2140.1 CSC (Extended) Management of GSA's Total Web Presence

  • Date: 04/08/2005
  • Status: Validated
  • Outdated on: 04/08/2016

              Washington, DC 20405


CSC 2140.1, Extended 

April 11, 2005; Extended on March 18, 2015




SUBJECT:  Management of GSA’s Total Web Presence

1.   Purpose. The purpose of this order is to:

       a.   Provide direction and guidance for all GSA Services, Staff Offices, and Regions concerning the presentation of content for and management of GSA’s total web presence.

       b.   Formalize policies, management and organizational structures, guidelines, and procedures necessary to ensure that GSA’s total web presence:

             (1)  Employs consistent best practices;

             (2)  Is managed and maintained primarily to meet the needs of site visitors;

             (3)  Provides up-to-date information in the clearest and most direct way possible;

             (4)  Is a comprehensive vehicle for disseminating GSA public information;

             (5)  Facilitates GSA online transactions;

             (6)  Encourages consolidation of web resources and servers;

             (7)  Adheres to OMB Policies for Federal Agency Public Websites that are applicable to GSA’s web presence and complies with other federal web requirements, such as Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act;

             (8)  Supports and maximizes the capabilities of technology upgrades implemented by OCIO;

             (9)  Provides content that reflects ongoing additions, deletions, or changes in GSA programs;

             (10)  Presents content that reflects the agency vision of “One GSA” and is organized around user needs;

             (11)  Reflects continual improvements in user performance and satisfaction as measured by standard web metrics tools. 

Guidelines for GSA Web Sites
(attached) is the foundation for decisions relating to GSA’s web presence. The Guidelines will continue to be revised over time to accommodate changes in GSA organizations and programs; respond to issues identified in usability testing, surveys, and market research; incorporate new developments in technology and web best practices; and reflect new or revised OMB federal public website policy.

2.   Background.

      a.    In 1999, an independent audit of the GSA websites, commissioned by the Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO), recommended redesigning GSA’s web presence to be customer-focused and easier to use, eliminating out-of-date and duplicative content, and consolidating a multitude of web servers scattered throughout the agency into a single portal. In June 2000, the Office of the CIO and the Office of Communications began an effort to implement the independent audit recommendations.

      b.   In 2001, the GSA Administrator asked the Office of Citizen Services and Communications (OCSC) to assess the content, functionality, and management of gsa.gov. This assessment led to the complete restructuring of gsa.gov and the launch of a redesigned site on September 30, 2003. The redesign included migration of eligible off-portal sites wherever feasible. The redesign was accomplished with significant content input from GSA Services, Staff Offices, and Regions and technical input from OCIO. Primary responsibility for management and maintenance of gsa.gov content was assigned to OCSC. OCSC collaborates with and receives technology support from OCIO for the GSA portal.

      c.   In March 2004, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) issued a Report on the Audit of the GSA.gov Web Portal. It contained two recommendations:

             (1) “Develop and implement a GSA Web Presence Policy and supporting governance structure consistent with changes in GSA organizational responsibilities to provide direction and guidance for all GSA Service, Staff, and Regional Offices, incorporating requirements for all GSA web pages to employ consistent best practices.”

             (2) “Ensure that the new GSA.gov search capabilities are presenting comprehensive and current results that effectively promote GSA’s products and services.”

      d.   This GSA order and attachment address the first recommendation. Work to implement the second recommendation had begun before the IG Audit Report was released in March 2004 and was completed in July 2004.

3.    Applicability. This order applies to all Services, Staff Offices, Regions, and authorized contractors.

4.    Cancellation. CIO 2140.1 is cancelled.

5.    Federal Laws and Regulations. This order complies with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Memorandum 05-04 Subject: Policies for Federal Agency Public Websites (attached). It also meets requirements in OMB Circular A-130, OMB “Guidelines for Ensuring and Maximizing the Quality, Objectivity, Utility, and Integrity of Information Disseminated by Federal Agencies” (67 FR 5365); Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act (29 U.S.C.794d);

Executive Order 13166 “Improving Access to Services for People with Limited English Proficiency”; and other information policy issuances.

