Requirements and Best Practices Checklists

The Federal Web Managers Council developed this “checklist” to help you assess how well your agency meets federal website requirements and follows government web best practices.

Click a topic below to skip to a specific section, or scroll down to see the entire list. 

Requirements (Must do) Best practices (Should do)

Required links/icons
Customer service
Search
Plain Writing Act
Accessibility/Section 508
Privacy
Identity management
Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)
Open government
Naming and branding
Prohibition on lobbying
Linking
Web records
Copyright
Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA)
Security
Information quality
Multilingual websites
No Fear Act
Government Paperwork Elimination Act (GPEA)
Government Performance Results Act (GPRA)
Small Business Paperwork Relief Act

Site policies page
Common content
Social media
Mobile
Managing content
Usability and design
Collaboration
Management and governance
Promote online services
Homepage link
Jobs
Grants
Posting regulations

 

Requirements

 

Required links/icons Relevant law, regulation, or policy

Include all required links/icons on your site, in compliance with relevant guidance. Required links include, but are not limited to: privacy policy, FOIA info, USA.gov

See full list of required links/icons

E-Government Act of 2002 (Sections 204 & 207)

OMB Circular A-130, Management of Federal Information Resources

OMB M-05-04, Policies for Federal Agency Public Websites (PDF, 48 KB, 5 pages, December 2004)

 

Customer service Relevant law, regulation, or policy

Agencies must set service standards and use customer feedback to improve the customer experience. Agencies that provide significant services directly to the public are required to identify and survey their customers, establish service standards and track performance against those standards, and benchmark customer service performance against the best in business.

Guidance on implementing the Customer Service Executive Order

Executive Order 13571 - Streamlining Service Delivery and Improving Customer Service (April 2011)

OMB M-11-24, Implementing Executive Order 13571 on Streamlining Service Delivery and Improving Customer Service (PDF, 2 MB, 6 pages, June 2011)

 

Search Relevant law, regulation, or policy

Ensure your website includes a search function, to help the public easily locate government information.  Follow industry standard best practices to ensure your search function is as effective as possible. Write content in Plain Language, using the words of your customers, so they can easily find what they need when searching the web or your website

How to implement effective search functionality

OMB M-05-04, Policies for Federal Agency Public Websites (PDF, 48 KB, 5 pages, December 2004)

Plain Writing Act of 2010 (PDF, 153 KB, 3 pages, January 2010)

Section 207(f) of the E-Gov Act of 2002

 

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Plain Writing Act Relevant law, regulation, or policy

Requires the federal government [executive branch] to write all new publications, forms and publicly distributed documents in a “clear, concise, well-organized” manner.

Guidance on implementing the Plain Writing Act

Plain Writing Act of 2010 (PDF, 153 KB, 3 pages, January 2010)

Executive Orders 12866 and 12988

OMB Final Guidance on Implementing the Plain Writing Act of 2010 (PDF, 269 KB, 6 pages, April 2011)

 

Accessibility/Section 508 Relevant law, regulation, or policy

Make online information and services fully available to individuals with disabilities; Conduct accessibility testing when making significant changes to your site, or before launching a new site

Designing sites to work well on mobile devices usually also improves overall accessibility

Make your website accessible

Section 508 Standards for Electronic and Information Technology (29 USC § 794d)

Implementing Section 508 (Section508.gov)

 

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Privacy Relevant law, regulation, or policy

Provide a link to your privacy policy on every page (can be included in your overall site policies); Conduct a privacy impact assessment of your website; Post a “Privacy Act Statement” that explains your legal authority for collecting personal data and how the data will be used; Translate privacy policies into a standardized machine-readable format

Be aware of and comply with all other existing laws and directives that address the need to protect the privacy of the American people when they interact with their government online

Guidance on privacy requirements

Conduct privacy impact assessments

Privacy Act of 1974

OMB M-03–22, Guidance for Implementing the Privacy Provisions of the E–Government Act of 2002 (September 2003)

