State of the Web
Annual Report on Achievements and Plans for HUD's Web Products
Did you know that�
Eight years ago, HUD's Internet website was born. Since then, the
web has become integral to every aspect of HUD's work, from informing
prospective homebuyers to assigning FHA loan case numbers to training
employees. This recap of the achievements and plans for HUD's websites,
kiosks, Answer Machines, and Web Clinics underscore their value to
- 36% of all Americans have used the web to look for a place
to live, according to the Pew Internet and American Life Project?
That's 40 million people - more than 1/3 of all Internet users
- Americans would rather use the web to find government information
(39%) than get it by telephone (37%)?
- according to a recent study of HUD's kiosk program, an estimated
100,000 low-income families have taken steps to improve their
housing situation because they used HUD's kiosks?
- Nielson/Netratings estimated 1.88 million unique visitors
used HUD's website in the period November 2002 through January
2003, 27% of them minorities?
- all four of HUD's major program offices now require their
grantees and partners to do some or all of their work with HUD,
Reaching more people with information they want and need:
Monthly visitors to HUD's Homes and Communities page jumped by 22%
in the past year, from 600,000 per month to 730,000 per month. In
January 2003, more than 830,000 people visited HUD's website - the
largest single-month total in its 8-year history. Three key factors
contribute to this trend: good understanding of the audience, solid
website design, and strong outreach to potential website users.
In September 2002, Giga Corporation, a noted global information
technology consulting firm, assessed the usability of HUD's website.
"Usability" refers to the ease with which target audiences can find
what they want on the website. The results were gratifying. HUD's
front page scored 80 out of 100 (most sites reviewed score in the
60's), and the site as a whole scored 81 out of 91 in usability.
Of particular note: HUD scored 10 out of 10 on "knowing our audience"
and clarity of "purpose of the site."
Outreach efforts - including website demonstrations at the Kentucky
State Fair, the Black College Spring Break National Job Fair in
Atlanta, the Southeast Alaska Native Culture Fair, the Asian Capacity
Building Conference in Fresno, and the Colorado Mortgage Lenders
Association Wholesale Lending Fair - helped promote HUD's website.
Addressing needs of our Spanish-speaking audience: In February
2003, HUD debuted espanol.hud.gov, the Spanish version of HUD's
popular "Homes and Communities" website, making HUD one of the only
government agencies to offer its website in Spanish. More than 1,000
pages have been translated into Spanish in this major effort to
make HUD information available to our Spanish-speaking customers.
Providing better local information: In October 2002, HUD
added a new dimension to its website: local information organized
by state. Fifty-two "state pages" (4,000 files) replaced the old
"local office" pages (20,500 files) making the website leaner, cleaner,
less redundant, and more informative. The new state pages bring
consistency - in taxonomy, content, and format - so that Americans
can find basic information about local homebuying programs, local
rental assistance programs, and more, in each and every state. Citizens
get a full array of options because the state pages "connect the
dots," highlighting not only HUD programs, but also state and local
programs operated by HUD's grantees and partners.
Response has been terrific. In the first 3 months, use of HUD's
"local information" jumped from a monthly average of 34,683 visits
to a monthly average of 206,207 visits - an increase of nearly 600%.
Clearly, people want that "local connection."
Using new technology to connect people with people: In January
2003, HUD piloted its new "real time chat" technology, christened
"Person-to-Person." For the first time, citizens could come to the
HUD website and get immediate answers to their questions from "live"
HUD employees. No waiting. No voice mail.
In the 30-day pilot, Housing staff in the Richmond office responded
to questions from 688 first-time homebuyers across the nation, handling
as many as 66 requests per day. And the reaction? "This is a great
service. Kudos to HUD!"
Empowering those HUD normally wouldn't reach: The most comprehensive
study of HUD's kiosk program to date, requested by HUD's Deputy
Secretary, concluded that HUD's kiosks do, indeed, provide a valuable
service to HUD's customers. The conclusions, based on observations
of 1,500 kiosk users and interviews with 1,000 kiosk users across
the country, revealed:
- 78.4% of kiosk users come from low income households;
- 73% are minorities;
- 88% found the kiosks easy to use;
- 87% said they did not have access to the internet; thus, the
kiosk was a welcomed alternative; and
- 74% were seeking information about housing - 39% were looking
for rental housing and 35% were looking for homes for sale.
Most important, 74% of those who participated in the study did
something with the information they found on the kiosks - talked
to a housing counselor (13%), saw a home for sale or apartment for
rent (21%), visited a rental office (9%), visited a HUD office (8%),
or returned to the kiosk for more information (23%).
Helping HUD's partners create websites that serve the public:
HUD's Web Clinics continue to be an unqualified success, and more
and more HUD managers and outside organizations are requesting the
Departmental Web Team to conduct these clinics for their audiences.
These training sessions - which target HUD grantees, non-profits,
state and local governments, public housing agencies, faith-based
and community organizations, and others - teach HUD's partners how
to develop and market online "retail" outlets for the services that
HUD funds through its grants and other programs.
In 3 years, the Departmental Web Team has taught 66 clinics, attracting
close to 2,000 HUD partners from 1,500 organizations. Clinics are
resulting in more and better websites, serving citizens. Pam Martin,
a Clinic participant in Albuquerque, offers this:
We started our web site because of the clarity of the HUD presentation
done in Albuquerque. Suddenly, a web site seemed do-able.... the
website has won 35 awards�the number of visitors has grown from
200/month in November 2001 to 3,400 in August 2002�if a busy 54-year
old psychologist with no background or training in web development
can do this, most people should be able to do it."
