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Which state has the best websites?

In a new ranking of state government websites, Virginia comes out on top, while Louisiana placed last.

The Information Technology & Innovation Foundation considered page-load speed, mobile friendliness, security and accessibility for its ranking. It looked at 400 sites in total, rating the  state government’s main website along with sites for driver’s licenses, taxes, vital records, elections, business registration, fishing and hunting licensing, and traffic citations

ITIF rated page-load speeds with Google’s PageSpeed Insights, which uses 15 different criteria to provide a score between 0 and 100. “We found that 77 percent of state websites passed the desktop page-load speed test and 50 percent passed the mobile page-load speed test,” the group said.

States can improve page-load speed by compressing images, removing unnecessary comments from code and optimizing JavaScript and CSS code, ITIF advised.

The mobile friendliness score was produced using SEO Centro’s Mobile Friendly Check, which also creates a score from 0 to 100. ITIF considered 90 or above to be passing, a bar set after reviewing multiple non-government websites. Two out of three state websites passed the mobile-friendliness test, but a quarter of sites received a score below 70, showing that “many state websites can still make significant improvement,” the report said.

Some of the mobile friendliness issues were design flaws including buttons and images that did not properly scale to mobile.

The security ranking considered whether agencies were using HTTPS  to encrypt communications between users' browsers and the sites and DNSSEC, which verifies that an IP address is associated with a specific domain name.

The result was 44 percent of websites passed the HTTPS test and 13 percent had enabled DNSSEC, numbers considerably below those scored by federal agencies on ITIF's November 2017 review of federal websites.

“Compared with the federal government, states are doing poorly on DNSSEC,” the report noted. “Last year we found that 88 percent of the most popular federal government websites enabled DNSSEC.”

Finally, to measure accessibility, ITIF looked at scores from AChecker’s Web Accessibility Checker, which measured sites' conformance with accessibility standards. Fifty-nine percent of state government websites passed the accessibility test.

“Unfortunately,” ITIF wrote, “many of the states with the highest percentage of residents with disabilities performed poorly on the test. For example, West Virginia has the highest percentage of people with disabilities of any state, yet ranked 46th for its average accessibility score.”

ITIF recommended states mandate best practices for cybersecurity and mobile friendliness. It also suggested they track metrics used in this report, create guidelines for testing and hold agency leadership responsible for improving sites that fall beneath a certain threshold.

Read the full report here.

About the Author

Matt Leonard is a reporter/producer at GCN.

Before joining GCN, Leonard worked as a local reporter for The Smithfield Times in southeastern Virginia. In his time there he wrote about town council meetings, local crime and what to do if a beaver dam floods your back yard. Over the last few years, he has spent time at The Commonwealth Times, The Denver Post and WTVR-CBS 6. He is a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University, where he received the faculty award for print and online journalism.

Leonard can be contacted at mleonard@gcn.com or follow him on Twitter @Matt_Lnrd.

Click here for previous articles by Leonard.


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