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Characteristics of Effective Committee Websites

In past posts, we've discussed the characteristics of effective Member (personal office) websites. While some overlap exists between award-winning Member and committee websites in terms of usability and timeliness, there is little commonality otherwise.

Effective websites must be very strategic. In addition to considering the general advice below, each committee must conduct a strategic examination of its jurisdiction, activities, goals, priorities, audiences, and stakeholders to define which specific audiences and stakeholders to target, how to tailor content to meet their audiences' needs, and how to make available online all of the resources and information provided by the committee offline.

The CMF evaluation of committee websites included a minimum of 41 and a maximum of 61 criteria, depending on whether a committee considered legislation, conducted hearings, and incorporated minority information into a bipartisan website. The criteria are grouped into six characteristics that are summarized below.

Each characteristic is outlined in more detail with specific, bulleted criteria in the pdf113th Congress Gold Mouse Report (5.93 MB). The Methodology section of the report also explains more thoroughly the evaluation and scoring of committee sites.


Characteristic #1: Demonstrates Accountability through Legislative and Hearing Information

Committees are not as directly accountable to citizens as individual Members, but their websites can and should demonstrate accountability. For most, this means providing easy, transparent, and timely access to its activities, especially legislation and hearings.

Award-Winning Example: House Committee on Rules


Characteristic #2: Communicates What the Committee Does and How it Works

Given that no two congressional committees have identical jurisdictions or activities, a basic component of a committee website should be easy-to-understand information about the committee's purpose, jurisdiction, history, and procedures.

Award-Winning Example: House Committee on Small Business


Characteristic #3: Provides Content Targeted to the Committee's Audiences

Committee audiences consist primarily of four general groups: congressional staffers, subject matter experts off Capitol Hill, the media, and the general public. Committees should provide for all of these, but different committees will need to emphasize some over others, based on their roles and jurisdictions.

Award-Winning Example: House Committee on Education and the Workforce


Characteristic #4: Follows Best Practices for Usability

The best websites are easy to navigate, easy to read, well-organized, timely, professional-looking, and they employ current website usability standards.

Award-Winning Example: House Committee on Small Business


Characteristic #5: Facilitates Basic Interaction

Committees do not need to be interactive in the same way Members must, but their websites should support basic interactions by providing mailing addresses, hearing room locations, and phone numbers, as well as guidance on submitting testimony and attending hearings, if the committee holds hearings.

Award-Winning Example: House Committee on Natural Resources


Characteristic #6: Maintains Diverse Communications Channels

Increasingly, websites are hubs for a host of communications channels, including social media. Committees must think strategically about how to integrate them all to engage and interact with their audiences.

Award-Winning Example: House Committee on Energy and Commerce

 
 
 

ABOUT CMF

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CMF is a 501(c)(3) nonpartisan nonprofit dedicated to helping Congress and its Members meet the evolving needs and expectations of an engaged and informed 21st century citizenry.

Our work focuses on improving congressional operations and enhancing citizen engagement through research, publications, training, and management services.

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PROJECTS

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Communicating with Congress The Internet forever changed how citizens and Congress interacts. The goal of this project is to facilitate a more meaningful democratic dialogue.

 

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Gold Mouse Project
Congress should effectively communicate with and serve citizens online. CMF assesses congressional websites to identify best and innovative practices that can be more widely adopted by the House and Senate.

 

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Inside the Hill
Produced by Founding Partner Fleishman-Hillard, this video series allows you to hear directly from Members and staff on how technology is changing the way Congress works.

 

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Life in Congress
This novel research project by CMF and the Society for Human Resource Management has two goals: identify the factors that motivate congressional staff and shed some light on Congress as a workplace.

 

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21st Century Town Hall Meetings CMF seeks to continue our innovative work in this area by conducting comparative research on in-person town halls, online town halls, and telephone town halls.