After partnering with more than 700 local government agencies to design and develop their websites over the last 20 years, we have become attuned to the trends that are shaping and evolving online digital government.
In 2016, we believe that creating a successful local government website will have less to do with technology and more to do with knowing how to apply the technology already built into advanced content management systems to better serve the community. Here are the six customer-focused trends that we believe will drive better communication in 2016.
It's the end of the digital file cabinet era for municipal websites. Moving forward, local government leaders will need to take a step back to analyze their current websites and ask: Do we need this content? Who will use it and is it the right content for the job? They must decide what to keep, what to archive, and what to delete. More importantly, they will have to determine their target audiences (or personas) and how to write.
Check out our recent blog post that gives a high-level introduction to Content Strategy.
Usability and customer experience will drive local government website design well into the future. Sites will be smaller and more nimble, allowing users to quickly perform their most common tasks quickly and easily. Customers are starting to expect cutting-edge designs that will help tell better stories about their community and what's happening in it. Design patterns like parallax and anchor scrolling, video backgrounds and tiles are becoming mainstream as more consumer-facing sites adopt these techniques.
Review our recent blog post on the principals and impact of Effective Design.
You can't manage what you don't measure. More leaders will embrace Google Analytics and other tools that make it easier to meet the changing needs of their constituents. They will begin to think more like business -- communicating strategically and looking at citizens as customers. Departmental leaders will begin to break out of their silos to organize content that is consistent and delivers information the way their communities want, value and need it.
In 2016, mobile gov will be one step closer to becoming the de facto mandate for communicators at all levels of government. Mobile usage now accounts for 33% of all web traffic -- up 27% in the last year. The latest Pew report shows that a majority of smart-phone owners use their device to share and access information about local and community events. That's a lot of people you're excluding if your site isn't mobile friendly.
Pick up the latest trends in mobile from our blog post about improving mobile experience with Responsive Web Design.
Web content accessibility guidelines (WCAG) will continue to evolve. Local government agencies will need to be increasingly vigilant about meeting WCAG 2.0, ADA and Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act accessibility requirements designed to remove barriers that prevent interaction with or access to websites by people with disabilities. In 2015, the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division reached accessibility-related settlement agreements with 15 localities in 11 states. Each settlement agreement included a section on web-based programs and services, and identified remedial actions, which must be completed to make websites compliant with WCAG 2.0 standards.
Engagement doesn't just happen because you implement new technology; it's a mentality that begins with providing information and services citizens find important. Local government leaders will need to continually analyze their websites and identify the most frequently visited areas and popular content. Using this information, they must adjust their digital and content strategies to make sure this information is readily accessible. Strategies include creating or moving buttons or links, refreshing navigation or updating content. When you make your website the hub of engagement, citizens will return again and again because they know they will easily find what they need."
Get some tips for encouraging better citizen experiences in our blog post on Website Usability.
Leaders who care about serving their communities, treat their constituents like customers and view their websites as friendly conversations will create win-win situations in 2016.
At Vision, we specialize in helping agencies research and implement user-focused improvements, and are always happy to discuss your particular needs. Request a free consultation now.