The Social Security Administration’s (SSA) iClaim and retirement estimator websites were ranked the best federal websites for e-commerce/transaction this year, according to a new index report.

The report, the American Customer Satisfaction Index’s (ACSI) E-Government Satisfaction Index, outlines results of citizen satisfaction for federal websites during the third quarter of 2011. The report was released Tuesday, Oct. 25, by Foresee Results, a business analytics firm.

The report included citizen satisfaction scores for nearly 100 federal government agencies participating in the index. While Foresee continually receives scores for each quarter, the third quarter customer satisfaction survey included 270,000 participants.

Results showed the SSA’s iClaim and retirement estimator sites each received top scores of 90 out 100 for the E-commerce/Transaction Federal Websites category, however, of the 14 websites in the category, the U.S. Department of Treasury’s website, TreasuryDirect, received the lowest score of 63.

Through a separate series of surveys, Foresee surveyed participants on citizen satisfaction for private-sector websites as well, said Larry Freed, CEO of Foresee.

Freed said he was surprised that SSA’s iClaim ranked as one of the top federal websites for its category since the website ranked higher than Amazon in the private-sector surveys, which scored an 87 through the same scoring process.

“A 90 is a phenomenal score, so when we are looking at the private sector, it is at the top of the heap in terms of private-sector scores as well,” Freed said. “It’s higher than Amazon, and it’s higher than Google.”

For the Information/News Federal Websites category, the National Women’s Health Information Center’s main page, 4woman.gov, received the top score of 89. The site, operated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, ranked higher than 47 other federal websites listed in the category. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service website bottomed out the category with a score of 53.

In the category Portal/Departments Main Websites, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Español received the top rank with a score of 85 out of the 30 sites, and in the final category Recruitment/Career Websites, the U.S. Department of State’s and the CIA’s recruitment websites ranked the highest of five websites, each with a score of 81.

Social Media Best Practices

For the first time, the report included an audit of the 15 Cabinet-level government agencies on following social media best practices Foresee’s usability team developed.

The 15 Cabinet-level agencies Foresee audited included the U.S. departments of: Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, Justice, Labor, State, Interior, Treasury, Transportation and Veterans Affairs.

The audit revealed the following:

•    All 15 agencies have a presence on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube;

•    Twelve of the 15 agencies label social media icons with a call to action like “connect with us”;

•    Twelve agencies use YouTube playlists;

•    Ten agencies use Twitter “lists”;

•    Seven agencies link to a social media policy;

•    Four agencies use Twitter “favorites; and

•    Four agencies post Facebook comment policy.

Freed said while some of the Cabinet-level agencies may be a bit behind on some social media best practices and moving forward with all the right tools may be somewhat challenging for government agencies.

“I think as we typically see in federal government websites, there are some things that will trail behind a little bit,” Freed said. “Things like really utilizing the platforms, the ‘like’ us buttons, the ‘tweet’ this and that. They’re probably lagging a little bit there from where I would expect them to be or where they should be.”

While some agencies aren’t as compliant with social media best practices as other agencies, Freed said overall, the top-level agencies are doing well in utilizing social media.

Sarah Rich, Staff Writer Sarah Rich  |  Staff Writer

In 2008, Sarah Rich graduated from California State University, Chico, where she majored in news-editorial journalism and minored in sociology. Since 2010, Sarah has written for Government Technology magazine and covers a spectrum of public-sector IT topics, including cloud computing, transparency, broadband, and other innovative projects and trends. She currently lives in Sacramento, Calif.