Good federal websites, part 2

Adobe says only 37 percent of federal websites are mobile friendly.

It’s been a tough few days for the mobile computing minded.

Apple had the temerity to come out with new phones devoid of a mini stereo phone jack. I’m keeping my iPhone 6 for another year. But that’s just me. I still have an AM pocket radio from my (early) teen years that I take to baseball games. It has a headphone jack.

Samsung was stung by the fact that a few of its Galaxy Note 7 phablets caught on fire from defective batteries, prompting the Consumer Product Safety Commission to force the company to issues a recall-and-replace. To put this in perspective, manufacturers — including Apple — have been dealing with this problem for 20 years.

Now Adobe says only 37 percent of federal websites are mobile friendly. It offers a concise definition of “mobile friendly.” To be so, a site avoids software not common to mobile devices, uses readable-sized type so readers don’t have to zoom, avoid horizontal scrolling, and has links big and far apart enough for even fat-fingered people to use easily.

By those criteria, top-level federal sites pass the test. On my phone using Safari, I checked the websites of the departments of Commerce, Defense, Education, Energy,  Health and Human Services, and Homeland Security as well as the Environmental Protection Agency and the General Services Administration. They all have really clear, easy to navigate homepages. I went a few links deep on a few of them, and the mobile friendliness holds up.

A notable exception:, which renders its desktop website in little tiny elements on my mobile screen — the fundamental mobility no-no. Ditto for its largest bureau, the IRS. Odd that IRS, which pioneered up-to-date services like e-filing and its early websites, is so behind the times here.

Other big bureaus or independent agencies also have good mobile sites; for instance, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the  FBI, the Federal Communications Commission, the Social Security Administration and the National Security Agency.

NSA has windows within its mobile homepage in which you can scroll through multiple items.

Given how mobile friendly the obvious I asked Adobe’s Brian Paget, technical director for content and analytics, how they arrived at the 37 percent figure. He said an enthusiastic intern loaded thousands of federal URLs — he estimates 5,000 exist — and ran them through a Google analytics tool that tells whether a site uses adaptive design.

Paget said many pages with interactive forms fall among the immobilized. Also those displaying PDF format documents. Adobe and others offer applications that can ferret out these sites and convert forms to mobile formats.

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