Checklist of Requirements for Federal Websites and Digital Services

This “checklist” lays out high-level requirements for federal public websites and digital services, and the current laws, policies, and regulations related to each requirement.

Regularly review your agency’s websites and digital products and services against this list, to make sure all your digital products comply with the latest requirements.


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Relevant Law, Regulation, or Policy


Accessibility/Section 508 Ensure that people with any disability type—including motor, auditory, cognitive, seizure/neurological, and visual impairments—are able to use your agency’s Web content and digital services; Ensure content is “perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust.” Train staff to create accessible products, and conduct accessibility testing when making significant changes to your site, or before launching a new site or digital service.

Analytics Understand the needs of your customers, collect and address customer feedback, and use that evaluation and feedback to continuously improve your programs. Implement performance and customer satisfaction measuring tools on all .gov websites. Set performance standards and use metrics and customer feedback to improve the customer experience.


Content/Information Quality Create digital content that’s accurate, relevant, easy-to-use, and conveyed in plain language. Maximize the quality, objectivity, utility, and integrity of information and services provided to the public, and make information and services available on a timely and equitable basis. Reasonably assure suitable information and service quality, consistent with the level of importance of the information.

Copyright Inform the public about your policies on digital rights, copyrights, trademarks, and patents. If your organization uses or duplicates private sector information, ensure that the property rights of the private sector source are adequately protected. (These protections apply to any material posted to federal public websites, such as documents, graphics, or audio files.)

Customer Service Set service standards and use customer feedback to improve the customer experience. Agencies that provide significant services directly to the public are required to identify and survey their customers, establish service standards and track performance against those standards, and benchmark customer service performance against the best in business.


Digital Strategy Manage and fund your digital presence as an integral part of your agency’s overall business, communications, and customer experience strategies. Ensure that digital services meet agency mission and program goals, and deliver a positive experience for citizens.Focus on digital services that are the most useful and valuable for your customers. Before creating or procuring a new digital service (website, mobile app, social media engagement, etc.), separate content from presentation by addressing these layers:

  1. Information layer (open data and content)
  2. Platform layer (systems, processes, shared platforms)
  3. Presentation layer (websites, applications, third-party services)

Domains and Branding Federal executive branch agency websites must use only .gov, .mil or domains unless the agency head explicitly determines another domain is necessary for the proper performance of an agency function. New federal websites should only be established on .gov or .mil domains (established sites may continue to use and must be approved by OMB. Clearly display the name of your agency on every page on the website.


Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Your website must have a page that includes certain content as required by the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), including information about how the public can request information under the Act.


Governance Establish a digital governance structure to provide accountability and enforce policies and standards. Manage and fund your digital presence as an integral part of your overall business, communications, and customer experience strategies.


Linking Publish your policy describing how and why you link to other websites; Publish and follow a schedule for reviewing the appropriateness and relevancy of external links. Notify visitors when a link on your website will take them to a non-federal-government website, include a disclaimer about content and privacy policies; Refrain from disclaiming content when linking to other federal sites. Follow the “rule of 3″; Show at least three examples when linking to non-government information, to avoid the appearance of endorsing a single source, service or product.


Mobile Improve priority customer facing services for mobile use. Shift to an enterprise-wide asset management and procurement model, including mobile-related procurements.

Multilingual Websites Comply with the requirements of Executive Order 13166, based on Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bans discrimination on the basis of national origin.


Open Government/Data/Content Publish information in ways that make it easy to find, access, share, distribute, and re-purpose; Structure content and tag with standard metadata. Make open data, content, and application programming interfaces (APIs) the new default, and make existing high-value data and content available through APIs. Use challenges and prizes to promote open government, innovation, and other national priorities. In the spirit of transparency, participation and collaboration, agencies are directed to: make government information available online; improve the quality of government information; create and institutionalize a culture of open government; and create an enabling policy framework for open government.


