3 Tips for an Intuitive Government Website Experience
Many government websites suffer from the same usability problems: Too many words on the page, haphazard navigation, and too much information spread across too many webpages.
Fixing these issues takes concerted effort. But by identifying the most common pain points, organizations can create a roadmap toward building a more intuitive website experience.
During a 15-minute webinar, Granicus Experience Group (GXG) manager Jeff Tzucker and practice lead Loretta Neal shared three tips for making government websites that meet expectations while enhancing transparency, accessibility, and engagement.
TIP 1: Adjust Page Layouts Based on User Behaviors
It’s not enough to have all the information in one place; it must be organized and presented in a way that is easy for users to consume. When crafting page layouts, take these best practices into consideration:
People don’t read, they skim.
- Visitors to your site aren’t there for pleasure reading. Help them get to the point and complete their task.
- Users tend to skim pages in an F shape, with their eyes drifting more toward the left side of the page and tapering off as they scroll down. Put the most important information and access links in the upper left.
- It’s important to have key information at the top of the page—“above the fold”—but you don’t need to pack it in. Tablets, smart phones and social media have changed the ways people interact with websites, leading to more scrolling.
- Content designers should feel free to create longer pages to spread the information out, so long as the most important messages and navigation remain prominent.
People click buttons.
- If you want a user to act—download a PDF, sign up for notifications, or visit a different page—include distinct, eye-catching buttons for them to click.
- Add white space and visual weight to the button to help it stick out and prompt interaction.
People connect better to simple language.
- Simplify government-speak using smaller paragraphs, shorter sentences, and words with fewer syllables.
- Watch the full 15-minute presentation for specific examples of how agencies have changed their page layouts for the better.
TIP 2: Reduce the Number of Pages
No one will be able to find relevant information on your website if it is spread across too many pages. Culling and reorganizing unnecessary pages should be an ongoing part of site maintenance.
However, while having fewer pages reduces confusion for the user, too few will render your website useless. Using data to inform this process will help eliminate clutter while ensuring visitors are still getting the information they need from the site.
Audit pages based on traffic.
- Use Google Analytics or your preferred resource to see which pages are getting the most traffic.
- Where are your users spending the most time? Those are the pages you should spend the most time curating.
- If a large number of users are going from one information page to another, consider consolidating those pages.
Assess what makes the phone ring.
- Make a log of phone calls and in-person requests for information and prioritize improving the usability of pages that address those concerns.
Audit your document library based on age and visits.
- PDFs have their uses but are not well-designed for ideal web experiences.
- Pull reports on when each PDF was last viewed and when it was last updated. Use that information to begin deleting unused documents and migrating important information to webpages.
TIP 3: Change Your Navigation Structure
Enhancing a website’s information architecture will have the most significant impact on usability. But be sure to have a plan before you start moving stuff around.
Don’t just redesign the look.
- Purely cosmetic adjustments will lead to—or worse, reinforce—the same usability problems.
- Plan your information architecture to ensure findability and usability for users and sustainability for staff.
- Think about the menu and submenu items and where all that information lies.
- Create logical paths for people searching for information. It should be easier to find information by navigating the website than using a search engine with specific keywords.
Test new navigation paths with users.
- Use tree testing exercises with internal and external users to confirm changes are optimizing the experience.
- Pull together focus groups: Ask them to find something on the site and watch how they search without interjecting, then adjust site navigation accordingly.
- Encourage test groups to talk about their experience out loud as they are going through it.
By following these tips, agencies can create a better experience for residents by making it easier to navigate and find information on government websites. More intuitive website design leads to higher levels of trust, fewer phone calls and requests for assistance, and more satisfied citizens.
Watch the full recording for more examples and a deeper discussion on the value of intuitive website design.