Utah Launches New Analytics-Based, Mobile-First Portal

The redesigned site, whose design and functionality was determined based on analytics, is truly device agnostic, adjusting dynamically and automatically based on the user.

by / April 30, 2015

Utah unveiled the latest iteration of the state’s portal on April 30, with a new mobile-first design that uses analytics to provide citizens an online experience that is localized, personalized and individualized.

“We are trying to make Utah.gov something that will stand out for people, keep them coming back, and help them navigate as easily as possible,” said Utah CTO Dave Fletcher. “The overall goal is to increase utilization of online services as a way to decrease costs to the state as well as to our citizens.”

A study of user behavior and analytics informed the design and functionality of the revamped site.

“For us, the important aspect of analytics are all of the dirty details about who visits the site from what locations, on what devices,” said Sarah Watts, general manager of Utah Interactive, the official eGovernment partner for Utah. “What do they do on the site – are they searching? What are they searching for? Did they find it? All of those analytics inform the design choices we make every year to try to further improve the site’s usability. Those analytics allow us to design a better site that utilizes our understanding of visitor search terms, which devices are being used, where visitors want to go online, and what content isn’t as useful.”

The state also worked to make the redesigned site truly device agnostic, so it adjusts dynamically and automatically based on the user. To accomplish this, the portal was designed in reverse. Rather than designing a wireframe of the site’s look and then coding to match that look, they started with the coding, and didn’t get to see how the site looked until later.

“We approached the design differently this year because we wanted to do a true mobile-first design with the content taking precedence over the actual layout and design itself,” said Watts. “Because the site is going to look different on all 600 different screen types citizens might utilize, we focused first on the content that would be served up. It was a change for us and a little unsettling, especially for stakeholders that are used to being able to see something and buy off on it before moving forward. In this case, they were looking at small pieces along the way and trying to imagine what it would all look like when it came together.”

Utah.gov currently attracts about 1.5 million unique visitors each month – or about half of the state’s total population of 2.9 million – and facilitates approximately 34 million online transactions.

“This new site will hopefully make it even easier for citizens to connect and interact with government,” said Fletcher. “We’ve added some things that will help facilitate that – one is increased granularity in terms of being able to find the information and services most relevant to you as an individual or to you as a business.”

A no-wrong-door approach has long been the goal for citizens who don't understand government boundaries.

“We aren’t just focused on state services, but anything that the citizen is going to use with respect to government so they don’t have to differentiate between state, local or federal,” said Fletcher.

The redesigned portal is also intended to make it easier for businesses to cut through red tape and more quickly locate the services they need by utilizing indexed services. Upon entering the new business portal, users trigger a workflow that refines content based on relevancy, so that only the applicable resources are organized into relevant “micro-experiences.”

The same approach is used to provide individuals a localized, personalized and individualized experience. For example, a new local portal takes advantage of Utah’s unique Master Data Index to provide a custom collection of city and county services, meetings, social media pages and local contact information refined based on physical device location.

“I believe that citizens want to engage more fully with government, but they need a more convenient way to do it,” said Watts. “We feel successful when citizens appreciate what we’ve provided for them and are engaging more with government -- that’s the overall goal.”

A recent survey of Utah residents conducted by the University of Utah found that 75 percent of respondents had used Utah.gov at some point, and three out of four Utahans surveyed have used the portal at least once in the last 12 months. The site received an 80 percent overall approval rating, with 87 percent reporting that Utah.gov services are valuable and three out of four Utahans saying they expect the state to continue to improve the portal and provide more information and services.

In 2014, Utah.gov received 16 awards, making it the nation’s most honored state website.

Justine Brown Contributing Writer