At Vision, we’re continuously impressed by the way that our clients apply their skills to maintain and improve exceptional websites. The City of Shakopee’s site recently underwent an information architecture overhaul to become more resident-focused. We connected with their Communications Coordinator, who led this effort, to share her strategy, tips and tricks with the Vision community.
Generally, I’ve found there are two types of people, individuals are either organized or disorganized? Which are you?
Organization is my hobby! That’s what I tell my husband. I think that communications people have to stay organized because it’s their job to store and share information with other people.
We know one of the most common struggles our clients face is keeping their content organization dialed in. Yet, yours is consistently one of the best I’ve seen! Can you explain your approach?
We launched with Vision in 2014. The process has been pretty informal and organic since. We see our website as a living, breathing tool, so I am always in there making tweaks to the content and page layouts. In terms of measurement, we’ve taken both a qualitative and a quantitative approach to examining its effectiveness. We gathered comments (from the public) via survey, spoke directly with internal stakeholders and looked through Google Analytics. We informally aggregated all this feedback and the sum of it was, “we need to change the navigation.”
Will you share the details of your journey?
Holistically, information on a government website needs to be in plain language with information being easy to find, easy to understand and easy to use. Shakopee wants to provide good customer service through our website which means helping people do what they need to do. Therefore our website was originally built around “who” wanted to find the information or conduct the task. What we concluded was a website built for “who” made information difficult to find. The site was bogged down by redirects because there were too many departmental options and subsites. Google analytics told us the most popular pages and search terms. It also revealed what percentage of our traffic was from mobile and that residents spend more time on the site during certain times of the year. Speaking to staff members uncovered phone calls from residents who couldn’t find content. We saw other sites that focused on “what are people here for” and we liked that. The sum of all this feedback led up to redoing the navigation and building it out for “what” the resident wanted to find or do.
Tell me about the process of restructuring your information and how you applied what you learned from your assessment?
I think that Shakopee was right on the cusp of “search” driven websites for local government— meaning we launched before search-driven websites became popular. Our need to pivot to “what” from “who” was actually predictive of this because when residents search, they search for “what” (a piece of content.) For us, we decided that redoing the navigation was the way to best serve residents the information they needed.
We got there by diving into the research. For example, we determined that the “parks and recreation” and “public safety” were among the two most used searched terms and our top page views. Additionally, we discovered that 45% of our traffic was coming from mobile. So, by using the data to drive decisions, we redid our navigation. We put “recreation” and “public safety” on the main navigation. Additionally, we reduced our mega-menu options because they don’t work well on mobile which accounts for a good deal of our traffic and residents using desktops found them confusing. We also enabled or disenabled certain links based on season. Every decision was made with “simplify and easy to use” in mind. We launched the new navigation in March of 2017 so I don’t have any thorough analytics to share yet. Overall, I do think we are doing a good job with our website. In our recent community survey the results showed that we beat our local paper for being considered a major source of communication for the city. That’s good, positive feedback.
What’s next for Shakopee’s website?
Government websites serve two purposes. The first is to allow residents, contractors and business owners to perform tasks like getting a license or a permit. The second is to engage the residents. The next step for us is to deepen the engagement with our community. We’ve started down this road with this using visionPulse for social, our “Ask the City” efforts and our new blog. At this point we are still ‘on broadcast’. We very much want to actively engage with our residents so our communication becomes a dialogue rather than a monologue.