5 federal websites people use (and actually work)

Mar 05, 2014

Tory Newmyer is a writer for Fortune

Courtesy: social security

The Social Security Administration

Address : socialsecurity.gov/applyonline; ssa.gov/estimator

ForeSee score : 90

The Social Security Administration probably doesn't leap to mind when you imagine a nimble, tech-savvy outfit. But measured by user satisfaction, the New Deal retirement security program runs both of the highest rated sites across the federal government, according to a new report from ForeSee, a company that surveys and analyzes customer experience. And the SSA is no one-eyed king: Its marks beat those of private-sector powerhouses, including Amazon, Apple, FedEx, and Mercedes-Benz. Among other things, the sites can tell you how much you've earned over the course of your career and estimate what you stand to collect in retirement benefits -- handy features for users, and potentially dramatic paper-savers for the government.

Courtesy: CIA

CIA recruitment

Address : cia.gov/careers

ForeSee score : 84

This site benefits majorly from its undeniable cool factor. Who among us hasn't cast themselves as Jason Bourne or Carrie Mathison in a globe-spanning spy-thriller fantasy? But ForeSee's Dave Lewan says the smooth functionality of the intelligence service's site also boosts it into the first tier. The "Job Fit Tool" takes you through a short survey of your educational background, experience, and interests and then matches you with a list of job openings at the Agency, ranked by fit. So go ahead. Take five minutes during your lunch break, and get ready to star in your own le Carré novel. (Or not: I got "police officer.")

Courtesy: U.S. Securites and Exchange Commission

The SEC's investor site

Address : investor.gov

ForeSee score : 85

Lewan says this SEC portal earns top-flight status by knowing its audience. There are tools for professional investors -- and also loads of information for novices, even elementary school students looking to learn more about the markets. Road-map your investment plan; learn how to read a 10-K; conduct a background check on a financial adviser -- the site marshals content to demystify what can otherwise be an intimidating subject for first-timers.

Courtesy: NASA

NASA

Address : www.nasa.gov

ForeSee score : 82

Like the CIA, the space agency starts at an advantage simply owing to what it does. But unlike the intelligence service, which naturally prizes secrecy, NASA embraced its online presence early as a means to showcase its discoveries to a wide audience. "They know they have a number of different people coming to the site, from scientists to kids doing research, so they've developed an understanding of what to deliver each audience," Lewan says. The site won't be winning any design awards in its current form. But it is stocked with accessible videos and other content for space-obsessed kids.

Courtesy: U.S. Mint

U.S. Mint online catalog

Address : usmint.gov

ForeSee score : 82

The highest-ranked e-commerce site among the federal standouts, the U.S. Mint knows exactly what its online visitors want: info on coins and an easy mechanism to buy them. So the site keeps it simple, with a scrollable banner front and center hawking the latest commemorative wares and the "Buy Now" button we've come to expect from online retailers. On sale now and just a few clicks away: a $1 limited-run coin featuring Warren G. Harding, and a silver dollar marking the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act ($54.95).

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