Alaska has the fastest websites of any state government. Mississippi’s are the most mobile-friendly. Utah’s and Idaho’s are, theoretically, the most secure. And Virginia’s are the best overall.
That’s according to the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, a science and technology think tank, which shared the results of a detailed study on Monday concluding that while some state websites are better than others, nearly all of them fall short in at least one critical area.
Of 400 sites analyzed, only one passed every test for speed, security and accessibility: Virginia’s website for hunting and fishing licenses , which scored 91 out of 100 points based on a combined rating of how quickly its pages loaded, how well it was designed to work with mobile devices, and how well it conformed to standards for accessibility and security.
Virginia’s websites also had the best overall score, with 83 points. Virginia was closely followed by Idaho, Massachusetts and Georgia. Louisiana ranked last with 49.5 points.
Virginia Chief Information Officer Nelson Moe told StateScoop that there’s a good reason his state scored highest in the study.
“We have a very robust screening process, that’s been the culture the last number of years in the previous administration and has carried over into this administration, for all the websites,” he said.
The screening process involves design best and accessibility practices; for security standards, the state also has mandates, Moe said. Each department has its own web development team that convenes as a statewide web development group — “they’re all really good,” he said.
“Not everything involves your websites, but it is your portal to constituents and citizens, so we’re very proud of our DMV and Tax and Department of Health and Department of Game and [Inland] Fisheries doing really well on this,” Moe said.
Alhough states have increased investment in their websites in recent years, one of ITIF’s key takeaways is that they need to spend more.
Many websites tested did not meet a benchmark created by ITIF based on a review of 20 of the most popular non-government websites. Twenty-three percent of state government websites failed the page-load speed test, and 50 percent failed the mobile page-load speed test.
And while cybersecurity has emerged as state IT offices’ top concern , only four percent of the websites were found both to comply with security protocols outlined by the Domain Name System Security Extensions, or DNSSEC. By comparison, similar research by ITIF has found that 88 percent of federal websites use DNSSEC.
Two-thirds of states passed ITIF’s mobile-friendliness test, also based on meeting a performance benchmark relative to the top 20 nongovernment websites. Websites for paying traffic citations scored the worst in this category — only 52 percent passed this test.
Websites are viewed as a critical asset for states because they often provide and first and sometimes the only means of communication between the government and residents seeking services. Daniel Castro, ITIF’s vice president and lead author on the report said in a press release that “people expect to be able to go online to pay their taxes or register a business. If state governments have underperforming websites, they are unable to deliver these types of services effectively.”
Increased investment in state websites, ITIF says, should be accompanied by mandates for compliance with best security and accessibility practices, and through consolidation of websites to create “a single face of government.”
The full report can be found here .