M.J. Pizzella
Associate Administrator
Office of Citizen Services and Communications (OCSC)






GSA’s “total web presence” encompasses the gsa.gov portal; its intranet (InSite); GSA non-transactional, external, off-portal Service/Staff Office/Regional sites; and legitimate GSA transactional, off-portal, external sites that cannot be accommodated technologically on the portal at this time. Most of the guidance contained here has already been incorporated in the redesigned gsa.gov. Work on the other components of GSA’s total web presence is ongoing, and this guidance should be applied as these other sites are redesigned. For simplicity, all the off-portal sites are collectively referenced throughout this document as “other sites.”

1.  Vision and scope of GSA’s Total Web Presence.

      a.   The Internet provides GSA with an extraordinary tool for communicating a vast array of information to large and diverse audiences. Significant improvements have been implemented over several years. Independent audits of GSA's websites have recommended a cohesive and integrated web presence and suggested an ongoing commitment to improving GSA’s web presence, including these objectives:

            (1)  Focus on the customers rather than on GSA's internal organizations.

            (2)  Provide a consistent look and feel that supports the GSA corporate brand.

Provide a consistent navigation system so that visitors know where they are and can retrace their steps if necessary.

            (3)  Allow for customization and personalization.

            (4)  Comply with Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act and other federal public website requirements.

            (5)  Consolidate web servers to ensure server security.

            (6)  Eliminate duplicative contracts for Web development, design, servers and server management.
       b.    These objectives were adopted by GSA's leadership and comprise the vision that drove earlier gsa.gov projects. The 2004 GSA IG audit report confirms their validity and relevance to GSA’s agency-wide web presence. An additional objective has been added to reflect current best practices:

Use performance measures to monitor success and make continuous improvements

2.  Purpose of these guidelines.

      a.   Just as news releases and executive correspondence have clearance processes, information posted to GSA's public websites must also have a clearance process. This document provides guidelines for GSA to follow when creating new web content or reviewing existing content and creates a framework for the clearance process for content on all public GSA websites.

      b.    These guidelines are designed to help ensure that the GSA web presence maintains a consistent, easily recognized corporate look and feel, that information on the site is easy to use and understand, and that GSA websites will be among the best government websites and follow practices common to the best-in-class federal websites.

3.   Guidance.

       a.  All GSA Services, Staff Offices, and Regions will comply with this order and the attachment, Guidelines for GSA Websites, with Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Memorandum 05-04 dated December 17, 2004. Subject: Policies for Federal Agency Public Websites (www.whitehouse.gov/omb/memoranda/fy2005/m05-04.pdf)
and other guidance as developed and approved by The Board.

       b.   All guidance relating to GSA’s web presence is provided at http://insite.gsa.gov/portal and is regularly updated. The OMB Policies for Public Websites can be found at www.whitehouse.gov/omb/memoranda/fy2005/m05-04.pdf, 
with implementation guidance available at www.webcontent.gov.

4.   Roles. The roles are assigned to the organizations and positions identified to ensure effective implementation and management of GSA's Web presence and policy.

      a.   GSA Web Presence Board of Directors. The GSA Web Presence Board of Directors
(The Board) is an executive-level group that establishes the vision and provides overall guidance and support for GSA's external web presence. The Board is led by the Associate Administrator for Citizen Services and Communications. It includes the following members:

           (1)  Associate Administrator, Office of Citizen Services and Communications (OCSC)

           (2)  Chief Information Officer (CIO)

           (3)  Marketing Council Representative, Federal Supply Service/Federal Technology Service