Paperwork Reduction Ensure that information collected from the public minimizes burden and maximizes public utility. Your agency must have OMB approval before collecting information from the public (surveys, forms, etc.), and you much include the OMB control number on the collection. OMB’s Fast-Track PRA Review Process can help you collect information in a timely manner.Federal organizations should use electronic forms, electronic filing, and electronic signatures to conduct official business with the public. Whenever possible, deliver services via your customers’ channel of choice (online, apps, etc.). Designate a single point of contact for small businesses, and post the contact information on your website.

Performance Measurement and Reporting Regularly evaluate all digital products for performance and cost effectiveness by collecting and acting on metrics and customer feedback, conducting usability testing, and measuring return on investment. Establish performance measures to demonstrate mission achievement; Make your annual performance plans readily available to the public.

Plain Writing Federal executive branch agencies are required to write all new or significantly revised publications, forms and publicly distributed documents in a “clear, concise, well-organized” manner.

Privacy and Identity Management Implement security and management controls to prevent the inappropriate disclosure of sensitive information. Provide service through a secure connection; Provide a link to your privacy policy on every page (can be included in your overall site policies); Conduct a privacy impact assessment of your website; Post a “Privacy Act Statement” that explains your legal authority for collecting personal data and how the data will be used; Translate privacy policies into a standardized machine-readable format. Be aware of and comply with all other existing laws and directives that address the need to protect the privacy of the American people when they interact with their government online. Allow the public and business partners to register or log on to Assurance Level 1 systems using externally-issued credentials.

Prohibition on Lobbying Comply with existing laws that prohibit federal public websites from being used for direct or indirect lobbying. Consult your agency’s legal staff for guidance to ensure that your site does not advertise for, nor provide preferential treatment to, private individuals, firms, or corporations.


Records Management Work with your agency Records Officer and follow NARA guidance to establish and maintain inventories, priorities, and records schedules, and regularly delete or archive content that is obsolete and is not required by law or regulation. Create content inventories which identify categories of information (e.g., press releases or publications), not specific documents. Post inventories, priorities, and schedules for posting additional content on the website for comment.

Required Content Include all required content and links on your site, in compliance with relevant guidance. Required content includes, but is not limited to: privacy policy; FOIA info; organizational info; budget and performance reports;; some cross-agency portals. Every page on your site should have a text link back to your homepage (if you use a graphical link, it must have appropriate alt text).


Search Ensure your website includes a search function which follows industry standard best practices, to help the public easily locate government information. Write content in Plain Language, using the words of your customers, so they can easily find what they need when searching the web or your website.

Security Implement security and management controls to prevent the inappropriate disclosure of sensitive information. Your agency is required to provide adequate security controls to ensure information is resistant to tampering to preserve accuracy, remains confidential as necessary, and the information or service is available as intended by the agency and expected by users. Agencies must also implement management controls to prevent the inappropriate disclosure of sensitive information. Provide general information to the public about your security protocols to protect information on your website.

Shared Services and Tools Leverage existing infrastructure, shared tools, best practices, and communities of practice, and coordinate within and across agencies to create efficiency and reduce duplication. When missions overlap, collaborate with other agencies to develop cross-agency websites (portals); Coordinate across government to disseminate information about emergencies.

Social Media Become familiar with relevant policies, and take advantage of the many good examples across government to help you implement social tools to interact with customers and improve the customer experience. Establish and maintain communications with members of the public and with State and local governments to ensure your agency creates information dissemination products meeting their respective needs.


Technology Standards Use the most recent and up-to-date technical standards for your digital services. Provide service through a secure connection.


Usability/User Experience Ensure that digital services are easy to use and accessible, including for people with disabilities and those who aren’t proficient in English.

User Feedback Understand the needs of your customers, collect and address customer feedback, and use that evaluation and feedback to continuously improve your programs. Use social media and other third-party platforms to listen to your customers.