Kudos to chefs

Recently GCN editors had the task of jurying the World Wide Web site contest sponsored
by the Federal Webmasters Workshop held last week in Bethesda, Md.


I therefore spent a week of evenings browsing deep into some 40 sites nominated by your
colleagues.


Those sites represent only the tip of the iceberg in terms of volume of federal Web
activity. According to statistics in the White House home page, more than 180,000 pages
are supported by federal entities.


Although GCN has covered the Web in the government context from the beginning, I've
never spent so much time intensively browsing federal sites one after another. From what I
saw, the judging task was an honor.


My dominant impression from browsing is this: There is an amazing amount of top-notch
Web page-making going on in government. Many federal sites are so well constructed and so
content-rich that they rival anything available from the private sector.


This is a remarkable achievement, given the paucity of money and manhours agencies
often can allocate to developing their Web sites. There are some impressive
""shoestring'' sites. For example, the Army's European headquarters personnel
site isn't gorgeous, but it is easy to navigate, has useful information and loads in a
flash.


On the other hand, where there are bigger budgets and staffs, those agencies have
capitalized on what they have to work with. Sites operated by NASA and the National
Institutes of Health come to mind. Rich in content, they also exhibit compelling graphic
flair.


Clearly, federal webmasters understand the three most important features of any
successful Web site: content, organization and relevance. When a tightly woven site is
enhanced by eye-catching graphics, so much the better. At several sites, I found myself
saying, ""Well, gosh, look at that.''


Much has been made lately of the bad stuff on the Internet, as if the Internet is a
unique delivery system for meaningless or prurient material. But trash has been published
in every medium since cave painting without detracting from the worthy material.


Federal webmasters are leading the way in skillful use of the Web. Their mission is to
make government work more efficiently and provide better service. Their efforts, though,
are a model for Web users throughout the economy.


When you see your agency's webmaster, be sure to give him or her your congratulations.
I do.


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