Texas State Agency Websites: A Descriptive Assessment of Attributes that Support Online Citizen Engagement
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The purpose of this applied research project is to describe attributes of State of Texas agency websites that support online citizen engagement. A review of the literature informs the development of a conceptual framework comprising three descriptive categories: design, transparency, and communication.
Descriptive categories identified in the literature informed the development of a conceptual framework. The researcher used this framework to develop a coding protocol through which to conduct a content analysis of Texas state agency websites. Thirty websites were selected for the sample based upon agency size as indicated by agency budget.
The presence and prominence of website attributes that support online citizen engagement varied. Most agencies clearly prioritize disability access, but there is a general lack of priority given to readability and foreign language access. In addition, while most agencies do publish information about the agency mission, goals, values, and public hearings, few provide contact information for specific employees in agency departments. Regarding online communication, few agencies provide a variety of ways for citizens to access agency information, such as blogs, subscription services, or multimedia. Finally, while most agencies do provide a feedback mechanism for citizens, very few engage citizens through the use of social networking and none host an online forum or message board.
Public administrators charged with designing, developing, and implementing agency websites should consider incorporating the website attributes described in this applied research project to support online citizen engagement.