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State of the Web

July 2005

Using the Web To Accomplish HUD�s Mission

10 Years and Counting!

We�re celebrating HUD�s tenth year on the web by doing what we do best � giving the public the best possible housing and community resources and online services. In 1995, we launched our Homes and Communities website, www.hud.gov. A lot has changed since then, and HUD has led the way in federal web management.

Just How Far Have We Come?

  • In 1995, requesting information and bidding on HUD homes could take weeks. Now, you can search and bid online for homes from HUD as well as other government agencies. Last year, we sold 27,358 HUD homes!
  • In August 1995, 2,500 people visited HUD�s website. Today, more than 1 million visitors visit the site every month. It would take more than 2,500 HUD staff to handle a 2-minute phone call from that many people every month. And on the web, we�re available to citizens 24 hours, 7 days a week.
  • Our website has grown from fewer than 10 pages in March 1995 to more than 1.5 million pages. And unlike the old days, when it took months to update, print, and distribute handbooks and circulars, web content remains current. We make more than 200 updates to HUD�s website every day.
  • Training once was available only in a classroom. Now we conduct training over the web for anyone with computer access. Last year, HUD produced 200 webcasts, viewed by 64,846 visitors.
  • Ten years ago, citizens paid "tracers" to track down mortgage refunds. Today, people can search the HUD website to see if they�re owed a premium refund and get that refund for free! Last year, citizens recovered $680,000 in mortgage refunds.
  • Ten years ago, construction or maintenance workers who were underpaid for their work on HUD-funded projects had to battle the bureaucracy to find relief. Now, they can search the database on HUD�s website to find out if they are owed back wages and find out how to get them, quickly and easily.
  • Today, all our handbooks and forms are available electronically. You can search, fill out, or print them whenever you need them � no waiting. Meanwhile, the Department saves hundreds of thousands of dollars in printing, distribution, and storage.

The web has let us offer better, faster service to the public; saved us money and staff time providing basic, current information; and brought citizens in contact with their federal government in new ways. And the revolution continues.

What We�ve Done In One Year

Government Kiosks
In March 2005, we unveiled the new �Government Kiosks,� a joint venture with the Departments of Education and Labor, the Internal Revenue Service, and the Environmental Protection Agency to offer more content on our kiosks. The new Government Kiosk was a finalist in four categories at the recent national KioskCom awards. This inter-agency effort brings practical information about homebuying, renting, tutoring, student loans, retirement savings, pesticides, and earned income tax credit to low income citizens who do not have access to the Internet, in places they live, work, and shop.

New HUD@Work
Our HUD family spoke and we listened! In May 2005, the new and much improved HUD@Work intranet website debuted. Totally revamped, from top to bottom, the new intranet was designed based on what employees told us in surveys, focus groups, and usability tests. The new HUD@Work site is cleaner and leaner � down from 35,000 pages to 7,000. And the response? Great!

Plain Language
Websites are about words; and this year, HUD�s Web Managers learned about choosing the right words � the words that the audience understands. We made it a priority to comb through our web pages to organize and write them in �plain language.� We scrubbed the state pages, editing, consolidating and streamlining content. We�re doing a better job telling citizens about our programs and directing them to services in their areas, in terms they use.

Seamless Services for Citizens
For the past 5 years, HUD�s Web Managers have been teaching free web clinics for thousands of HUD�s partners � nonprofits, faith-based and community organizations, public housing agencies, state and local governments, and others � helping them write and organize websites that provide the services funded through HUD�s programs. By linking from HUD�s site to our partner sites, we give citizens seamless government services. This summer, we will conduct the 100th HUD Web Clinic.

Policies and Procedures
The Office of Management and Budget issued new policies for federal public websites, and we�ve updated our policies and publication procedures accordingly. And for the first time, we documented all the associated web management procedures, highlighting management controls, in HUD�s Web Management Operating Procedures. These documents are showcased as models for other agencies on http://www.webcontent.gov.

Coming Together Across Government
Maybe the most important thing we did this year was take a leadership role in bringing government web managers together to make all U.S. government websites the best in the world.

  • Our Departmental Web Manager for Field Operations co-chairs the interagency Web Content Management Working Group that proposed policies that were issued by the Office of Management and Budget in December 2004 and provides guidance for implementing the policies.
  • Our Departmental Web Manager for Headquarters Operations, a member of the Web Content Management Working Group, leads the interagency effort to develop standard metadata � invisible words programmed into web pages - to help search engines find the best pages and to help us aggregate content across the government.
  • Our Region II Web Manager was asked to join the Working Group and led the effort to consider policies for websites partially funded by the federal government.
  • Our Region X Web Manager is leading the interagency task force to identify best practices at the state and local government level and on other national government websites and recently has been invited to join the Working Group.
  • Our Region V and Region VIII Web Managers co-hosted regional Interagency Web Content Manager Workshops, building interagency efforts at the regional level.
  • Many of HUD�s policies, procedures, and solutions are featured as �best practices� on http://www.webcontent.gov.