           (4)  Marketing Council Representative, Public Buildings Service

           (5)  Marketing Council Representative for Regional Administrators

           (6)  Representative, Office of Governmentwide Policy

           (7)  Representative, Office of Chief People Officer

           (8)  Representative, Office of Chief Financial Officer

           (9)  Director, OCSC Editorial Services

      b.  GSA Web Presence Governing Council.  The GSA Web Presence Governing Council (GC) is comprised of the primary portal representatives for OCSC/Editorial Services, CIO, the Services, OGP, and Regions. (The representatives of GSA Services and Regions have the title of “Executive Editor.” The representatives of GSA Staff Offices have the title of “Staff Office Editors.”) The Governing Council ensures that the enterprise-wide vision of GSA senior management, as conveyed by The Board, is adequately presented on GSA's public websites. As the staff-level governing body for GSA’s web presence, the GC deliberates on a continuing basis to address web issues, resolve problems, and make decisions on all major aspects of GSA’s web presence. OCSC/Editorial Services provides primary leadership for the GC. While most GC web decisions are made collaboratively, the OCSC Associate Administrator and the OCSC/Editorial Services Division have the ultimate responsibility and authority for overall management and presentation of GSA web content and issues relating to it. Technology issues are addressed in close collaboration with the CIO representatives. Other members may be added as future needs dictate.

       c.  GSA Web Technology Team. The Web Technology Team provides Inter/Intranet infrastructure to the agency, recommends technology standards, policies, procedures, and guidelines and implements The Board’s and GC decisions. The Web Technology Team is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the system of servers that make up a major portion of GSA’s web presence. The Web Technology Team is also responsible for maintaining the sites' security, reliability, compliance with Section 508, and other relevant guidelines. The Web Technology Team is made up representatives from the Office of the CIO and OCSC/Editorial Services and other representatives from throughout GSA as needed. The Web Technology Team works closely with other members of the Governing Council.

      d.  GSA Web Presence Content Developers.

           (1)  The members of this group are the primary providers of content for all GSA websites. They are the Content Owners—the program experts in the Services, Staff Offices, and Regions who prepare content and convey how they would like it presented on the web. Also in this group are the Content Creators who provide the hands-on expertise to prepare this content for publication on the web. Both Content Owners and Content Creators are represented by an Executive Editor on the Governing Council who conveys web policies and guidance to them. The Executive Editors are also the only ones in the Service, Staff Office, and Regional review process who can submit content to OCSC/Editorial Services for publication on gsa.gov. Executive Editors are required to ensure the accuracy and timeliness of the content they forward to Editorial Services.

          (2)  More details on the gsa.gov roles and responsibilities of the Executive Editors, Content Owners, Content Creators, Content Reviewers (where applicable), and OCSC/Editorial Services Publishers are provided on http://insite.gsa.gov/portal.

          (3)  InSite and the off-portal websites may need to specify and designate similar roles and responsibilities.

5.   Responsibilities.

      a.  GSA's primary external web presence is the portal, gsa.gov. It is a comprehensive, agency-wide communications and marketing tool for GSA as an enterprise. It also provides a means for GSA's components to conduct business through Internet-based programs and help GSA achieve its mission. All GSA-approved websites are available to visitors and are linked through the gsa.gov portal whenever appropriate.

      b.  Using these guidelines, each GSA Service, Staff Office, and Region shall be accountable for its own online content on gsa.gov and on any other approved GSA website. Any entity that creates or "publishes" information for GSA websites takes primary responsibility for its content, organization, accuracy, and adherence to GSA's corporate branding standards and practices.

      c.  Services, through their Executive Editors should stay informed of web content provided by other Services, especially when they are related through the taxonomy or can reasonably be expected to be read by the same site visitors. These connections can be accomplished on gsa.gov through the use of “cross references.” Services that provide competing or similar offerings must be clear in their descriptions about why the visitor would choose one or the other. Services must take care to use different names and descriptions for different programs and services. Customers should not have to figure out which of two similarly named programs has the service or product meeting their needs.

      d.  GSA OCSC/Editorial Services will work with Staff Offices to develop and publish their web content and assist them in identifying topics appropriate for cross-reference on gsa.gov.

      e.  There should be no redundant content on gsa.gov.

           (1)  Duplication arises most frequently with regard to Service and Regional content. In general, the national office takes precedence in presenting comprehensive information about a particular program. Regions should, for the most part, provide information on a program only as it relates specifically to their Region.

