2021 Annual Report
Public Law 115-336, “21st Century Integrated Digital Experience Act"
Prepared for the Office of Management and Budget and the public by the General Services Administration, per the requirements of Section 3(d) of Public Law 115-336
Section 3(d) of the 21st Century Integrated Digital Experience Act (21st Century IDEA) requires the head of each Federal executive branch agency to report annually (through 2023) to the Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the public on the agency’s progress to implement the requirements of the Act and to modernize its websites and digital services. This report details our efforts to modernize our websites and digital services in 2021.
Efforts to Date
GSA continues to build on the foundational work we began in 2019 and 2020. Major accomplishments focus on strengthening digital governance, and increasing internal collaboration to improve the digital experience for GSA customers.
One of the primary drivers behind 21st Century IDEA is to bring more consistency to the Federal digital space, and we are tackling this on several fronts:
- Digital.gov is the central source of guidance on building Federal digital services. The team continued to grow its governmentwide communities of practice and hosted dozens of events on a wide range of topics, including several to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion.
- GSA received an investment of $187,050,000 from the Technology Modernization Fund (TMF) to scale the Login.gov shared service with more advanced cybersecurity capabilities, expand identity verification coverage, and expand integrations with agency public-facing digital services, enabling agencies to simplify and standardize login experiences for the public.
- The U.S. Web Design System (USWDS) team continues to grow the design system as a shared service and conducted an extensive research project; this project resulted in new tools for emergency response and a roadmap for future development. Such efforts improve consistency, trust, and a focus on the user governmentwide.
- Leading by example, GSA adopted enterprise performance goals for fiscal year (FY) 2022 that will spur greater adoption of the USWDS to bring more consistency to the look, feel, and functionality of GSA websites.
- Internally, GSA IT developed, open-sourced, and maintained a USWDS theme for externally hosted Salesforce sites. The theme was used on five production sites at GSA, with more on the way in FY22.
- Receiving roughly 60 million visits in 2021, USA.gov is the “front door to the federal government,” providing a central starting point to help people easily find official government information and services. In particular, GSA continued to maintain an aggregated directory of critical government information for people and businesses impacted by COVID-19.
- To improve the experience for customers, we are actively crafting new editorial guidance and standardizing similar types of content on GSA.gov - such as information on our buying process.
Improving IT accessibility is a central theme for all our digital services, and we have taken several actions this year to advance our work in this space:
- Section508.gov, the central portal for agency guidance on how to meet Federal IT accessibility standards, was redesigned in 2021 to improve findability and presentation of information. We have also begun to rationalize all IT accessibility content from across GSA into Section508.gov and will soon decommission ancillary websites.
- GSA’s 508 Team in the Office of Government-wide Policy is supporting development of a new Federal Strategic Plan to improve IT accessibility, particularly for digital services. We are also leading work to standardize the Federal Information and Communication Technology (ICT) testing baseline.
- Finally, our internal 508 Web Modernization Working Group has started developing a standardized training curriculum to improve capacity for GSA staff to create and build more accessible content and digital products.
Strengthening Governance and Management
Strengthening our internal digital governance enables us to more effectively manage our digital presence and collaborate across agency business lines to improve digital experience.
- GSA updated internal policies to clarify and codify roles and responsibilities for management and governance of digital, and established an Enterprise Digital Experience team in our Office of Customer Experience to oversee and coordinate large-scale digital efforts such as enterprise web modernization, improving enterprise management of our websites and digital services.
- GSA automated our agency Website Inventory in Touchpoints and conducted an agency-wide data call to validate the data for all our production websites. We have begun to identify candidate websites for consolidation or sunsetting, and we continue to improve the usefulness of the inventory tool by adding tags to improve categorization of websites. We are using built-in-house products to improve data and analysis opportunities and reduce burden on employees, and we are breaking down product silos to enable website managers to see data about their website in a single user-centered interface, delivering better business insights.
