Data Helps Create Efficient, “Just Right” Government Websites
The efficiencies of digital government go beyond the technological or time-saving benefits that many have discovered. The economics of government service also see an impact from a digital shift.
Each time a resident walks into an organization’s office to address an issue, engage a service, or find information it costs government roughly $10.75 for that interaction. Even a phone call can cost $3.40 on average. Digital interactions, however, reduce that cost to roughly $0.12, a much more compelling return on investment.
But as governments spend an increasing amount of time, effort, and resources to build their digital presence in order to serve public needs, much of that effort goes to maintaining web pages that get few, if any, hits. Core webpages, those regularly and frequently accessed by users, may represent a fraction of the available pages on a website, meaning that staff is wasting time and resources producing (and maintaining) information that isn’t being utilized.
Beyond the time and cost of staff effort, inefficient websites can create negative customer experiences (CX) with confusing and often outdated or incorrect information. Governments have an opportunity to look at their websites differently by using data to understand the ways their customers interact with their site and adjusting to dramatically improve CX. With the right data, websites can reflect both internal and external efficiencies.
Cutting Through the Clutter
Many organizations make the initial mistake of creating their digital experiences to reflect the elaborate and sometimes complicated innerworkings of their organization rather than approach interactions from the point of view of the user. As a result, many government websites are jam-packed with information about every single aspect of their organization.
While this approach still highlights the important and helpful services the organization offers, it’s unfair to assume constituents need to understand the way the agency is structured. Even if they do understand, users will likely find themselves riffling through unnecessary information to get to the services they need.
For that reason, websites should avoid attempting to address every potential community need, which could result in a site with hundreds or thousands of pages, most of which will not be visited on a regular basis. Not only are these types of sites difficult to maintain, but they also create a negative CX, as they can be difficult for site visitors to easily find what they need.
Elaborate architecture and navigation may help organize website content, but this can fail to provide the clarity that creates a positive digital experience and CX that helps users successfully complete their intended actions.
Data: The Insights to Understanding Behavior
Organizations shifting away from this cluttered approach to digital experiences can do so by better understanding how the public most regularly uses their website. By gathering data on customer behavior, as well as the audience that uses the digital tools, teams can improve their website content structure, making it easier to use and navigate. Data can help staff understand:
- How people currently use the website.
- Why residents call, email, or walk into the office.
- What’s most important to communities.
Governments can gather this data through in-person and/or online surveys, focus groups, and other outreach. On a larger scale, Granicus data also reflects how governments can create the most efficient digital experiences for their users. After the Granicus team analyzed a year of customer Google Analytics for 25 counties and 50 cities across the United States to find out how many pages, on average, account for the majority of website traffic, they were able to establish a data-led assessment of how much website content is needed to ensure community needs are served, along with an average number of pages.
With websites varying in traffic levels ranging from 10 million page views to 100,000 page views, the research showed that, on average, even the largest organizations reviewed met 80% of user requests with an average of just 126 web pages and 90% of requests were addressed with 375 pages. This evidence suggests that many websites can meet customer needs with fewer total webpages.
A Gameplan for Efficient Websites
Reducing unnecessary website content creates a more effective information architecture that reduces the strain on website administrators and residents. But how can organizations being the process of prioritizing content and minimizing pages to reach a more effective page count?
A good rule of thumb for websites targets meeting 80% of the reasons a customer visits the website. Using audience data, understanding who is using the website and why, allows designers to organize how the digital experience should progress for the user. From there, the website can be laid out with a CX that reflects meeting those primary needs.
Edge cases, those less essential use cases that arise in rare circumstances or times of crisis, can be addressed as they emerge. But especially when building a new website, data should guide a thoughtful evaluation of the order content should be migrated in order to efficiently use time and effort on the front end.
Design That Puts Users First
Creating a better user experience is much easier to achieve with the right data, but good websites are never truly “done.” Resident needs present moving targets that allow for frequent adjustments to improve the overall CX.
With a combination of data and an understanding of why users engage with an organization, staff can get into the mindset of constant improvement and iteration to ensure the website continues to meet the evolving needs of the constituency. Assemble the appropriate stakeholders and follow these general user-centered design phases:
Pull data to identify how residents interact with the organization and what’s most important to them. This information should be the website design foundation.
Get specific about what the new website should accomplish. Define success and be clear about what it should look like.
Create design solutions.
This part of the process may be done in stages. Build from a rough concept to a complete design.
Evaluate the designs.
The evaluation process should never really end. Continuously test the usability of the site. Start with actual users and adjust as necessary.
Revisiting a website, especially for larger organizations, may seem daunting. But with the right mindset and strategy, a team can make significant impacts in their digital presence through improved CX and efficient websites.
Cities, counties, and other government organizations present first-hand insight into how to achieve these goals and the ways that efficient websites have changed their relationship to the public in Getting to “Just Right”: Employing Data to Maximize the Usefulness of Government Websites.