           (2)  Occasionally, there may be limited overlap if a Region requires introductory language to put their program in its proper context or has a compelling reason to replicate the information. Cross-references can be a valuable tool for directing Regional site visitors to the more comprehensive material available on the national program’s web pages.

           (3)  The primary approach for resolving redundant content issues will be communication, collaboration, and negotiation between the Service and Regional Executive Editors. The Executive Editors shall make a good faith effort to be accommodating and reach a compromise acceptable to both. If that is not possible, Editorial Services will make a decision based on web best practices and in the best interest of the overall gsa.gov presentation.

           (4)  The Web Presence Board of Directors shall be the final arbiter in situations where no other resolution is possible. This step should be taken only as a last result.

6.   Content. All web content must relate directly to the mission and activities of GSA.

      a.  Publishing criteria. When creating new content or reviewing existing content for continued presentation on a GSA website, the Content Owner/Creator responsible for it should consider these factors:

          (1)  Subject and purpose of the content, ability to promote content to customers.

          (2)  Audience—Who are they? What do they need?

          (3)  Coordinate and communicate with all appropriate stakeholders, clearance offices and decision makers.

          (4)  Coordinate clearances with appropriate Services and Staff Offices within GSA.

          (5)  Staffing level needed to keep the content fresh and current.

          (6)  Content presentation in laymens’ terms.

          (7)  Content effectiveness, accuracy, and importance to user.

          (8)  Adequate point of contact information.

          (9)  Consistent and accessible organization and format.

          (10)  Consistent usability message.

          (11)  Age of content (timeliness and currency).

          (12)  Conformity with GSA brand.

          (13)  Consistency with GSA's enterprise message and vision.

          (14)  Uniqueness of content—Does it already exist elsewhere?

          (15)  Compatibility with the design and navigation of the gsa.gov portal.

          (16)  Content titles accessible by common search term.

      b. Economy of words. To help web users find information about how to do business with GSA, “less” is generally better than “more”:

          (1)  Keep an entry short.

          (2)  Put the most important information first.

          (3)  Use plain language, not bureaucratic jargon. (Guidance is available at http://www.plainlanguage.gov).

          (4)  Use terminology the audience will recognize rather than internal, agency business-line terms (e.g.—“cars for sale” instead of “Federal asset sales” or “fleet management”).  Don’t waste space, use “GSA”, not internal organization names or acronyms.

          (5)  Use straightforward topic names whenever possible, not agency-specific namesc.  Writing style. Detailed guidance on most components of gsa.gov, including content, is available at http://insite.gsa.gov/portal. Helpful information on writing for the Web can be found at this URL. To ensure consistency of capitalization, spelling, and punctuation, all content should conform to rules in the GSA Editorial Styleguide, available at http://insite.gsa.gov/portal. If the GSA Editorial Styleguide does not provide guidance, consult the AP Style Manual. This guidance is recommended for all GSA websites.

      d.  Providing contact information.

          (1)  Agency-level contact information should be available on every web page. Whenever possible, provide both an e-mail address and a phone number for every topic. There is a general assumption that website visitors prefer requesting additional information via e-mail. Organizations should either establish generic e-mail addresses where the public can send comments and questions or direct comments to a specific person and make certain that the contact name remains current. At a minimum there should be a link to “contacts” or “contact us” in the header or footer of each web page.

          (2)  Organizations must view e-mail addresses published on the Internet as business assets and recognize that there is an opportunity cost to poor responses to customer inquiries. Organizations must see responding to customer inquiries as part of their core business and all reasonable inquiries must be acknowledged and/or answered within a reasonable time frame.

          (3)  For Regional content, visitors to the site should not need to know the name of the Region that provides the service, hosts the training session, or holds the auction, etc. It should be sufficient for visitors to know that GSA offers the service, training session, auction, etc.

      e.  Timeliness.

          (1) Effective customer service and the credibility of GSA's websites depend on timeliness and currency. Out-of-date information and broken links should be removed or fixed promptly. Web visitors, in particular, expect information to be current. This is especially true for important contract information, announcements of training classes, and application deadlines, but should be a consideration for all website content.