Besides helping our partners to create public service websites
that work, HUD's Web Clinics enhance good will between HUD and its
Improving management and controls of HUD's web products:
The "web" - just like everything else - has to be managed efficiently
- Web Organization: Four intensive training sessions,
weekly conference calls, and daily communication have turned the
Regional Web Managers into a strong "virtual" unit, adding tremendous
value and depth to HUD's web management team. Similar development
occurred among the Headquarters program office web managers, who
meet monthly to share information and knowledge. In past months,
field and Headquarters web managers worked on common issues, producing
tangible results: an enhanced online subsidized apartment search,
an easy-to-use listing of public housing agencies, and a pool
of "good stories" showing how HUD's programs are affecting America.
- Web Policies and Standards: The Deputy Secretary issued
updated and consolidated web policies; and the Departmental Web
Team developed new web publication standards to promote quality
and consistency in all of HUD's web efforts.
- Quality Management Reviews: Web management standards
are covered in HUD's Quality Management Reviews, ensuring that
web operations are reviewed on a routine basis.
- Management Plans: Web-related initiatives are included
in most Management Plans, both in the field and in Headquarters,
further underscoring the importance of the web in achieving HUD's
mission and strategic goals.
- Management Controls: New management controls reduced
the number of people with access to HUD's web servers from 200
to approximately 55, without sacrificing the Department's ability
to maintain its websites.
- Email: While use of HUD's website increased, web-generated
email dropped from 9,000 per month in March 2002 to 5,000 per
month in February 2003. That tells us that customers are finding
what they need without having to ask. By redesigning the contact
information on HUD's website, we streamlined the routing of customer
email questions to the appropriate responder.
- Emergency Procedures: Procedures for using the web in
emergency situations have been developed and documented in the
Department's Continuation of Operations Plan.
- Automated Content Management: Maybe most important,
HUD has taken the first steps toward creating a robust, automated
web content management system that will reduce HUD's dependency
on web support contracts and significantly improve management
controls. The Departmental Web Team engaged an experienced consultant
to lay out a long-term strategy for acquiring and implementing
a content management system and to begin documenting system requirements.
Though it will take a number of years to complete, HUD's automated
web content management system will make creating and maintaining
web content faster and easier.
Plans for the Future
To make sure using the web is part of the way we do business, HUD's
web management goals have become part of the Department's annual
Management Plan. That's an important step in putting the web on
the radar screen of every manager at HUD.
- Support HUD's Strategic Goals: Our number one priority is to
make sure HUD's web products support the Department's mission
and strategic goals. Plans include:
- Promote National Homeownership Month, highlighting information
and tools available to prospective homebuyers on HUD's website;
- Teach homebuyers "how to buy a home" through an online webcast;
- Offer Person-to-Person real-time advice for first-time homebuyers,
on a permanent basis;
- Add a new topic on "owning a home" to HUD's website, providing
options and tips on home improvements, loss mitigation, refinancing,
and reverse mortgages;
- Expand the "assisted housing apartment search" to include all
rental assistance programs;
- Create a web "toolkit" for practitioners working with farmworkers
and residents of colonias and for faith-based and community organizations;
- Increase information on local resources for the homeless, on
- Promote fair housing activities and events;
- Showcase "good stories" about efforts to stop predatory lending
and housing discrimination;
- Teach Web Clinics for partners who need a little extra help
setting up websites that work.
- Improve Content: We can improve the quality of our websites
and kiosks by eliminating redundant content and by consolidating,
editing, and rewriting narrative to make it simpler and more audience-friendly.
- Connect the dots" among federal, state, and local programs,
showing people how to use programs in combinations, to achieve
- Tell the "good stories" about ways people use HUD's programs
successfully, to encourage replication;
- Use innovative technologies - webcasts, Person-to-Person real
time chats, and others - to deliver information and services in
more effective ways;
- Expand and promote "espanol.hud.gov," translating one million
more words and marketing the website to its target audience; and
- Create interactive opportunities to make citizens participants
in - not just consumers of - government.
Technology and Content Delivery Systems: New technologies present
opportunities to deliver content in more efficient and effective
to implement an automated content management system capable
of feeding many methods of content delivery: Internet, intranet,
kiosks, personal digital assistants (PDAs), faxes, and any other
form of output that may arise.
- Improve HUD's Web Management Organization: HUD's web management
organization - Web Managers, Web Coordinators, and technical support
staff - must keep pace with HUD's growing reliance on the websites.
- Develop and conduct training programs, for both current and
future Web Managers; and
- Analyze long-term directions for HUD's web management organization.
- Improve Web Management Practices: As HUD's web products
become increasingly critical to operations; we will keep a tight
rein on management practices and controls. In the coming months,
the Department will:
- Study the impact of HUD's website on achievement of the Department's
mission and strategic goals and develop commensurate performance
- Begin to document cost-benefits, cost avoidances, and other
efficiencies achieved by using the web; and>
- Establish a quality control review process to monitor HUD's
- Improve Customer Service: Customer service is the very
motivation for HUD's web products - helping citizens, business partners,
and HUD employees solve their problems and achieve their objectives.
- Create customer service standards for HUD's web products and
- Issue a "Quick Guide to HUD's Website" to help HUD employees
direct customers to information about buying a home, finding affordable
housing, and strengthening communities;
- Improve email management, to ensure that customers get quick,
effective, and audience-friendly responses to their questions;
- Publicize HUD's web products, so people will know what we have
to offer; and
- Develop partnerships with other government agencies to provide
even more information on HUD's kiosks to help low-income families
Eight years ago, HUD had no website. Now, we cannot do our work
without the web.
Imagine what the next 8 years will bring!
Content Archived: March 2, 2011