Creating a Successful Strategy for Website Redesign
Whether state, local, or federal, government websites live at the hub of any organization’s digital strategies. Even when engaging with communities and constituents through social media, text messaging, or email, the website provides a critical destination for information.
While private sector organizations and businesses can change the look of their websites to match everything from campaigns to current trends, government website redesigns often require greater planning, coordination, and consideration.
It might be why government website redesigns don’t come around frequently. When one is finally on the horizon, creating a strategy for the redesign process can help sidestep potential roadblocks on the way to a new digital experience for visitors. Our guide, 5 Things to Consider When Planning a Website Redesign, offers an overview of major areas of focus. But for those looking for more detailed advice on preparing for the redesign process, here are some tips organizations should take to get the most out of this important opportunity.
Establish Redesign Goals and Set Success Benchmarks
Before kicking off a redesign, define organizational goals and set benchmarks to measure success. Is the goal to increase website hits by enabling resident self-service or to reduce calls and walk-in traffic for selected services? Set goals, document existing metrics, and be ready to measure future success.
Review Existing User Data
When preparing for a website redesign, be sure to review website analytics. Look at page visits to see what content is most popular with users as well as which pages could stand to see an increase in views. Review where visitors enter and exit the website, and how long they are staying. The search terms visitors use can also highlight content that is hard to find or understand. This useful data will help prioritize redesign efforts by understanding how users are interacting with current website content.
Invite Organizational Feedback
Armed with that data, hold a kick-off meeting with internal stakeholders (customer service, city/county manager’s office, department representatives, etc.) and invite them to give candid website feedback. Organizational staff, especially those who are customer-facing, will have useful insights to contribute. Their first-hand knowledge, such as what issues create user confusion, questions, or complaints, provides crucial information that can help design a website that better serves the audience.
Conduct User Testing
Expand the group to include external shareholders (such as community members, internal staff, volunteers, or local business owners) to participate in user experience testing, along with internal shareholders, and provide feedback on site navigation, content, ease of use, and other targeted areas for improvement. Seeing users complete tasks will show first-hand both user behavior and any difficulties with the current website layout and navigation. Combining this first-person experience with the collected analytic data will help strengthen redesign plans.
Plan a Design with the End User in Mind
Government staff can sometimes be so close to a subject that they may forget users don’t have the same level of subject knowledge or understanding. Although it’s tempting to design navigation and write content that reflects the organization’s internal structure, keep end–user needs in mind and format the website accordingly. Take steps to meet current accessibility standards so all users have equal website access (and the website meets regulatory standards).
Simplify, Simplify, Simplify
Government processes, services, and language can often be confusing for members of the public. Simplifying page content by using plain language, avoiding acronyms, and reducing the amount of text on a page can improve efficiency and ease of use. Breaking up page content by using bullets, buttons, lists, or other visual cues makes content easier to skim and understand.
Reduce Your Page Count
In the same way that too much content on a web page can confuse and frustrate website visitors, an overwhelming number of pages on a website can make a site difficult to navigate. On average, 20% of a website’s pages drive 80% of site traffic. For most government websites, that leaves a lot of extra information that isn’t being frequently accessed. Use site analytics to determine which pages may not be needed and reduce the page count where possible. This not only makes a website easier for users to navigate, but it frees up content management staff time as well.
Streamline Website Navigation
Residents may not understand how a government organization is structured, which can make it difficult to find information on the website. Review and reorganize website content by how users access information, rather than by department or function. For example, information could be geared toward residents, visitors, or local businesses. Website statistics (such as entry and exit pages) and search terms can help inform this process. It’s also an area where community members can offer feedback through a survey or focus group.
Digitize Services and Forms
When possible, replace static PDFs with user-friendly digital forms that can easily be submitted online. This will improve and streamline the customer experience for residents and reduce manual input work for staff.
Enhance the Mobile Experience
With so many constituents using mobile devices to access services, it’s important to provide a mobile–responsive website. Design with mobile users in mind to ensure that the overall design translates well to different device types.
Once the redesigned website is ready to launch, be sure to let the community know. Use all available communication resources to spread the word and encourage residents to check out the new site. Since great websites are never truly done, provide an avenue for users to give feedback so the team can keep improving.
Evaluate and Share Success
After the new website launches, set a regular cadence of evaluating and measuring success. Review the goals set at the beginning of the redesign and pull data to see how the metrics have improved following the launch. Is the website seeing more hits? Are residents able to self-serve, reducing calls and walk-in traffic? Document the changing metrics so, down the road, it’s easy to see how far the organization has come! And be sure to share website success stories with organizational leadership, residents, and the overall community!
Learn more about how Granicus is providing the tools for governments looking to improve the hub of their digital experience!