          (2) Information must be monitored to ensure it is kept current and accurate. Content shall be reviewed at least every six months for currency. Outdated content shall either be deleted or made current. Historical documents, such as news releases and annual reports, should be cited appropriately.

          (3) The date of the most recent review of the content will be noted on each page.

      f.  Embargo/release. Public release of information must comply with any embargoes. Whenever possible, electronic release should occur simultaneously with the final clearance of the hard copy for publication.

      g.  Linking practices. Pages on GSA websites may include hypertext links or pointers to information created and maintained by other public and private organizations as well as other GSA organizations. The selection and presentation of these links must follow these requirements:

          (1)  Purpose. GSA linking practices are designed to:

               (a)  Inform visitors how links are chosen,

               (b)  Ensure that links are working,

               (c)  Avoid unnecessarily duplication of information,

               (d)  Promote the use of federal government websites in a way that reinforces their credibility and provides visitors as seamless navigation as possible,

               (e)  Remind visitors that nonfederal websites do not necessarily operate under the same laws, regulations, and policies as federal websites, and

               (f)  Maximize opportunities for GSA to ask other sites to link to GSA websites, while maintaining clear and fair criteria for deciding which links to use.

          (2)  Rationale for linking to non-GSA websites. The primary purpose of GSA websites is to provide information about GSA products and services, communicate with constituents, present governmentwide policy, and help GSA accomplish its mission. The goal is to provide as much information on GSA websites as possible without duplicating information authoritatively maintained elsewhere. Sometimes it is appropriate to assist customers and audiences by helping them easily access related non-GSA websites.

               (a) Offices shall evaluate the appropriateness (i.e., mission-related, no conflict of interest) and the value of any external links included in the material presented on GSA websites.

               (b) External links should be included when they lead to information that will have value for GSA’s customers and audiences and prevent GSA from duplicating content maintained by the authoritative source. 

          (3)  Linking policy. Every separate GSA public website must develop and post a clear and comprehensive policy for linking to other websites. This policy must include criteria or guidelines for selecting and maintaining external links. At a minimum, these policies must be available from a “Web Policies and Important Links” page. The gsa.gov linking policy at http://www.gsa.gov/linkingpolicy presents the policy, disclaimers, and link notifications of gsa.gov and can serve as a model for all GSA websites.

          (4)  Site departure notification. GSA public websites must notify visitors when they are leaving the website for a nonfederal website. Nonfederal websites are any sites not using a .gov, .mil, or .fed.us domain. GSA public websites must not notify visitors when they are leaving the website for another GSA website or for another Federal Government website. GSA sites must notify visitors that a link goes to a nonfederal site using one of the following:

                (a)  Displaying all nonfederal links in a labeled listing separate from Federal links.

                (b)  Placing an icon next to the link, http://www.gsa.gov/linkingpolicy.

                (c)  Describing the site as "a commercial site" or "a nonfederal education site" or "a nonfederal public organization site" etc. in the text immediately accompanying the link, or

                (d)  Inserting an exit page that displays after the user selects the link. This is the least accepted method of sending the visitor to another site. It may continue to be used if it is currently part of an existing GSA website design. It should not be used on new or redesigned GSA websites.

          (5)  Disclaimers. GSA public websites must disclaim responsibility for the content and privacy policies used by nonfederal websites. At a minimum, disclaimers must be available from a "Web Policies and Important Links" page. In the interest of seamless government and maintaining the general public's trust, GSA public websites must not disclaim responsibility for the content of other Federal public websites.

                (a)  Disclaimers for gsa.gov can be found at http://www.gsa.gov/linkingpolicy.

                (b)  GSA websites must not use disclaimers, including exit notification pages, when linking to other federal agency websites. There is no need to disclaim responsibility for content on another federal website.

          (6)  Criteria for selecting links from GSA websites. In developing criteria for what links to include, the following should be considered:

                (a)  The decision to include a link to an external source should be consistent with sound public policy and support the mission of GSA and its programs.

