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7 Steps to Ensure Your Site Meets Citizen Expectations

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By John Landwehr May 2, 2017

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John Landwehr is Adobe's public sector chief technology officer.

Citizens today expect their digital interactions with government to be as straightforward and compelling as those on commercial applications and devices. To meet these new citizen expectations, government agencies need to look at their digital properties and ask themselves some tough questions. Below is a short checklist to ensure your agency is delivering an optimal digital experience for a public audience.

1. Is your website optimized for smartphones, tablets and desktop?

Although your site may look great on a desktop monitor, how does it look on a tablet, or smartphone (both portrait and landscape)? If text is unreadable, or content is misaligned and requires excessive pinching, zooming or panning—your site has not been optimized for mobile devices.

Support for mobile devices is now essential, as almost 60 percent of all website traffic comes from smartphones—and this number grows every day. Test your site’s mobile friendliness with an online tool, or directly on your own devices, and quickly see what areas you can improve.

Today’s modern web content management systems make it easy to publish content in responsive designs for today’s popular devices. Agencies should turn to solutions that offer a comprehensive suite of tools to build websites, mobile apps, forms and campaigns on one platform. It makes it easy for nondevelopers to manage content and design assets while collaborating with team members from any location.

2. Are your popular forms and processes available online?

Review all your business processes and verify they can be completed online, without requiring mailing or faxing of paperwork. This includes ensuring your online forms and transactions are available not just as downloadable PDFs, but can be submitted using smartphones and tablets, and won’t require large desktop screen sizes or applications. These actions greatly increase both efficiency and citizen experience.

3. Are all processes capable of 100 percent digital transactions, using e-signatures?

Simply having a blank form on a website is not enough—especially when it must be downloaded, printed and signed in ink, before being submitted back. The forms and processes should be capable of remaining digital for 100 percent of the workflow and never require paper. E-signatures can provide higher assurances than ink and paper for obtaining consent and approval.

This simple addition to your processes can save hours of manual labor, and speed up operations in all departments. And citizens can safely e-sign, track and manage documents from anywhere, anytime.

4. Is your website compliant with federal accessibility requirements for use by people with disabilities?

Some website visitors may need a variety of assistive technologies to support their electronic interactions. All government web designs must meet the latest WCAG 2.0 AA accessibility guidelines as well as Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act. Agencies can obtain templates designed to help accelerate the design workflows within government agencies, cut costs and labor, and ensure citizens have modern, responsive, user-centric and accessible experiences with the government.

5. Are you securely and efficiently hosting your web presence?

Today’s compliance guidelines for software-as-a-service and platform-as-a-service technologies make it faster and easier to get an authority to operate with Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program and Defense Department security requirements guidelines. Although these were set up initially for federal systems, the National Institute of Standards and Technology guidelines are gaining support at the state and local level, too.

With this common approach, not only do you embrace security, but you enable better handoff between all parties with respect to security and personally identifiable information. Moreover, the “do once, leverage many times” concept speeds innovation and your ability to put production systems in place to best support your mission.

6. Are analytics platforms installed and being monitored properly?

You need to determine your key performance indicators (i.e. conversion rate per form), and set a regular process to measure them with your analytics tool on all public-facing products. Agencies should always verify where people are falling out of the interactive form-filling process, as this is the critical time when your user is interacting and submitting content through your website. Work to bump up that completion rate, tweak by tweak. Then, calculate the total cost avoidance by comparing digital enrollment to one that happens with paper in person.

Another good practice is to determine when people leave in the user journey (exit pages). Have they found what they were looking for? How long did it take for them to search for it? Analyzing your visitor patterns will pave the way to learning your market, and knowing exactly which changes will help them in the future.

7. Did you consider personalization?

The latest trend is in personalizing website content to the user. This is a follow-on best practice to proper analysis of metrics, user behavior and gathering of insights. As the citizen persona can greatly vary in age, location, income and preferences, it is increasingly important to use personalization capabilities to optimize content depending on what they’d like to accomplish from your site. Content targeting can be effortless if you have the real-time data to support it.

Agencies who check each of these boxes will be better able to meet the needs of citizens and provide quality digital experiences for them.

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