Offices now have an extra 2 weeks to finish any last minute changes to their websites. Evaluations will begin June 15! To help you prepare, we have compiled an extensive FAQ:
CMF's evaluation of congressional websites begins June 15 and will continue through August. Evaluators are given a randomly generated list of websites by our research partners and will evaluate them in that order. This process takes several weeks and any website may be evaluated at any point during that time. We cannot make exceptions to the order in which websites are evaluated and encourage you to roll out your site as soon as possible.
2. We're going to be rolling out a new website after evaluations begin. Can we move to the back of the line?
No. In order to maintain the veracity and impartiality of the evaluation process, CMF cannot accommodate any special considerations, including altering your site's evaluation date.
Sites are evaluated by nonpartisan CMF staff, in conjunction with our research partners at Northeastern University, the University of California-Riverside, and the Ohio State University. Each evaluator is extensively trained on the criteria, grading standards, and how to objectively evaluate sites. They go through several rounds of test evaluations to ensure that each criterion - especially the qualitative ones - are applied consistently. During the evaluations, evaluators overlap on select sites to further ensure accuracy.
You do not need to submit your site for evaluation. CMF is evaluating all official House and Senate Member, committee (majority and minority), and leadership websites. We will not be evaluating the websites of institutional offices, subcommittees, commissions, or Member or staff associations.
CMF's evaluations are measuring congressional websites from the perspective of citizens and constituents. We do not evaluate the accuracy or validity of any policy positions or issue stances. The evaluations are focused solely on how effectively websites meet the needs of their various audiences. Before every round of evaluations, we update our methodology, which combines quantitative and qualitative measurements, to reflect current tools and best practices.
Websites will be judged on the following broad categories:
- Information on issues
- Constituent services and casework
- District/State information
- Legislative Process
- Floor Proceedings
- Media Communication
- Communication Technology and Use of Social Media
To reflect its growing role in online communications, the use of social media (and Twitter and Facebook in particular) will have a greater impact on offices' scores than it has had in the previous evaluations.
CMF is looking into incorporating some form of accessibility scanning into its evaluation process. This would then be reflected in an overall usability score.
8. Where can I get information on how to improve our website? I have questions about a specific change we are making to our website. How can CMF help?
To maintain our objectivity for the upcoming evaluations, we cannot individually meet or consult with offices about their websites. However, we have several resources available to assist you in improving your website:
- Start with Back to Basics: The Foundations of a Good website
- Download the handouts from our March trainings: Senate Training Handout (2.94 Mb) or House Training Handouts (2.30 Mb)
- Look at the resources on Building a Better Website
- Review the guidance and finding of past Gold Mouse Reports
- Browse the 111th Congress Platinum, Gold, Silver, and Bronze Mouse Award winners
- Sign up for our newsletter and receive alerts about all of the Partnership's projects, including Gold Mouse
We will release the Gold Mouse Report and announce the Award winners in November.
You will be hearing from us! Winners will receive icons to display on their website, a plaque to commemorate the honor, and recognition on our website and at an event celebrating the best in online communication in Congress.