                (b)  Commercial sites that could be interpreted as implied favoritism or bias relative to other similar commercial sites are not appropriate. If other sites exist which offer similar products, information, or services there must be a link to all sites or none. However, if GSA has a formal relationship with organizations or businesses GSA websites may link to their sites. All participating partners in a business venture with GSA must be treated equally.

                (c)  Links to sites that pose potential privacy issues because they track or compile individual visitor data are generally not appropriate. In general, links to counters, local weather forecasts, local news, etc. are not appropriate for GSA websites for this reason.

                (d)  The content on sites to which GSA websites link should be easy for Content Creators to monitor and validate on a regular basis.

Any copyright issues (e.g., a news site with an article about a GSA program) must be thoroughly researched and resolved prior to requesting or implementing a link to the site.

          (7)  Review of links. All GSA website managers must establish a process and schedule to review external links to make sure they work and remain appropriate. The schedule must be included in the linking policy.

                (a)  Links should be reviewed for functionality monthly or more frequently to ensure they are not “broken”.

                (b)  Links should be reviewed editorially to ensure value every quarter, at a minimum.

          (8)  Links in documents and reports. These linking practices apply to URL’s in documents and reports published by GSA when they are made available for download from GSA websites. GSA is not responsible for maintaining links contained in documents or reports belonging to another organization that are republished on GSA websites. Links should include a “title” tag when appropriate.

          (9)  Payment. No payment or reimbursement of any kind shall be accepted in exchange for links on an official GSA website.

      h.  Collecting information from the public.

          (1)  Under the Paperwork Reduction Act and OMB regulations, the Office of Management and Budget must approve information collection from the public.

          (2)  Information collected by software programs for site management must only be used to create summary statistics for such purposes as assessing what information is of most and least interest or identifying problem areas. Privacy Act notices must be used to notify users about what information is collected or stored, why it is being done, and how it is used to comply with the Privacy Act. The GSA homepage, gsa.gov, shall always link to the most current privacy, security, and cookies policies. All GSA sites shall link to the main policies, and if these policies do not cover all of the issues related to a particular site, it is the responsibility of the site owner to supplement existing stated policies with local ones.

          (3)  The MyGSA function on gsa.gov is an example of data collection that is permitted. MyGSA allows users to voluntarily provide information to create a customized website.

          (4)  With respect to surveys on the web: A single, general question (such as "Please let us know what you think of the GSA website" or "Please give us your feedback") may be asked without prior approval. The Privacy and Paperwork Reduction Acts require a statement that clearly explains the purpose and use of any survey from the public.

      i.  Security and appropriate content.

           (1)  No information that is withheld from the public by statute, or otherwise restricted, may be placed on or linked from a public website. This prohibition includes information that is classified, sensitive but unclassified, for official use only, or protected under privacy laws.

          (2)  In some instances, there may be a need to place documents/collections that are not officially public (i.e., embargoed publications, collections in development, etc.) in a nonprivate directory for access by a test group or work team. The content reviewer/publisher managing the content website is responsible for determining whether to password-protect the materials to prevent access by unauthorized individuals. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) guidelines for security of websites should be followed at a minimum.

          (3)  GSA must be increasingly concerned that information posted to our websites could be used against federal personnel and facilities. The categories of information in the following section are either restricted or must not be posted on GSA public websites. This list is not all-inclusive. Content Creators and Reviewers and Publishers should use their judgment for anything not covered by this list.

          (4)  Content Reviewers/Publishers must ensure that content does not compromise security and follows these restrictions/prohibitions.

      j.  Required content and prohibitions. GSA’s goal is to provide information and service to the public. There is certain content that is required by federal web policy, which can be found in OMB guidance (http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/memoranda/fy2005/m05-04.pdf) and on the Web Content Managers Online Toolkit (http://www.firstgov.gov/webcontent/index.shtml). However, there is some content that is prohibited. Do not post the following information on public Internet websites:

          (1)  Floor plans or blueprints of federal facilities, electrical, water, or telephone diagrams detailing routes and locations of existing wires or pipes or shafts.

