Six Non-Negotiable Standards for High-Quality Information Online

I was just introduced to a wonderful white paper that details six meaningful and crisply stated customer service standards for government information online. (OK, the white paper was published in 2008, so why am I only discovering it now?!)

This brief, clear document with the visionary title “Putting Citizens First: Transforming Online Government” was prepared for the 2008 – 2009 Presidential Transition Team by the Federal Web Managers Council.

Here are the six customer service standards. I think they’re relevant for all types of online communication. Substitute customers for American people and company for government, and these standards should work for whatever type of content you publish online.


“When the American people need government information and services online, they should be able to:

  • Easily find relevant, accurate, and up-to-date information;
  • Understand information the first time they read it;
  • Complete common tasks efficiently;
  • Get the same answer whether they use the web, phone, email, live chat, read a brochure, or visit in-person;
  • Provide feedback and ideas and hear what the government will do with them;
  • Access critical information if they have a disability or aren’t proficient in English.”

I suggest you download the complete white paper, as it also includes several no-nonsense recommendations that I believe are right on the money:

  • “Agencies should be required to fund their ‘virtual’ office space as part of their critical infrastructure, in the same way they fund their ‘bricks and mortar’ office space.”
  • “Agencies should be required and funded to conduct regular content reviews, to ensure their online content is accurate, relevant, mission-related, and written in plain language…”

On October 6 and 7, I’ll be teaching Writing Well for Online Readers: Essentials of Writing in Plain Language for Web Manager University, which is the training arm of Webcontent.gov. If you work on a government website, I hope you’ll consider enrolling in the class. If you don’t work on a government website, don’t worry. I’ll try to share some of the “good stuff,” like this white paper, with you here.

— Leslie O’Flahavan

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