Links to agency activity on social networking were placed prominently on Texas.gov as well. Between crowdsourcing and social networking activity, the state hopes to foster new interest among citizens in collaborating on government matters through Web 2.0 devices.
Making a Web portal easier to navigate is an ongoing concern for most organizations. One weakness of TexasOnline was that information was placed in an unintuitive way, said Gilmore. She promised Texas.gov wouldn't have that problem.
"It's been designed purposely to have a search bar very prominently featured," Gilmore said. "It's a new search tool based on a Google search. It can find anything within the portal purview very easily, based on your keyword search."
The DIR's efforts to make navigation easier go beyond improved search capabilities. The site's creative team assembled groupings of goals that citizens typically visit a portal to fulfill. Each of those groupings appears under one of four words - "Do," Discover," "Connect" and "Ask." With Texas.gov offering so many services and points of data, the DIR expects these classifications to be a less overwhelming way for users to explore those features.
The DIR's use of white space also factored into its navigation strategy, according to Marcus Cooper, director of communications for the DIR. "The use of white space helps us more effectively direct the user's eye to and through the key navigation areas," Cooper said. "It frames and balances the navigation area titles, icons and links; and it's easier on the eyes with no harsh lines, colors or edges to distract the user."
"Texas.gov also incorporated Web 2.0 design elements including lighter, open fonts, more space between list items and more contrast for on-screen reading/scanning."
Central App Repository
A goal to which governments have long aspired is creating a central location for listing and hosting the various applications in agencies. The problem is that the follow-through of inventorying what's available is difficult to orchestrate, according to Gilmore. By 2011, the DIR hopes to overcome that challenge and host such a central repository on Texas.gov. For example, many of the state's 145 agencies have their own applications for enabling citizens to register for services. For the central repository, the DIR will choose one and make it available via Texas.gov to agencies without a registration application.
"We're going to put one out there that's going to be common in nature instead of everybody having to develop and maintain one with different hardware specs," Holt said.
Gilmore said the DIR was still devising a project management strategy that might make cataloging all of the state's applications manageable.