          (2)  Plans or photos showing emergency generators, tanks with emergency fuel supplies, and any escape routes in the building or compound.

          (3)  The existence, location, types or specifications of any physical or technical security devices, and/or any missing, broken or failure of any security devices (normally classified).

          (4)  Continuity of Operations (COOP) Plans.

          (5)  Backup plans for computer operations.

          (6)  Classified or sensitive but unclassified material.

          (7)  Privacy Act information: personal information relating to U.S. citizens, such as Social Security account numbers, dates of birth.

          (8)  Home address and home or cellular telephone numbers of individuals.

          (9)  Names, locations, and any other identifying information about family members of federal employees.

          (10)  Personal medical records.

          (11)  Any information about personal legal problems.

          (12)  Internal GSA personnel rules and practices when they refer to specific individuals.

          (13)  Any information dealing with investigative actions concerning a specific person.

          (14)  Action on reports of selection boards when it refers to specific individuals.

          (15)  Labor union representation rights and duties when it refers to specific individuals.

          (16)  OPM examination/confidential records.

          (17)  Drug abuse prevention/rehabilitation records.

          (18)  Software or technical information that could put GSA resources at risk, such as network diagrams or port scanners.

      k.  Restrictions. GSA Content Reviewers/Publishers must restrict information on the Internet about government personnel, especially individuals serving or traveling overseas in an official capacity. Please note, however, these restrictions do not apply in cases where public release of the information has been authorized. Among the categories of information that should be restricted unless otherwise approved:

          (1)  Financial records of GSA.

          (2)  Distribution lists.

          (3)  Shipping and receiving documents.

          (4)  Photographs and biographies of GSA individuals, except as approved for public affairs purposes.

          (5)  Pictures of federal facilities, including, and of particular concern, the display of security countermeasures. Official photographs of federal buildings may be used.

      l.  Additional resources. GSA website content owners can use research based Web Design and Usability Guidelines (http://usability.gov/pdfs/guidelines.html) and the Federal Web Content Managers Toolkit (http://www.webcontent.gov) to supplement the GSA guidance in this order.

7.  Design standards.

      a. Good website design is never an end in itself; websites must be functional as well as attractive. The acid test of any website is its utility in delivering information and services to its intended audience, however broadly or narrowly defined.

      b. Web design should create trust in how information will be organized and presented. Users should be able to move easily from one section of a GSA website to another and back and still find a consistent organization and presentation of materials. The transition to GSA off-portal websites from and to gsa.gov should be seamless.

      c. The web design should take into account that users want to find specific information and are not concerned about or interested in knowing the bureaucratic organization of GSA.

      d. Graphics should supplement the text and engage users. Use easy-to-read and meaningful graphics. Graphics should download quickly, as noted above. Test and evaluate all photos and graphics; if they result in slowing access time, remove them and seek another solution. When used, graphics must be accompanied by the appropriate Section 508 compliant alternatives.

8.  GSA brands and sub-brands.

      a. All GSA websites are required to adhere to the most current GSA branding guidelines. They can be found at http://insite.gsa.gov/portal .

      b. All GSA websites shall be hosted on servers using the “.gov” domain. These domains are subject to approval by OCSC/Editorial Services and are implemented through the Office of the CIO. Except in unique circumstances, specifically approved by the GSA Administrator, no GSA website may be hosted exclusively on a non-government domain. Non-government domain names may be registered to prevent site poaching or for customer convenience, but these names shall not be advertised.

      c. GSA has two kinds of Internet content sites, informational and e-commerce. E-commerce sites are those that allow customers to conduct business transactions, while informational sites are those that contain information about GSA products, services, programs, policies, offerings, events, and organizations. All GSA informational content sites shall be consolidated into gsa.gov. Approved e-commerce sites may utilize independent technologies as warranted by their business requirements. E-commerce sites shall incorporate GSA's corporate brand (look and feel).

9.  Accessibility. GSA websites, like all government websites, must be accessible to persons with disabilities. All Content Owners and Content Creators must review their content to ensure compatibility with the Section 508 standards as they apply to Internet and Internet information and applications. Web pages and functionality of sites should be tested for accessibility via screenreaders and other reader devises (http://section508.gov).

