Nevada is taking special notice to its social media and mobile gadgetry with a recent makeover to more than 140 of its websites.
The development project is a sweeping effort to modernize the state’s antiquated online presence with a uniform look across agencies. Standout features include a modern content management system (CMS) across departments and a smartphone- and tablet-friendly design that infuses social media feeds. The fresh batch of sites also incorporates Google Drive apps, Flickr, YouTube, RSS feeds and Bing searches for added enhancements.
Nevada CIO David Gustafson said the project will support the state’s larger technology plans, initiatives that aim to bridge the gap between service providers and residents.
"The future of government will be electronic,” Gustafson said. “Citizen access to government will be improved by making improvements to the electronic access to services and information the government manages."
In a joint response to Government Technology, Nevada’s Linda DeSantis, manager of Web Enterprise Services, and Web Developer Anthony Marcin further attributed the state’s major online overhaul to an effort to modernize sites, which were created initially using Microsoft’s FrontPage, a now obsolete Web development software.
Dating back to 2000, they said FrontPage was used to build and maintain 20 online boards and the state’s website with only two people as managers. When the number of sites jumped to more than 100 and tech trends demanded new offerings, DeSantis and Marcin said Nevada was all but compelled to investigate innovative alternatives.
“States started using newer technology and provided more online services that Nevada did not have," the two said. "FrontPage quickly became obsolete, and we could not keep up with the trends with that tool.”
The call to action turned into a hunt in 2008 for both a Web developer firm and a CMS with the capacity to streamline Nevada’s varied ways of site management.
"Allowing agencies to update their own content provides for quicker access to information along with designing the sites with a consistent overall look and organization," DeSantis and Marcin said.
After months of CMS scrutiny and developer reviews, Ektron was chosen as the “best fit” for the state. The firm’s standout qualities included a savvy toward modern design, a proprietary CMS that was simple yet efficient and a background working with government, including the U.S. Department of Energy and Santa Barbara County, Calif.
“Phase one of the project is nearly complete with the conversion of a majority of state agency websites from an antiquated flat design to a CMS allowing agencies to update content via a Web interface,” they said. The first phase is to be completed in the fourth quarter of 2014.
In addition to the original 140 websites Nevada supports, it also added 39 new sites from departments and divisions that previously maintained their own online presence. Currently, 113 sites have been converted to Ektron's CMS and about 80 percent are live.
Setting the ground work for scalable Web management provided Nevada’s many agencies with a series of standard page templates that allowed officials to focus on content rather than design.
“Consistency in look and feel across a multitude of state sites was one of Nevada’s highest considerations and one of the reasons that brought them to choose Ektron,” said Bob Canaway, the company's vice president of marketing.
The page templates were the crux of this consistency, he said, as they allow the state’s content creators — who work in various agencies and who may or may not have backgrounds in Web design — to place content without the typical technical obstacles.
“Content authors don’t have to worry about things such as placement or size of imagery, or remember to include needed footers and headers. ... Instead, they can focus on creating the best content possible,” Canaway said.
Phase two of the project, beginning in the fourth quarter of 2014, will make the page templates mobile ready for smartphones, tablets and other handheld devices in addition to refining the CMS with updates.
Jason Shueh is a former staff writer for Government Technology magazine.