens use the kiosks each month - more than 300,000 each year - to find homes for sale, search for subsidized apartments, and learn about FHA mortgage programs.
  • In interviews with kiosk users, 55% report that they will use the information they found.
  • Last year, HUD started the Interagency Kiosk Forum to exchange lessons learned and best practices in managing Federal kiosks and to explore joint efforts to share content on kiosks. 50 representatives of 30 Federal agencies participate in the Forum.

Plans for the Future

  • At the request of the Deputy Secretary, a comprehensive review of the kiosk program is underway. Results will determine the future direction of HUD's kiosk program.

Web Clinics for HUD Partners

Current Status

  • HUD's Web Clinics continue to be an unqualified success. In the past 2 years, HUD's Departmental Web Team has conducted 52 Web Clinics reaching 1,350 participants, representing 1,000 HUD partner organizations - non-profits, community-based groups, public housing agencies, state and local governments, and faith-based groups. 99% of the evaluations of the Clinics give them an enthusiastic "thumbs up."
  • In addition to regularly scheduled clinics, the Web Team holds special clinics requested by HUD managers. In the past year, the Team taught clinics for Colonias partners and for Housing's Homeownership Center partners.
  • Clinic alumni have brought the Team even more business. Recent Clinics were conducted for the Public Housing Agency Directors Association (PHADA) Executive Conference and the Tennessee Association of Housing and Redevelopment Authorities.
  • The Web Clinics do more than teach HUD Partners how to create good public service web sites. They enhance good will between HUD and its partners. One satisfied Web Clinic alumnus offered this praise:
    "Yesterday's web clinic workshop was the most outstanding one-day class I have ever had. I mean ever! …that HUD sent us two senior web staffers sent a powerful message about Secretary Martinez' commitment to HUD's partners and to our success." - Rev. Ed Seeger, Executive Director, Corpus Christi Metro Ministries

Plans for the Future

  • Monthly Clinics are scheduled through FY 03; and the Web Team is talking with several managers about offering additional Clinics to target populations, such as faith-based organizations.
  • A new, improved version of HUD's Web Clinic Wizard - an easy-to-use software designed as a companion to the Clinics and offered to all participants for free - will be issued by early summer.


Other Accomplishments

Several new web management policies and procedures improved HUD's management controls and enhanced the quality of HUD's web products.

  • Privacy and accessibility: Following guidance from OMB, HUD implemented new laws and regulations relating to privacy and accommodations for people with disabilities. HUD's web page templates ensure that people with disabilities have access to the same information as everyone else. The templates also ensure that the public can view the Department's privacy policy, from any page.

  • Content certification process: The Deputy Secretary imposed new requirements for quarterly certification that Internet web content is both current and accurate. As a result, more than 1,900 corrections and updates were made to Field Office pages; and literally thousands of changes were made to Headquarters pages, in the very first round. This certification process will help the Department meet new requirements imposed by OMB relating to the quality and integrity of information.

  • Content clearance process: The Deputy Secretary imposed another new management control to ensure that web content is consistent with the Secretary's goals and objectives. All content of a policy nature must be cleared with Public Affairs, prior to posting.

  • Kiosk performance standards: New performance standards were defined to ensure that HUD kiosks are placed at the most advantageous locations. As a result of these standards, 15 kiosks either have been, or are in the process of being, moved to locations where they can be more successful.

  • Departmental management processes: For the first time, specific guidance relating to web management activities was incorporated into the Department's Management Planning process. In addition, web activities are being reviewed in the Quality Management Review process.

  • Field Web Managers: Perhaps the most significant improvement in web management this year was hiring new full-time Field Web Managers in each of the Regions. The Field Web Managers bring stability and focus to developing high quality local content for HUD's web products. They are building on work of the many volunteer Web Managers, who contributed so much over the past 6 years.

It has been a productive year, and HUD can be proud. Next year will be even better.


Content Archived: March 2, 2011