10. Utilities, plug-ins, and downloads.

      a.  Most users of GSA websites are seeking information and want to find it quickly. They are not looking to be dazzled, only informed.

      b.  Several widely used and accessible utilities are now commonplace on the World Wide Web and used on websites, notably Adobe Acrobat Reader for accessing formatted PDF and the associated Adobe plug-in for converting PDF to HTML.

      c.  Determine if any other application or plug-in has genuine program value. Is it worth the resources to create a separate text version? If the plug-in has no real program value, do not use it.

      d.  Flash, streaming video, and audio are only appropriate under certain circumstances and their use on the GSA portal, gsa.gov must be approved by the Governing Council.

11.  Cookies.

      a.  Particular privacy concerns may arise when web technology can track the activities of users over time and across different websites. The issue here is the involuntary profiling of users and users' browsing habits. GSA site owners are prohibited from involuntary profiling of users. In addition, GSA site owners are prohibited from sharing users' browsing information with non-government third parties.

      b.  Since cookies have been identified as a technology used in the involuntary profiling of users, federal sites are only allowed to use cookies under these conditions:

          (1)  A clear and conspicuous notice that cookies are being used,

          (2)  A compelling need to gather such data on the site,

          (3)  Appropriate and publicly disclosed privacy safeguards for handling information derived from cookies, and

          (4)  Personally approved by the GSA Administrator.

      c.    This policy applies only to "persistent" cookies that are stored in a computer's hard drive. It does not apply to so-called "session" cookies, which are temporarily placed in memory for the duration of a single session between the computer and a website server. Session cookies, which serve essentially as "placeholders" during a website user interaction, disappear or expire when the user leaves the site, and cannot be used to store or track personal information.

12. Exceptions.

      a. There are no exceptions for the requirements in the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Memorandum 05-04 dated December 17, 2004. Subject: Policies for Federal Agency Public Websites (http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/memoranda/fy2005/m05-04.pdf) . The OMB standards apply to ALL public websites with a .gov domain name.

       b.  In certain unique circumstances, GSA requirements in the Guidelines for GSA Websites may be waived. For example, offices within the GSA organization that are required to maintain an independent status may be exempt, in whole or in part, from the Guideline’s provisions. The Office of the Board of Contract Appeals and the Office of the Inspector General are in this category. In all cases, however, content must be accessible from the gsa.gov portal and the transition page should have the look and feel of gsa.gov.

       c.  As long as gsa.gov and the GSA Web Presence is evolving, there will continue to be circumstances that generate requests for exceptions. Editorial Services will evaluate such requests on a case-by-base basis and will work collaboratively with the requesting office to try to find an accommodation. The Web Presence Board of Directors will be the final arbiter if no mutually acceptable agreement can be reached.

13.  Enforcement.

       a.  The Governing Council is self-regulating and expects compliance. The GC is responsible for upholding compliance pertaining to GSA web presence policy. The GC allows the business line(s) the opportunity to take corrective action and will notify business lines prior to taking any corrective action. The GC will specify the deadline for completing corrective action based on the amount of work required.

       b.  OCSC/Editorial Services, with oversight by the Board of Directors, retains the authority to revoke portal publishing privileges or to direct the removal of noncompliant content from GSA websites.

       c.  The Board is the final authority for resolving issues relating to GSA's Web presence.

14.  Enforcement compliance.

      a.  The Governing Council is self-regulating and expects compliance. The GC is responsible for upholding compliance pertaining to GSA web presence policy. The GC allows the business line(s) the opportunity to take corrective action and will notify business lines prior to taking any corrective action. The GC will specify the deadline for completing corrective action based on the amount of work required.

      b.  OCSC/Editorial Services, with oversight by the Board of Directors, retains the authority to revoke portal publishing privileges or to direct the removal of noncompliant content from GSA websites.

      c.  The Board of Directors is the final authority for resolving issues relating to GSA's web presence.