The General Services Administration launched its own town hall meeting online Monday to gather ideas from the public on how to improve federal websites.

On Day 1 of the daily dialog-a-thon at, 50 people logged on to offer their ideas and suggestions for making government websites better to read and easier to understand.

Among the comments:

  • Too much of the information on federal websites is poorly written and is too complex, especially for the web.
  • Launching sites without usability testing and 508 testing (to accommodate those with disabilities) is a waste of time and money.
  • Every government website should be able to be accessed via a mobile devices whether by citizens or government employees.
  • The main issue with government sites is that many of them are being run by people whose idea of the Web stopped growing around 2002.

Sheila Campbell, the director of GSA’s Center for Excellence in Digital Government, said the site would be live 24/7 for the next two weeks. Every weekday, there will be a one-hour live online discussion on a specific subject for people inside and outside government to join the conversation.

The dialogue is part of a broader effort to reform federal websites initiated by The White House in July.

“We’re not just talking among ourselves. We are reaching out to a broad audience to get feedback,” Campbell said.

GSA marketed the ongoing event widely both inside the government and to a wide variety of interested online groups. Craig Newmark, the founder of Craigslist, has been blogging on the Huffington Post and elsewhere to get out the word.

Campbell is watching the suggestions daily along with the dot-gov reform task force that will use the comments to help draft a national web strategy by the end of the year.

Online suggestion forums like this one have been launched in the last few years but this is probably the broadest one that a federal agency has ever embarked on, Campbell said.

“We haven’t had anything quite like this,” around federal websites, she said.

Developing a smart federal web strategy “affects all of us,” Campbell said.

“Just about every person has probably been on a federal website and has had some experience that reflects on their experience,” she added.

The site will be up until Sept. 30.