An organization’s website is its online welcome mat, and prevailing new trends are on full display with the two states that launched major portal overhauls in the last week.
Hawaii.gov lures visitors in with an enchanting silhouette of a hula dancer against the backdrop of a Hawaiian sunset. Customized pages offer distinct linked tiles for residents, visitors and businesses, while a fourth on government links to state agencies, the Legislature, other elected officials and more.
A simple and intuitive design was driven by user data, including analytics, customer service information and search logs. Extensive usability testing was conducted to make sure information was placed in accordance with site visitors' needs. And every visitor’s needs were considered, with design elements chosen for compatibility with many browsers and assistive technologies.
State CIO Sonny Bhagowalia explained to Government Technology that the site would fit right into his vision for business and technology transformation in the Aloha State. In 2012, Bhagowalia, the state’s first CIO, released a comprehensive draft transformation plan to the public, which outlines plans to overhaul business processes using the latest technology over the next 12 years.
A key component of that plan is a shift from accessing government services in line to accessing them online – introducing untold efficiencies to the state’s 1.4 million residents.
“You’ll be able to shape your services the way that you want to see it from your government, and it’s available to you online through a single portal,” he explained in an interview in late 2012. “Maybe you want to track your kid’s education; maybe you want to track your taxes; maybe you want to track your services that you want from parks – you can track that and set up your own account.”
Bhagowalia’s long-term goal is to make all 150 citizen services provided by the state available via the new Web portal. A service tracker on the home page provides evidence of progress made to date, revealing the number of key services fulfilled online in the last week: 10,746 conveyance documents were recorded, while 594 marriage license payments were made and 288 Maui motor vehicle renewals were processed. The link to the full listing of online services shows a current total of 94 services available.
Hawaii.gov embraces responsive design, automatically adjusting content according to the device which is accessing it. The site also features touch/tap functionality for mobile users, and back-end micro-formatting which optimizes content for search engines.
Arkansas CTO Claire Bailey cited many of these same priorities in the redesign of her state’s website, which went live on Tuesday, April 30.
Much attention was paid to the mobility of the population, likely to access online resources from any number of devices – not just a desktop PC. Main pages were updated with a more streamlined look, which, like Hawaii, show off some of the state’s natural resources.
A new way to connect to state government in Arkansas is featured prominently on the website, and taps into an increasingly popular means of communication: texting. Called Gov2Go, the service allows residents to sign up for the service, and text in questions for an immediate, individualized response. Gov2Go can be used to find identify local legislators, polling places and government offices. Users can also choose to set up reminders for property tax due dates and driver’s license renewals.
Arkansas Portal Manager Phil Billingsley was running an errand last week at a local grocery store when he was approached by two women asking for directions to the Attorney General’s office. With a quick text inquiry to Gov2Go, Billingsley could deliver the answer.
“It's an intuitive approach to interfacing with citizens in an easy way to help them, using the tools that they're used to,” Bailey said, noting that she, like most mobile device-equipped citizens, already uses text as a primary means of communication when not behind a desk.
Arkansans and site visitors can now also use expanded mapping capabilities, with a larger map that offers more options for delivering results. Mobile users to Arkansas.gov, as in Hawaii, can also access information via touch and tap. A smarter search featuring predictive technology, and a comprehensive “Connections” page that unites social media activity across state agencies are also hallmarks of the state’s new online home.
The website team aligns primary content links with the most sought after information, based on site analytics that most public-sector webmasters now closely monitor. With scholarship deadlines fast approaching, Bailey explained, a financial aid link for students is prominent on the home page. Other primary navigation icons for job seekers, business owners and hunters reflect current hot topics.
“We track metrics and use analytics to ensure that we're constantly showcasing those services that people are searching for and are in the most demand,” Bailey said.