OMB M-10-22, Guidance for Online Use of Web Measurement and Customization Technologies (PDF, 130 KB, 9 pages, June 2010)

OMB M-10-23, Guidance for Agency Use of Third-Party Websites and Applications (PDF, 78 KB, 9 pages, June 2010)

OMB Circular A–130, App 1

Children's Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998 (COPPA)

 

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Identity Management Relevant law, regulation, or policy

Allow the public and business partners to register or log on to Assurance Level 1 systems using externally-issued credentials

Guidance on privacy requirements

Guidance on security protocols to protect information

Requirements for Accepting Externally Issued Identity Credentials - memo from Federal CIO to Executive Branch Agency CIOs (PDF, 166 KB, 4 pages, October 2011) 

 

 

FOIA Relevant law, regulation, or policy

Your website must have a page that includes certain content as required by the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)

How to implement FOIA requirements

Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) (PDF, 109 KB, 13 pages, April 2007)

FOIA.gov

 

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Open Government Directive Relevant law, regulation, or policy
In the spirit of transparency, participation and collaboration, agencies are directed to:
  • Make government information available online;
  • Improve the quality of government information;
  • Create and institutionalize a culture of open government; and
  • Create an enabling policy framework for open government

More about the Open Government Directive

Open Government Initiative

Executive Order—Making Open and Machine Readable the New Default for Government Information (May 2013).

Open Data Policy—Managing Information as an Asset (PDF, 5.83 MB, 12 pages, May 2013)

OMB M-10-06, Open Government Directive (PDF, 81 KB, 11 pages, December 2009)

Data.gov data policy

Using social media in government

 

Naming and branding Relevant law, regulation, or policy

Host the website on a .gov, .fed.us, or .mil domain; Clearly display the name of your agency on every page on the website

Guidance on naming and branding your website

OMB M-05-04, Policies for Federal Agency Public Websites (PDF, 48 KB, 5 pages, December 2004)

.GOV Internet Program Guidelines

 

Prohibition on lobbying Relevant law, regulation, or policy

Consult your agency’s legal staff for guidance to ensure that your site does not advertise for, or provide preferential treatment to, private individuals, firms, or corporations. Follow the "rule of 3" - when linking to non-government information, show at least three similar examples, to avoid the appearance of endorsing a single source, service or product

Guidance on lobbying restrictions

Prohibition of Lobbying (Title 18, Section 1913, U.S. Code)

 

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Linking Relevant law, regulation, or policy

Publish your policy describing how and why you link to other websites, including criteria or guidelines for how your agency selects links to non-federal websites;
Publish and follow a schedule for reviewing the appropriateness and relevancy of external links

Notify visitors when a link on your website will take them to a non-federal-government website, include a disclaimer about content and privacy policies; Refrain from disclaiming content when linking to other federal sites, since to the public, all agencies are part of “the government”

Guidance on linking policies

OMB M-05-04, Policies for Federal Agency Public Websites (PDF, 48 KB, 5 pages, December 2004)

OMB Guidance for Implementing the Privacy Provisions of the E-Government Act of 2002 (Section 3D)

 

Web records Relevant law, regulation, or policy

Comply with existing laws and regulations related to the management of public web records.

Create an inventory of content that targeted audiences need or want. Identify categories of information (e.g., press releases or publications), not specific documents. Post the inventory, priorities, and schedule for posting additional content on the website for comment.

Regularly delete or archive content that is obsolete and is not required by law or regulation.

More guidance on web records

E-Government Act of 2002 (Section 207)

Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Parts 1220-1238

NARA guidance for implementing Section 207(e) of the E-Gov Act

NARA guidance on managing web records

NARA guidance on managing social media records (October 2010)

 

 

Copyright Relevant law, regulation, or policy

Inform the public about your policies on digital rights, copyrights, trademarks, and patents. If your organization uses or duplicates private sector information, ensure that the property rights of the private sector source are adequately protected. (These protections apply to any material posted to federal public websites, such as documents, graphics, or audio files.)

