While government Web sites generally outperform their commercial counterparts with respect to Web application accuracy, new findings unveiled today by The Business Internet Group of San Francisco (BIG-SF) reveal that a majority of federal Web sites still experience application failures.

In its "Report on Government Web Application Integrity," BIG-SF encountered errors at 68 percent of the top-performing government Web sites using tools that track actual user sessions. The 41 sites audited for the study were selected based on their inclusion in the Keynote Government 40 Internet Performance Index for the week of February 9, 2003. TeaLeaf Technology, the pioneer in Web application management, commissioned the independent study.

While a 68 percent application failure rate is significant, the government sector generally outperformed pure-play e-commerce sites with respect to application accuracy. Prior BIG-SF studies identified a Web application failure rate of 72.5 percent in its "Black Friday Report on Web Application Integrity," which focused on the top-performing holiday shopping sites.

The findings of "The BIG-SF Report on Government Web Application Integrity" include:

  • An overall Web application failure ratio of 68 percent.
  • Of the Web application failures uncovered by BIG-SF, none were detectable by traditional performance or availability monitoring solutions.
  • Average time spent on sites with errors: 4 minutes, 49 seconds.

"When the federal government asks citizens to file tax returns every April 15th, they demand those returns be filed in a timely manner and that they are accurate," said Diane Smith, BIG-SF analyst. "Government Web sites should be held to the same standard. While the Web pages reviewed in this report were timely, they fell short with respect to accuracy."
For the government sites tested by BIG-SF, Web application failures generally fell into two distinct categories: technical errors, such as blank pages and file not found errors; and incorrect data errors or those that involve programming, database and human error. Further, the BIG-SF study found that the dynamic nature of Web application development and deployment dramatically increases the chance of failures and raises the degree of difficulty involved in identifying and recreating the error in pursuit of a solution.

"What we continue to find is that most monitoring approaches fail to recognize the crucial difference between the availability of a system and the availability of an application," added Smith. "Government agencies can only achieve a comprehensive view of their Web site health by incorporating the perspective of the end user into the testing and monitoring process."

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