June 8, 2009 By Paul W. Taylor
State portals have never looked, or acted, like this. Utah launched a new Utah.gov on Monday afternoon.
After at least 11 months of development, with some elements in the works for as long as two years, Utah.gov has turned hardcore on Flash. The portal developers had long wanted to exploit Flash functionality, an industry standard program for creating interactive features for Web sites, but didn't want to leave anybody out. They were surprised, pleasantly so, to learn from statewide surveys that fully 97 percent of their audience used Flash.
Utah.gov backstops the landing page with proxy detection that makes the version of the portal served invisible to users -- Flash for those with the player installed, a simpler version for those who do not, and a mobile version for those coming to the portal on a smartphone.
Flash graphics grab your attention on first visit, coupled with a carousel of icons (with a distinctive Mac-like look and feel) that add a dynamic feel to navigation. User feedback and usability studies had told them that real users thought conventional portal wisdom was wrong.
Search is central to navigation, and is now central to the front page of the portal. It is what the users said they wanted. A prominent news section, which lists recent agency press releases, has always been a big deal for agencies but less so for users. It is still there on the landing page, now organized thematically with horizontal tabs, but has been bumped lower by the prominent search function and a local information window.
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