Connecting state and local government leaders
A new user-centric approach to Web design is being employed with state agency sites.
The New York state government’s website, NY.gov, saw users double, mobile traffic triple and pageviews quadruple in the year since unveiling a more user-centric look.
Many New Yorkers don’t know what agency to go to for a birth certificate or a business license, and the old website circa 1999 wasn’t doing them any favors. So the design team added government “Services” navigation atop the homepage.
User testing began just after launch, and the team was surprised to find interactive navigation with drop-down menus confused and distracted people—they switched to static navigation—while a new “Local” section was so successful it was added to the homepage.
“Our state is so vast with oceans, vineyards and farmland—as the governor says: “We have it all”—so wherever you are in the state, we wanted to make sure the website is tailored to you,” Melanie Galinski, state Office of Information Technology Services general manager, told Route Fifty in an interview. “That’s why we have a list of events, open meetings and trainings the state offers for people as well, so they can find things that affect them.”
Other goals of the project were to reduce bureaucracy with maximum access, ensuring ease of use and bolstering security.
The additional scalability drives enormous savings, said Todd Akers, public sector vice president of Acquia—the Boston-based platform-as-service company contracted to support the rollout and reduce labor running the state’s own technology infrastructure.
“Many organizations try and promote what they think they should be doing,” he said. “But the reason this organization was successful was it zeroed in on what was important to citizens and customers.”
Responsive design was a significant improvement on the 1999 site and is probably one of the main reasons mobile sessions increased from 524,896 to 1,970,897—no more resizing of cellphone and tablet views manually.
The old site was also chock full of PDFs, broken links and jargon like acronyms that IT has worked to get rid of.
NY.gov’s bounce rate, users leaving after viewing only one page, decreased from 81.4 to 60.4 percent in a year.
Acquia’s Drupal platform makes it so pages can be edited in the content management system (CMS) on the fly, rather than waiting hours for a developer or programmer to make a change. Information gets out faster as a result.
Galinski credits good project management with the IT team never losing sight of its vision and monitoring user experience even after launch to continue making cosmetic tweaks to further boost traffic.
NYSOITS’ user-centric approach is being expanded across all state agency websites, as well as the creation of a content calendar that will help promote all of their services, especially seasonal ones like applying for home heating assistance or filing taxes.
“Just because the website’s redesigned, it isn’t done,” Galinski said. “This is just the beginning for us. We’re learning more about our users and what they want.”
Dave Nyczepir is a News Editor at Government Executive’s Route Fifty.