With more than 24,000 federal websites, momentum is growing to collaborate and consolidate, across agencies and at all levels, to make government information easier to find and use. HUD is helping lead the way.

Where To From Here?

We have three major priorities for the coming months:

  1. Implement all of the OMB policies and continue our commitment to collaborate with other agencies toward the good of all;
  2. Strengthen HUD�s own web management organization to ensure its stability; and
  3. Expand the role of Web Managers as management consultants

Objective 1: Implement OMB policies and collaborate with other agencies

The good news is that HUD already had implemented most of the practices now required by OMB policy. But not all. So we�re working to meet the December 31, 2005 deadline. We also will continue to lead and participate in cross-agency efforts, complying with the OMB policies to collaborate to eliminate duplication and to provide government information in the most cost effective manner. Here are some of our most important objectives for the coming months:

  • Archive web content: Obsolete or dated content that has ongoing public value is moving to HUD�s new archives website: archives.hud.gov. Citizens can still get it, but we won't have to maintain it. Our archives site will help us implement web records management requirements and will free us to do a better job keeping our current content fresh.
  • Bring all HUD websites into the .gov domain: The OMB policies require all federal websites to use the .gov, .mil., or .fed.us domain. Right now, we have a few parts of HUD�s website that do not meet that requirement, and we�re working with those organizations to bring them into compliance. Usability tests prove that citizens do pay attention to those domain names; they trust the .gov domain to be factual, correct government information.
  • Use results of usability testing to improve the websites: OMB requires federal agencies to use audience feedback to improve our websites. We are working with our colleagues at GSA�s Usability University to do more testing of HUD�s website to make sure it is as easy to use as possible. In time, we hope to develop inhouse expertise in usability testing; so this can be an ongoing effort.
  • Lead and participate in cross-agency task groups: Web Team members will continue to participate in Web Content Managers Task Groups, both at the national and local levels. Several of the Regional Web Managers are getting involved in leading regional cross-agency efforts. The days of being �lone rangers� are over. Government agencies are coming together to share resources, costs, and best practices that will make all of us better service providers.

Objective 2: Strengthen HUD�s web management organization

  • Training for Web Coordinators � It takes many, many people all over the Department to keep HUD�s web products top notch. Web Coordinators � those folks in every Field Office and in each program office who help us manage web activities, usually as �another duty as assigned� � are the unsung heroes of HUD�s web management organization. They number in the 100s; and they are absolutely essential to keeping content current, training staff, organizing Web Clinics, marketing our products, and doing all the other often unheralded work they are asked to do. We will be reaching out to the Web Coordinators in a more systematic way, to train them and to keep them involved � across the Department � in our web management planning.
  • Go to outside training: The Web Content Management Working Group is sponsoring routine Workshops � both nationally and locally � to help Web Managers gain knowledge and skills and to encourage networking. We want to get as many HUD Web Managers and Web Coordinators as possible to those Workshops, so they can bring new ideas and abilities to our Web Team.
  • Use Webcontent.Gov for training: The new Webcontent.Gov website � the online �toolkit� for government Web Managers � is growing every day. We�ll be encouraging all of our Web Managers, Web Coordinators, and other web contributors to visit http://www.Webcontent.Gov regularly, to shop for new resources and best practices to make HUD�s web presence better.

Objective 3: Expand the role of Web Managers as Management Consultants

HUD�s websites support the mission of the agency; and one of the primary roles of HUD�s Web Managers is to consult with managers to help them use the web to achieve the mission. In the coming months, we will be looking for more opportunities to do just that � consulting with directors and managers about ways to use the web to increase productivity, improve the way HUD does business and better serve citizens. We want our Web Managers to be entrepreneurs, stirring up new business for the web by helping managers use this terrific resource to achieve HUD�s goals.

What Can You Do to Join The Action?

Managers and staff throughout HUD are a part of this online revolution. Contribute new content that could help citizens buy a home or find affordable housing. Clean up current content to make it easier to read and more effective. Add the website address to your business cards, and be sure to announce the website address when you go to outside meetings. Take time to go through the websites now and then, and tell your colleagues what you find. Invite your Web Manager to your next staff meeting to find out what�s new and talk about possibilities. Find new ways to use the web to meet your Management Plan goals.

10 Great Years Using the Web to Do HUD�s Work�And Counting!

Content Archived: March 2, 2011

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