SeamlessDocs is now putting up Web analytics dashboards for state and local governments — for free, and with about two minutes of work involved.
That’s not an exaggeration. Two minutes is about how long SeamlessDocs CEO Jonathon Ende says it takes to set up the dashboards, which offer real-time data on how many people are using a government Web portal and what parts of the site they’re visiting. The dashboards can be public or private, and include links to download historical data in multiple formats.
It’s fast because SeamlessDocs is simply streamlining work based on some existing tools. The dashboards run on Google Analytics, which is free and works with most websites, and uses code from the U.S. Digital Service and 18F.
That code has been around for two years, and a Los Angeles municipal employee even published a guide walking users through the process of setting up the analytics dashboard in December. Sacramento, Calif., Philadelphia and others have also set up the dashboard. Still, Ende said there aren’t as many state and local governments using it as there should be.
Because basically everybody should be doing it, he said. “Our goal is to have hundreds of these,” he added.
Ende also said that a big part of the reason more governments aren’t using it is because it requires technical know-how, and perhaps more to the point, more time.
“They don’t have the resources for that," he said, "they have 100 projects.”
So a couple months ago, SeamlessDocs employees started working on a process to set up the dashboards so that cities didn't need to devote very much time or effort. After working to set up 20 or so, Ende is ready to go wide with the project.
Though they aren’t charging to set up the dashboards, Ende said there are benefits to having the information readily available for SeamlessDocs — and a lot of gov tech companies, for that matter. Part of what SeamlessDocs does is transform PDFs so citizens can fill out government forms online instead of downloading them, printing them out and filling them out by hand. If it can use Google Analytics to find the forms people use the most, the company can work on those forms first.
For other companies, or for government employees themselves, the tool can help illustrate what parts of websites people are the most interested in. That can influence website design, for example.
“One of the fascinating things is seeing that jobs is always one of the top three most visited things on a website,” Ende said, adding that he hopes state agencies jump on the trend as the dashboards spread among cities as well. That way, states would be able to compare Web traffic statistics between various agencies.
And on top of it all, he said he sees some symbolic value in the dashboards as well.
“In light of data transparency, I think it’s important,” he said. “Why not show — hey, you’re a citizen of Newark, did you know 81,000 people visited the Newark website in the last month? I think it’s a good picture of how many people your government is serving. I think people might forget.”