What Every Government Agency Should Do Before Revamping Their Website

What Every Government Agency Should Do Before Revamping Their Website
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When revamping an existing website, there are so many paths you can take.

As a government organization, creating a list of what would make the average citizen happy can get overwhelming. Everything becomes “important” and it’s hard to know where to draw the line, and how to prioritize.

The real question is: where is the smartest place to start? What steps are critical to building the foundation that makes it easier for you to build a clear, functional, and fun-to-use solution—instead of another piece of expensive technology that just creates more work?

In this article, I share the three most important steps to successfully tackle a website project this year as a government organization. These best practices are gathered from many agencies we worked directly with and lessons we learned here at Adobe.

Our goal is to help you prioritize the most important things for your target user and do them well.  Then, reduce the remaining tasks so you can save dollars and time where it counts. Remember that you are not trying to do everything, but rather investing resources into the most impactful actions that will really serve your users best.

Depending on your agency’s mission, figuring out how to accomplish this in new, savvier, and more creative ways is one of the most important pieces to the puzzle.

1. Listen to your citizens

No organization has a perfect communication system. That’s why it’s so important to talk openly with the citizens you serve (and the specific end users of your site) and to hear about their problems—and not just go with your gut decisions or focus on functional specifications.

Let’s separate the information you need to gather: 1) must-know numbers and 2) must-know words.

The numbers you should know and follow regularly are:

  • Are your visitors coming primarily from a mobile phone or desktop computer? From social media, an ad or some communication you sent them?
  • How long are people staying on your site?
  • What are their most popular search terms?
  • What forms or pages are they abandoning most without completing the intended action?
  • Have they contacted the agency previously? And if so, did they have their question answered?
  • Did they get frustrated with the process and give up?

Pro Tip: Install Adobe Analytics to gain a holistic view of your visitor beyond the numbers. Get deep insight into the user journey and where it may be broken. Combine that with automation and predictive technology to optimize your website and provide customized experiences for your visitors.

Embrace these numbers, and share them widely within your organization, where possible. One characteristic of government agencies who are leading in their customer experience efforts is that they set and share specific performance metrics. (Perils and Payoffs on the Path to Customer-Centric Digital Government, a commissioned study conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of Adobe. April 2018.)

Now, to discover the magic marketing words.

Ask your citizens these questions and listen. If you let them speak openly without interruption or influence, you’ll capture their own words and their true emotions (usually a few meetings are required to reveal this).

Then, you can use this information to connect better with citizens through your organization’s messaging efforts. The trick here is, people want to feel like a website is highly relevant and builds a relationship with them. This compels them to take action.

  • What emotion do they feel when they think about your agency? What words come to mind?
  • What are they trying to achieve when they approach your organization (online or offline)?
  • What are the steps required to achieve that today?
  • How long does each step take?
  • How did each of the steps make them feel?
  • What bugs them the most about your agency’s processes today? What are their top complaints?
  • Are there government agencies that they admire? Any organization or company? Why?

Setting a process internally that interviews citizens on a consistent basis will be the easiest and most cost-effective way of knowing what to do next as an organization.

Some examples of requests from citizens were more self-service options, a call center, ability to pay for services online, and optimized forms that are mobile-friendly. These needs may seem obvious but knowing exactly what to prioritize first and how to set these up in a step-by-step flow in both mobile and desktop views (that will best serve the user) is not always clear.

2. Segment your target audience groups

You should now develop an even clearer picture of how to segment your audience groups.

If you’re not sure, a good way of testing it out is to find one real user of each audience segment, and walk through their journey. In fact, run user tests to see how they react to your website today.

Let’s take a 34-year old woman who is trying to start a business.

She navigates to her city’s webpage to see the steps to register a business, but then gets interrupted with a phone call. She doesn’t complete her research.

An agency can draw upon insights received from analyzing a visitor’s behavioral patterns and take actions to help that visitor succeed.

In this case, an agency can prominently display more information about females trying to start their own businesses. It can also help the person remember to register by sending personalized reminders.

There are many creative ways you can make this experience meaningful and convenient for the user, if you know each of their specific goals and any concerns or limitations.

3. Personalize your messages to each group

Today, citizens expect their interactions online to be relevant to them. There’s so much noise that anything else will simply get ignored.

With the amount of data and number of platforms out there, it’s never been easier to deliver relevant, personalized experiences—if you have well-defined audience segments.

Let’s apply this to our female entrepreneur’s journey. The agency knows about her browsing behavior and that she’s registered a business. The team can now leverage that data to further engage with her and learn even more about her.

For example, after she registers her business, the agency can send her an acknowledgement email and offer help with securing a small business loan. She may check the message on her phone and complete the steps on a table.

The agency would then know she engages with the agency on multiple devices.

There’s a lot more they can learn, especially from social activity, to further personalize the citizen journey. That way, she can get what she’s looking for quickly and efficiently.

This will keep her engaged with the appropriate agency and make her feel valued as a citizen. Remember, the goal is to provide a great experience for the user.

As users become more sophisticated, we need to get smarter about how we communicate with them. What we build needs to be relevant and understandable to them. Setting a strong foundation is the most important step, so we can continue to develop relationships with citizens in the long term.

The key takeaways from this are:

  • Begin any new web project by listening to your citizens through both qualitative and quantitative data
  • Draw upon insights in the data to determine what your citizen journeys look like, and what defines these groups of citizens
  • Choose imagery and messages to engage citizen segments according to their needs

Achieving relevance is not—but it’s a lot easier if you leverage technology to serve your unique citizen group. Engaging in this way lights a clear path to knowing where to invest your dollars and what to do next, every time.  

About Adobe Government Solutions

Adobe makes it easy for government organizations to make and continually optimize beautiful and functional digital experiences for citizens by:

  • Getting new insights and complete visitor profiles
  • Minimizing communication efforts and spend with templates
  • Providing the website content team one centrally located tool for collaboration
  • Empower team members to make updates without the need of a developer on hand
  • Publish websites in multiple languages with ease
  • and more…

“Adobe solutions are pivotal to our ability to continually improve how we serve citizens county-wide.”

Susan Green
Assistant Chief Information Officer, the County of San Diego

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