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Frequently Asked Questions


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Quick answers to some of USDA web managers’ most common questions

  • USDA is currently working on multiple enterprise licenses and platforms, including the acquisition of web and social media analytics, dashboards, and website tools as part of its overall web modernization effort.

  • Currently, USDA does not have a broad license for stock photos and graphics, however, we do have a vast online photo library in Flickr that houses our public and rights-free images. Our in-house photographers add content daily and are free to use on your websites and social media.

  • Yes. There are downloadable templates and resources to help you with specific tasks in our Tools section. Available tools are also listed at the end of specific guidelines.

  • The USDA Digital Strategy is being produced iteratively and relies on feedback from you to tell us what content you need to see, as well as what is and isn’t working. To send feedback, email us at feedback@usda.gov.

  • The Office of Communications maintains this website, in partnership with the Chief Information Officer with assistance from the Office of Customer Experience.

  • Yes. The 21st Century Integrated Digital Experience Act (IDEA) requires agency websites that are new or redesigned comply with the U.S. Website Standards and maintain a consistent appearance. See our guidelines for designers and developers for more information.

  • If you are asking similar questions to 10 or more respondents in any form (electronic, paper or in-person), you must get PRA Approval. Respondents include individuals; partnerships; associations; corporations; business trusts; legal representatives; organized groups of individuals; and State, territory, tribal or local governments. If you’re soliciting feedback from Federal employees, you do not need PRA clearance (though you may need approval from the relevant unions). See “Get Approval to Do Research" in our Research Guidelines for more information.

  • In order to track customer experience (CX) performance and improvement, you need a way to measure it. Doing an A-11 survey is therefore critical to meeting the A-11 requirements. See “Conduct an A-11 Survey" in our Research Guidelines for more information.

  • You must have a Digital Analytics Program (DAP) Google Analytics Code and the USDA Official Google Analytics Code. You can have one additional instance of your own GA tag across your site (more than this can slow page loading and increases the  risk of collecting and reporting accurate data). See our Analytics Guidelines for more information.

  • No. Currently USDA uses the free version of Google Analytics. See our Analytics Guidelines for more information.

  • Your plain language reading level requirement may vary based on the type of content you’re creating. Generally, USDA suggests that reading level of websites be that of a 5th grader. Please contact the Office of the Executive Secretariat at plainlanguage@usda.gov if you have any additional questions. Also, see “Evaluate for Plain Language" in our Content Guidelines for more information.

  • ROT stands for Redundant, Outdated, and Trivial. It is a type of analysis you typically do during a content audit where you identify content that is one of these three things. This helps you determine whether you should consolidate, update, or remove the content from your web page. See our Content Guidelines for more information on completing a content audit and specific help on doing a ROT analysis.

  • Information Architecture (IA) is how you organize and label the information on your websites. Simply put: IA is often your top and side navigation. Your website’s visitors rely on your IA to find information and accomplish tasks. See “Perfecting Your Information Architecture (IA)" in our Content Guidelines for more information on improving your IA.

  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the practice of increasing the quantity and quality of traffic to your website by improving your site's rank in organic search engine results (e.g., Google, Bing, Yahoo). Search engines use algorithms that take into account content, keywords, alternative text, links on your site, if your site is shared on social media, and more. SEO leverages each of these things to improve how your sites and webpages appear in search results. See “Enhancing Findability with Search Engine Optimization (SEO)" in our Content Guidelines for taking the first steps to improving your SEO.

  • At minimum, USDA requires that your site follow the U.S. Design System (2.0) guidance of supporting any browser above 2% usage as observed by analytics.usa.gov. Currently, this means the newest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Internet Explorer 11 and up. See “Cross Browser Compatibility" in our Development Guidelines for more information.

  • USDA websites must use the U.S. Web Design System as the base for their design. There are requirements for the header and footer that are specific to the USDA, including the logo and signature lock-up. See our Design and Brand Guidelines for more information.

  • USDA maintains enterprise social media channels on Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, Instagram, and YouTube. Agencies are permitted to use enterprise channels to share content and engage with stakeholders in coordination with the Office of Communications. The Office of Communications evaluates new tools and platforms as they become available. You can refer to the New Media Roles, Responsibilities, and Authorities directive for more or submit a New Media Request form (DOC, 202 KB) along with communications strategy to oc-web@usda.gov.

  • Your websites and digital communications must meet WCAG 2.0 Level A and Level AA Success Criteria. See our Accessibility Guidelines for more information.

  • Yes and no. The Access Board, a federal agency, has the responsibility of setting the standards for meeting Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act. In 2017, they published their latest final rule that states all electronic content must meet WCAG 2.0 (specifically Level A and Level AA Success Criteria). WCAG 2.0 (or Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0) was created by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), not the government. W3C is an international community that works together to develop Web standards. See our Accessibility Guidelines for more information.

  • Previous: Web Modernization Maturity Assessment

    This page was last updated July 31, 2019.





Not sure where to start?

Complete the Web Modernization Maturity Assessment. Use this tool to evaluate how well your site complies with the IDEA Act and target areas for improvement.

Score Your Website


Creating a brand new website?

Check out this high-level checklist of tasks for setting up a USDA website or redesigning an existing one.


Review the Checklist


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The USDA Digital Strategy is being produced iteratively and relies on feedback from you to tell us what content you need to see, as well as what is and isn’t working. To send feedback, email us at feedback@usda.gov.