How to: assess your digital services

Conduct a baseline survey of the quality and usability of your online city services.

For many residents today, the city or county website is their first stop to access important public services and information — such as paying a parking ticket, contacting an elected official, or searching for government jobs.

Through research in our Digital Front Door initiative, we’ve identified some of the most searched for services on a city website, including:

  1. Find contact information for city officials
  2. Find the time and agenda for the next City Council meeting
  3. Use or reserve a public amenity (i.e. a rec center)
  4. Make an online payment
  5. File a public safety report (i.e. report a stolen bike)
  6. Report a problem (i.e. request a streetlight repair)
  7. Apply for a development permit
  8. Apply for a business license
  9. Find employment opportunities with the city
  10. File a public information request

Through this census, you can benchmark whether these services are available on your site, and how useful and accessible they are for your community members.

What you’ll do

In this guide, you’ll find out how to:

  • Create a baseline of what’s working and what’s not with your city’s online services
  • Engage local government and community partners in a conversation about building 21st century government

You’ll need

  • Access to the Local Digital Services Census
  • Volunteers to conduct the audit
  • (Optional) a Google gmail account. If you select this option, the audit will be able to view your email address and your Google+ profile (full name, profile picture and profile URL).


The goal of this assessment is to analyze how well your website is meeting Code for America’s criteria for good digital services, and prioritize opportunities for improvements. We believe that effective digital services are a simple and intuitive experience for your online users. Our criteria includes:

  1. You can navigate to the service from the city’s homepage in three clicks.
  2. The service comes up in the first page of results on an internet search.
  3. The webpage with the service or information is mobile-friendly.
  4. The service can actually be completed online.
  5. The service has a physical space alternative with location and hours.
  6. The service is available in the major languages used in your city.

Pre-Survey Steps

  1. To add your city to the Local Digital Services Census, email us at
  2. Find some volunteers who are willing to conduct the census. Since the goal is to measure the usability of the services, it’s important to have a fresh set of eyes (i.e. people who don’t work in government) do this. We suggest working with your local Code for America Brigade chapter. While you can do this audit during any time of the year, we especially encourage cities to get involved during our annual CodeAcross and National Day of Civic Hacking events.
  3. Launch.

Post-Survey Steps

  1. Identify areas where your services scored poorly (i.e. are colored red).
  2. Analyze any open-ended responses left by your auditors about specific services.
  3. Rank the importance of different services to prioritize which services you should focus on improving first - this can serve as guide for development priorities for your redesigned Alpha website. Looking at the number of transactions performed by each service, or accompanying analytics around a webpage can help with this prioritization.
  4. Be sure to thank your auditors! Acknowledge their time and effort in collecting this valuable baseline data.
  5. Report back to the community on your findings- via blog post or your city website. Be sure to indicate the next steps that have come out of the assessment.

This project is adapted from the Open Knowledge Foundation’s Open Data Census platform.

Tell us what you think (opens a 3 minute survey on another website)

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