How Government CIOs Can Improve Citizen Web Experiences

March 30, 2017

Contributor: Susan Moore

Government websites aspire to serve citizens, but many instead present an agency-centric view that frustrates them.

When you visit a government website, chances are you’re probably trying to find a quick and accurate answer to questions you have about services you need. It gets frustrating when you’re presented with an overwhelming amount of information, you have to navigate lots of different departments or a search turns up everything but what you’re looking for.

To address these expectations, government CIOs invest in website modernization projects with the intention of making the site citizen-focused. In reality, once implemented, these sites often mirror organizational inefficiencies and, over time, drift deeper and deeper into that structure.

The user experience standard set by retail sites only extends the gap that many citizens feel exists in their interactions with government.

“ Good digital design focuses teams on the citizen experience of using technologies to solve their problems or complete their tasks.”

“Instead of tailoring websites to different users, they fail at being all things to all people by presenting large volumes of information, much of which is irrelevant to the visiting citizen,” says Bill Finnerty, research director at Gartner. “To build a sustainable, trusted relationship with citizens, governments need to build, and then maintain, citizen-oriented websites.”

The good news is that there are four practical actions government CIOs can take to lead their organizations to a citizen-centric website and improve their appeal to constituents.

  1. Implement digital design principles for website interactions that will inspire, motivate and empower continuous improvement of the citizen experience by leveraging social science and customer journey mapping experts. “Good digital design focuses teams on the citizen experience of using technologies to solve their problems or complete their tasks,” Finnerty said. “It requires more than technology – economics, psychology, sociology and anthropology all play a part in high-quality digital design.”
  2. Create a personal and engaging online experience by integrating customer experience analytics and a personalization engine into website capabilities. Amazon, Google and Facebook have raised expectations by using analytics to deliver a personalized experience on their platforms. Governments have not invested significant resources in personalization to improve user experience and access to relevant information.
  3. Engage the community in the website life cycle by establishing a citizen advisory group, instituting public testing and developing a website outreach program. “Involving citizens in the website life cycle provides an opportunity to cultivate a positive relationship with those influencers,” Finnerty said. “There are many points in the life cycle of a website for citizen involvement, including when collecting functional requirements, making design decisions or testing.”
  4. Focus on accessibility requirements among a diverse group of users by reaching out to advocacy groups. Developing these relationships can facilitate their assistance in educating website development teams on the needs of disabled users and testing by being proactive in seeking opportunities to discuss new projects and user needs. Ensure website development teams receive sufficient training on accessibility tools and techniques.

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