Study finds technical errors in government sites

A survey of 41 federal Web sites found that 68 percent will present some sort of bug within the first 15 minutes of a visit, according to the Business Internet Group of San Francisco.

Most glitches were application server and Web server errors such as blank pages, embedded content errors and the 500 internal server error, the survey found.

Diane Smith, the group's research director, said she selected the sites because they are used in the Keynote Government Internet Performance Index from Keynote Systems Inc. of San Mateo, Calif. The index includes sites of 10 Cabinet departments, the White House, both houses of Congress and several large agencies.

Smith said she visited each Web site for up to 15 minutes and explored as if she were unfamiliar with the agency. She stopped exploring at the first error, even if the 15 minutes were not yet up. The average length of her visits was 9 minutes, 41 seconds, but only 4 minutes, 49 seconds on the 28 sites that had errors.

Twenty-five of the buggy sites had blank pages and internal server errors. Smith said she found three other sites with data errors, such as a wrong page link or bad data returned from a database query.

None of the bugs related to overall site performance or availability, and they would not show up on monitoring applications designed to measure uptime, she said.

To record her keystrokes and mouse clicks, Smith used a client application called IntegriTea Capture from TeaLeaf Technology Inc. of San Francisco, which sponsored the study.

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