Alabama, Rhode Island and Tennessee Redesign Web Portals Based on User Feedback

Expanded Web 2.0 options, user categories are common theme among Alabama, Rhode Island and Tennessee.

by / June 14, 2010

Three states recently revamped their main Web portals, integrating user feedback in their blueprints to create more intuitive, navigable interfaces.

Alabama, Rhode Island and Tennessee all used the services of NIC, an e-government provider, in redesigning their websites. While all have their differences, the commonality among the sites is "the focus on making government information and services as easy as possible to find on a government website," NIC Vice President of Marketing Chris Neff wrote in an e-mail. "What's interesting is that there is no cookie-cutter solution to make this happen -- every one of these new websites is unique and is based on state-specific market research, user insights, design preferences and technology preferences."


Tennessee, which relaunched its site in mid-May, now has a dominant, "fat footer" that sits just above the fold, meaning it's viewable from the top half of the page without scrolling down. "It's the first state to have taken that aggressive of an approach in presenting the site map on the home page and to allow users to find information quickly," Ness said.

Another change Tennessee made, like many other states, is its reorganization of information and services based on user type, like resident, business and tourist, Ness said. And like other government agencies, the state has aggregated its social media links into one area on the home page.

Other highlights of Tennessee's relaunched site, Ness wrote in an e-mail, include:

  • Personalized page generation: Site pages are created dynamically and content appears based on each user's click path and GeoIP. As visitors select topics of interest, the application displays complementary links and content that are tagged as related. This predictive approach to portal information delivery is a first-in-the-nation solution, according to NIC.
  • Content placement based on analysis of user click paths, so information is placed where user tests show citizens expect to find it, rather than where government "thinks" it should go.
  • Location-based content: driven by GeoIP to tailor site content based on a visitor's location, including local government meetings, news, and information and mapping.


Alabama's relaunched Web portal features a sleek new design that includes Flash imagery of state landmarks and a carousel of quick links to popular and frequently requested content areas, Ness wrote. It's also smartphone friendly and features an iPhone app that provides access to the portal's 135-plus online services. Other improvements include:

  • opt-in mobile (SMS) and e-mail notifications for weather, news, security alerts and a variety of license renewals;
  • e11 eGov directory with listing of contact information for frequently requested state government resources, including weather alerts, public assistance N11 codes and the highway patrol/road closure hotline; 
  • expanded interactive mapping services, featuring the ability to select multiple locations of interest -- including universities, hospitals, highway rest stops and state parks -- and generate mash-up maps; and
  • mega drop-down menus that highlight large sections of related content with descriptive category headers (such as residents, businesses, government, visiting, about Alabama, education and employment).

Rhode Island

In Rhode Island, the state did extensive research user interaction with its portal, and made changes based on those results. This research included an online test in which users viewed the home page for five seconds and listed what they remembered, which showed that few people remembered seeing the online services list, which is now prominently displayed in two places above the fold, Ness wrote.

It also used award-winning testing software to record user testing sessions -- including browser activity, mouse movements and clicks -- and captured user's facial expressions and eye

movement with the computer built-in camera to determine reactions to different page designs and content placements. Insights showed users were unable to see box tabs and were scrolling for visible links; the new site features more prominent tabs and an expanded fat footer with enhanced site map information.

The smallest state in the nation is also the first to launch a Tumblr blog, Ness said, which provides timely updates about enhancements and new portal initiatives -- with the newest post displayed on the fat footer of every page of

Other features of Rhode Island's redesigned portal include:

  • a newly launched UserVoice Web 2.0 solution to encourage users to offer suggestions for site enhancements and cote and comment on each other's suggestions;
  • edited links, tags and page descriptions to be more user-centric (for example, using "voting" rather than "eDemocracy"); 
  • simplified online forms and more succinct user instructions for interactive services; and 
  • both text-only and high-contrast versions of for enhanced usability.


Karen Wilkinson

Karen is a former staff writer for Government Technology magazine.