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5 Questions to Ask Before Redesigning Your Agency Website

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By Jose Carlos Linares July 20, 2015

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Jose Carlos Linares is president & CEO of Open Technology Group.

The White House has prioritized providing world-class customer service to U.S. citizens as one of 15 Cross-Agency Priority Goals. The objective is to provide individuals and businesses with faster and easier transactions, enabling a positive experience with government that rivals the private sector.

While agencies are challenged by budget constraints, citizens have high expectations for government services to be well designed, efficient and available online. The government must be innovative to engage citizens, deliver exceptional services and provide customer satisfaction, while also cutting costs and improving operational efficiencies.

In a report that measures customer experience across 100 federal government websites, mobile sites and applications, it is evident citizen satisfaction rates are rising, but there is still room for improvement. According to the ForeSee E-Government Satisfaction Index, only 31 percent of government websites achieved an “excellent” rating, while 21 percent received a score indicating citizens were “dissatisfied.”

In an effort to improve on the delivery of services, increase customer engagement and provide transparency, many government entities are faced with the process of redesigning their website. Before embarking on this potentially time-consuming and costly endeavor, agency decision-makers need to ensure their teams have the right information. Here are five questions to get you started:

Who is Your Audience? 

Design your website for everyone, and you’ll ensure it is designed for no one. Agencies must first know their target audience. This encompasses internal and external stakeholders including other government entities, potential collaborative partners, government employees, businesses and citizens. Agencies can conduct stakeholder interviews to identify user profiles and to further help refine agency goals and vision. Audience definition is also critical to determining the image agencies want to project via the website.

What Does Your Audience Need? 

Agencies must understand what their audience hopes to accomplish by visiting the website. Many government entities build their website from the “inside out,” reflecting the needs of the organization, rather than from the “outside in,” which includes the user’s perspective. Agencies can conduct extensive user surveys to better determine tasks website visitors are trying to accomplish. By analyzing user goals, tasks performed and frequency, agencies can use audience preferences to prioritize tasks, ultimately driving design and development decisions.

How Does Your Audience Consume Data? 

Website navigation must be organized in a way that the audience understands and expects. The public does not necessarily expect to find information in the same way agency insiders would imagine. By identifying patterns in how users categorize information, agencies can better determine how to prioritize well-structured content and make it easy to find and consume. In addition, mobile requirements dictate critical information be available across multiple platforms and devices. If users can find what they are looking for with relative ease, less cognitive effort is required and users are satisfied.

How Can You Help Your Audience Complete a Task Quickly? 

Customers must be able to easily search for content, find it, download information or complete a transaction. Because users don’t have hours to spend online, websites must be optimized for search, usability and accessibility. According to Chartbeat, a company that measures real-time Web analytics, 55 percent of website visitors spend less than 15 seconds on a Web page before moving on. To meet Section 508 compliance, content must also be accessible to users requiring assisted technologies for special needs such as impaired vision, hearing issues and colorblindness. Government websites must encompass a user-intuitive design that helps users complete their tasks in a timely and efficient manner.

How Can You Ensure a Positive Experience for Your Audience? 

The idea behind The Digital Government Strategy is to use technology to enable the American people to have access to high-quality digital government information and services anywhere, anytime and on any device. To make a difference in the lives of e-government users through technology, the government must know who it is targeting and what they need, otherwise the government will fail to deliver efficient and effective services. Government agencies can create a positive experience for website users by keeping their preferences in mind when trying to improve on usability and accessibility. Customer satisfaction will increase when Web development and design teams create a professional and modern design that provides a simple, straightforward approach to providing key information. In short, you can’t ensure a positive experience 100 percent of the time, but that should be your goal.

While there are many other factors that go into the Web design and development process, it can be an expensive and time-consuming endeavor if you haven’t done your homework. Start the process by knowing the answers to these five questions and increase your chances for a successful launch.

(Image via dencg/ Shutterstock.com)

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