Additional guidance on copyright and digital rights

Digital Millennium Copyright Act (PDF, 277.66 KB, 60 pages, January 1999)

Copyright Law

U.S. Trademark Law (PDF, 1.48 MB, 260 pages, March 2010)

U.S. Patent Law, U.S. Code 35, Chapter 26

 

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Paperwork Reduction Act Relevant law, regulation, or policy

Ensure that information collected from the public minimizes burden and maximizes public utility. Your agency must have OMB approval before collecting information from the public (surveys, forms, etc.), and you much include the OMB control number on the collection. Take advantage of OMB's Fast-Track PRA Review Process to help you collect information in a timely manner

Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA) Guidance

Paperwork Reduction Act (44 U.S.C. 3501 et seq.)

Executive Order 13571 - Streamlining Service Delivery and Improving Customer Service (April 2011)

OMB M-11-26, New Fast-Track Process for Collecting Service Delivery Feedback Under the Paperwork Reduction Act (PDF, 196 KB, 4 pages, June 2011)

Social Media, Web-Based Interactive Technologies, and the Paperwork Reduction Act (PDF, 83 KB, 7 pages, April 2010)

 

Security Relevant law, regulation, or policy

Organizations are required to have security protocols in place to protect government information. Provide general information to the public about your security protocols to protect information on your website.

Guidance on security protocols to protect information

E-Government Act of 2002 (Section 207)

Guidelines on Securing Public Web Servers (Source: NIST; PDF, 2.13 MB, 142 pages, Sept 2002)

 

Information quality Relevant law, regulation, or policy

Your site must comply with section 515 of the Treasury and General Government Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2001, Public Law 106-554, to ensure the information you present on your website is current, accurate and authoritative 

Guidance on keeping content current

Public Law 106-554, Guidelines for Ensuring and Maximizing the Quality Objectivity, Utility, and Integrity of Information Disseminated by Federal Organizations (PDF, 161 KB, 10 pages, February 2002)

 

Multilingual websites Relevant law, regulation, or policy

Comply with the requirements of Executive Order 13166, “Improving Access to Services for People with Limited English Proficiency,” based on Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bans discrimination on the basis of national origin.

Guidance on managing multilingual websites

Executive Order 13166, Improving Access to Services for People with Limited English Proficiency (PDF, 6 pages, 255 KB,August 2000)

Dept. of Justice Memo Reaffirming the Mandates of EO 13166 (PDF, February 2011)

Federal Agency LEP Guidance (Dept. of Justice)

 

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No Fear Act Relevant law, regulation, or policy

Provide a link to information required by the “No Fear Act.”

The Federal Web Managers Council recommends that agencies determine the most appropriate placement for this link based on their audience (e.g., “About Us” or “Jobs” page)

How to implement No Fear Act requirements

No Fear Act Notification and Federal Employee Anti–Discrimination and Retaliation of 2002 (No Fear Act) Public Law No. 107–174

 

 

GPEA Relevant law, regulation, or policy

The Government Paperwork Elimination Act requires that, when practicable, federal organizations use electronic forms, electronic filing, and electronic signatures to conduct official business with the public, by 2003. Put as many of your services online as you can

Guidance on complying with the GPEA

Government Paperwork Elimination Act (GPEA)

 

 

GPRA Relevant law, regulation, or policy

The Government Performance Results Act of 2003 requires organizations to make their annual performance plans readily available to the public.

Guidance on complying with the GPRA

Government Performance Results Act of 1993

Open Government Initiative

 

Small Business Paperwork Relief Act Relevant law, regulation, or policy

Designate a single point of contact for small businesses, and to post the contact information on the organization’s website.

Guidance on complying with the Small Business Paperwork Relief Act

Small Business Paperwork Relief Act of 2002 (PDF, 49 KB, 5 pages, June 2002)

 

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Best Practices

 

Site policies page Guidance

Create a page entitled “Site Policies” that includes links to required information and important policies.