- GSA continues to grow our internal Digital Community of Practice and connect and communicate with staff who support GSA websites. We produce a monthly newsletter to educate web teams on agency digital priorities and engage them around progress to implement 21st Century IDEA, enabling better coordination for enterprise web modernization efforts.
- GSA stood up several working groups to tackle implementation of various portions of 21st Century IDEA and created a GitHub repository to manage our web modernization work. We have begun to break large projects into smaller, more manageable tasks, and we are socializing across our GSA Digital community to encourage more people to participate and contribute in the spirit of agile development. Working in the open demonstrates transparency around our web modernization efforts.
- GSA began development of an enterprise Digital Lifecycle Program to ensure all new digital products are appropriately resourced, meet a unique business need, and are designed in a way that best meets user needs. This program will ensure that any investment in a new website has management support and sufficient resources to remain useful and viable.
- GSA created an authoritative management system for our digital space in the form of recurrent and rules-based stakeholder forums, which are crucial to the continued responsible evolution of GSA’s digital space. Only by regularly engaging with customers can we learn how best to meet their needs.
Building Trust through User Experience
Improving usability, security, and ease of access to our websites and digital services is key to improving customer trust.
- GSA’s Federal Acquisition Service (FAS) is actively developing a single customer entry point based on robust usability testing, and featuring consolidated digital tools to improve the buying experience.
- Mobile is now the primary way the public accesses government websites, and 80% of GSA websites are considered “mobile-friendly,” according to automated scans of mobile usability and performance.
- Analytics provide insight into website usage and customer priorities. 98% of GSA owned or operated websites are running the Digital Analytics Program (DAP), providing data on how people interact with GSA information and services online.
- Security is paramount. 98.7% of GSA’s public-facing websites use HSTS, and 100% of the websites use HTTPS.
- Search is how people navigate the web, and 70% of GSA’s informational websites now contain onsite search capability to help users more easily navigate GSA services. GSA also offers Search.gov to agencies as a high-performance shared service that supports search and findability of government services and information as well as tailored technical support, and it provides consistency in the public search experience on Federal websites. Search.gov is currently used on one-third of Federal domains.
- GSA is piloting an internal digital service delivery team to improve the accessibility and usability of key systems, working to have a direct and meaningful impact on end-user experiences.
- GSA’s Cloud.gov Pages is a Platform as a Service (PAAS) that is built specifically for government websites, making it even easier for agencies to stand up and deliver digital services that are FISMA-compliant, user-friendly, and easy to manage.
We have identified two major challenges:
- Lack of standardized, enterprise business processes around website management encourages resistance to consolidate and streamline content, which can make it difficult to rationalize information into fewer websites.
- Progress on web modernization is slower than anticipated since work is primarily being done through part-time work of existing employees, rather than through dedicated staff.
To address these challenges, we have embarked on enterprise change management efforts to garner support and encourage teams to approach their websites from a perspective of stewardship rather than ownership. We have begun interviewing teams to discover their specific concerns around content rationalization and website consolidation so we can address them. We are implementing our new Digital Lifecycle Program to standardize our enterprise business processes for launching, maintaining, and sunsetting a digital property. We have also begun actively engaging with more people across the GSA enterprise to enlist additional support for our web modernization efforts.
GSA has made progress in 2021 through greater employee engagement, improved internal governance, and slow but steady digital modernization. Next year provides an opportunity for even greater progress, as Congress provided substantial resources to the Federal Citizen Services Fund and the Technology Modernization Fund - which will bolster the achievement of the 21st Century IDEA Act’s objectives at GSA and across government. To enable us to continue this progress, GSA will need consistent and sustained funding for investments that can help to modernize digital services across government. Additionally, through our role as convener of the Federal Web Council, we recommend that agencies continue to reinforce the need to rationalize content and decommission lower-impact websites so we can focus resources on improving our most impactful websites and digital services.
GSA aims for excellence in digital service delivery and to spur innovation and lead positive change through collaboration with our agency partners.
U.S. General Services Administration