Governmental Statistical Data on the Web: A case study of FedStats
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Over 70 United States federal government agencies collect and store statistical data that eventually are made available to the general public. The World Wide Web offers the best medium for dissemination of these data. However, to facilitate access to these statistical data, a common portal with an easy to use interface is required. This portal is necessary to ensure that the general public, as well as researchers and statisticians, know about the existence of such data and can easily and quickly have access to the huge amount of information the federal agencies provide.
The only significant attempt to create such a portal began in 1997, when the FedStats web site (http://www.FedStats.gov) became publicly available. The site is designed to complement the already existing web sites of each federal agency, by providing a unique point of access to all collections of statistical data from almost 100 different agencies. The web site is intended to help users find the information they need without having to visit several web sites and without needing previous knowledge of the structure of the governmental agencies.
The objective of this paper is to analyze the FedStats web site and determine its usefulness to citizens. In this respect, a usability test was conducted, and the paper describes its results and the recommendations we make to the designers of the web site.