Posting website policies

 

Common content Guidance

Include the same types of “common content” found on most federal websites (such as contact information and basic information about your agency). Use terminology consistent with other agencies, and within your agency.  Write content using the words of your customers.

Common Content, Terminology and Placement

Includes "About Us" and "Contact Us" pages, as well as a Site Map or A-Z Index

 

Social Media Guidance

Engage with the public via social media.

Using social media in government

  

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Mobile Guidance

Design your site with mobile users in mind, and test your site on mobile browsers to ensure the public can access your information on the go.

Deliver content to mobile devices

 

Managing content Guidance

Regularly review your content (at least annually, and more often for popular content), and update or archive as appropriate.

Ensure content is written for the web, using words familiar to the intended audience, so people can easily find what they need (usually via search), and understand what they need to do

Keep content current

Write in Plain Language

 

Usability and Design Guidance

Follow the “Research-based Web Design and Usability Guidelines” published by the Department of Health and Human Services

Do regular user testing on your site with real customers, to ensure they can easily and successfully complete their tasks. Design and develop your site for a broad range of visitors and browsers, including mobile devices and those with lower-end hardware and software capabilities

Implement a coherent information architecture (IA) and navigation scheme (including common labels), and use it consistently throughout your site

Research-based web design and usability guidelines (Usability.gov)

First Fridays Usability Testing Program

Design templates

Information architecture

Design with mobile in mind

 

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Collaboration Guidance

Collaborate both within your agency and across government to link to the official source for information.  Avoid creating duplicate content - stay in your “content lane.”

Collaborate internally, to make sure all content across your site describes programs, etc. in the same way. Post “program descriptions” in one central place and link there, instead of reposting the same description in several places.

Consult with the Federal Web Managers Council before creating a new portal site.

Don’t duplicate existing content

Cross-agency portals

Example of “content lanes” used during Hurricane Katrina response

 

Management and governance Guidance

Document and enforce your agency’s web content policies, procedures and style guide.

Regularly (at least annually) review and improve your site policies and procedures, in accordance with the latest government requirements and industry best practices for managing websites and content.

Develop and test procedures and contingency plans to keep your website running during an emergency, or take your website offline.

Developing policies and procedures

Federal Web Managers Governance Community of Practice

Ensure Continuity of Operations During Emergencies

 

Analytics Guidance

Collect metrics on: customer focus and experience; quality and compliance; and recognition, in accordance with privacy and other policies.

Make changes to your website based on data, not opinion or "executive whimsy"

Web Analytics

Privacy Requirements

Federal Web Managers Metrics Community of Practice

 

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Promote online services Guidance

Offer easy access to online services, displaying them as prominently as possible, to help the public interact with the government on their terms, and serve themselves at their convenience.

Identify the most commonly requested and commonly used online services, forms and publications on your website and make sure can be easily found

Allow the public to print forms, and also complete and submit them online; provide instructions on how to order forms or publications if they can’t be accessed online 

Best practices for online services

Focus on top tasks

Forms and publications guidance

 

Homepage link Guidance

Every page on your site should have a text link back to your homepage (if you use a graphical link, you must also provide a text link).

Linking back to your homepage

 

Jobs Guidance

Offer information about jobs or careers at your agency, even if you are a small agency or your site is managed by multiple agencies.

Posting jobs and employment information

 

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Grants Guidance

Provide information about grant and contracting opportunities on your website.

Link to grants.gov and any other federal portal(s) related to grants

Link to fedbizopps.gov and any other federal portal(s) related to contracts.

Posting information about grants and contracts

The President’s Management Agenda of 2001 made this a priority (PDF, 633 KB, 64 pages, August 2001)

 

Regulations Guidance

Provide information about regulations, notices and rules:

Posting information about regulations

 

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Content Lead: Rachel Flagg
Page Reviewed/Updated: November 13, 2013

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