A new mobile website is giving users convenient access to popular government services and generating a broader digital audience for the state of Texas.

Since the mobile version of Texas.gov was launched in mid-April, the state has received approximately 1.1 million visits to its official website. Roughly 70 percent of those visitors are new users, which state officials believe is due largely to the introduction of m.texas.gov.

The mobile site uses a five-point navigation system consisting of four icons — “Drive,” “Contact,” “Pay” and “Work,” — along with a prominent search bar. The navigation design was derived from Google analytics data and relies on user intuition. For example, “Drive” brings visitors to a listing of related links such as driver’s license or vehicle registration renewal information, while “Pay” directs someone to an overview on various fees, loans and how to make donations.

But with advancements in modern mobile devices that now allow for zooming in and out of traditional websites, is a mobile-specific site really even necessary? Pete Eichorn, director of technology for Texas.gov, believes so. He said the mobile site still has significant value, particularly for Texas constituents.

“You can get a lot more focused on a mobile purpose-built site than you can on the classic browser-based one,” Eichorn said. “What this means is folks know what they want to do and we want to give that to them as fast as possible and at their convenience. So if they are on a tablet or phone, regardless of the device, we want to make sure we’re there.”

The “Drive” function has been the most popular feature of the mobile site to date. Eichorn said license renewals rank first on the list of services accessed through the site. But he also is enamored with the various types of devices people are using to visit the site, including a trend toward more tablet computers.

Since its debut, Texas.gov’s mobile site has received more than 67,000 visits. Android devices have been the most commonly used mobile platform to access the site, clocking in at 35 percent of the total. But the iPad came in second at 27 percent, which Eichorn felt was a sign of the times in how people are using technology and how tablets are quickly catching up in popularity to smartphones.

Continued Development

Built in about six weeks, the mobile site is part of a collaborative public-private partnership between Texas’ Department of Information Resources and Texas NICUSA, a subsidiary of NIC, a developer of official government websites, online services and secure payment processing solutions.

Eichorn, an employee of Texas NICUSA and in charge of Texas’ website development, explained that about three weeks was spent analyzing the concept of usability and how to apply it. The actual coding of the site took another three weeks.

Although fully operational, additional features are being planned for the mobile version of Texas.gov.

Later this year, a second version of the mobile site will include geolocation tools, including a function called “Information Near You.” The map-based program is now live on Texas.gov, but will be available on the mobile site. As the name implies, the application gives users a heads-up on activities or events happening in their general vicinity.

In addition, static Web pages present on the traditional version of Texas.gov are being reformatted. Visitors accessing those pages eventually won’t have to scroll left or right, or up and down to view the content.

“We’re looking to do more things with media queries so it is really seamless for the customer,” Eichorn said. “However they arrive, we want it to be as clean and simple as possible.”

Brian Heaton  |  Senior Writer

Brian Heaton is a senior writer for Government Technology. He primarily covers technology legislation and IT policy issues. Brian started his journalism career in 1999, covering sports and fitness for two trade publications based in Long Island, N.Y. He's also a member of the Professional Bowlers Association, and competes in regional tournaments throughout Northern California and Nevada.