Affiliations: [a] School of Social Science and Centre for Policy Futures, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia | [b] School of Sociology & School of Computer Science, Australian National Univeristy, Conberra, Australia
Corresponding author: Paul Henman, School of Social Science and Centre for Policy Futures, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Abstract: Webportals – websites that operate as front doors or guides into government on the web – are central to government web strategy and presence. However, little is known about their success in enabling people to quickly and accurately access public sector information and services. In these days of Google and generic web search engines, government webportals are not the only way to find government on the web. This paper argues that an effective evaluation of government webportals requires shifting from a website perspective to a whole-of-web (or web ecology) perspective. This perspective is illuminated by an online quasi-experiment of the effectiveness of the British government’s webportal, www.gov.uk. Participants’ performance in using the webportal to find information about public services were compared with those using commercial web search tools (such as Google). There was mixed evidence that the portal provided greater accuracy in finding public service information, but no evidence for greater speeds. The findings suggest that government web strategy focus less on creating large webportals and more on small functionally-defined web units that offer enhanced opportunities for commercial search engine discoverability and flexibility for change.
Keywords: E-government, webportal, web ecology, navigation, UK, online experiment, IT evaluation