“Govsourcing” the Reno.gov homepage

Avatar of Kristy Dalton
Kristy Dalton

(original post at www.kristyfifelski.com)





I’m not alone in the quest for Gov2.0 – friendly government websites, so I would like to ask the government web community for input and ideas on enhancements to Reno.gov. Please comment below with your suggestions and input! (Some comments are already on my blog at the address above.)



Background

See how the City of Reno, Nevada website has changed over the years below.

1999 2000 2001
2005 2007 2009 to present day


Process & limitations

Considering my web budget has been slashed to $73 through July 2011 (I’m serious), I will have to work with accumulated maintenance hours with my contracted vendor. Certain layout & graphic changes are doable, but I can’t reinvent the wheel on my budget. I will do a basic wireframe for webpage layout, then use their expertise to massage the graphic design.



Reno.gov enhancement ideas

So here are my initial thoughts. I’m also requesting input from our internal Web Committee.

  • Optimize for 1024×768 screen resolution. Reno.gov is optimized for 800×600 (currently less than 4% of our site visitors).
  • The most important menu, “Self-Service”, is located ‘below the fold’. The service menu needs to have the most prominent location on the page.
  • Add our social media links. This is becoming standard for gov sites. Reno has tons of fans and followers on our social sites – imagine how many more we’ll draw in with links on our homepage.
  • Reduce size of rotating photo. Great for a gov site that receives a huge # of outside visits from potential tourists, but takes up a lot of prime real-estate. Also difficult to take photos that work well within this size.
  • Introduce ‘Live Chat’ link somewhere on the homepage for this new service. Must be in header to appear on all interior pages as well.
  • Simplify navigation. We’ve currently got header links, main nav links, graphic links, left sidebar graphic/text links, and footer links.
  • Love the Reno skyline graphic, but it’s dated and needs to be updated. A better angle will show our downtown as a more vibrant city center.
  • The new wv.gov and texas.gov websites place a big emphasis on Search. Possibly make search tool more prominent? Must be located in header to appear on all interior pages as well.
  • Standardize fonts to sans-serif & update main header text from “Reno, Nevada” to Reno.gov to promote our new URL.

Please comment below with your suggestions and input!

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11 Comments

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Avatar Image GovLoop

Personally I always like Most Visited/Top links. Like on a NYtimes.com most read. I think state.gov may have common actions. I’d look at stats and see what are most common actions and create a common action highlight.

I’m not good at this but I’d also look to see what is not being used and take it out. We did this with videos on home page at GovLoop.

Other things might do:
-Places where they can stay in touch. If you have email, sign up box. FB/Twitter..put there
-I think you can probably make home page longer as well.

Reply
Arvind Nigam

Hey Kristy do want us to help you professionally on this project? Well you have mentioned the budget line already so I am not gonna talk about money on this… But yeah, I can be of help to you here …

Cheers,
Arvind

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Avatar Image Kristy Dalton

Hi, Arvind. Yeah, the money thing is definitely an issue for us. I’m up for hearing everyone’s ideas. I am also getting a lot of great suggestions from the front line staff who deal directly with our users. For instance, it turns out many citizens have found our main horizontal nav bar doesn’t pop out at them on first glance. Surprising to me, but good feedback. All feedback welcome!

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Arvind Nigam

Oh yes, no wonder there is a lot of talent to give qualified feedback always.

Can you direct me to a starting point where a typical Reno citizen would land, whenever there is a Gov website he wants to refer to?

Any resources revealing the structure of Governance over there and how do citizens care/care not about the official things…:-)

Cheers,
Arvind

Reply
David Tallan

My advice, for what it is worth:
– Simplify navigation and make the stuff that your residents really want to do stand out and draw attention
– Reduce the size of the rotating photo. It seems to me that it functionally overlaps with the skyline above (both are there to present an attractive visual image of the city).
– Not so concerned with links to the social media. In general, I tend to think of social media as driving content to the website rather than visa versa. I guess that there are two ways of doing it:
— If you are marketing on social media or responding to someone’s tweet, blog, Facebook comment, etc., you can drive people to your website for more in-depth information
— If you are informing people about something on your website, you can link over to your social media spaces for discussion
In general, I’m not sure a link from my website to a third party platform (even one that I’m using successfully) would be a prime candidate for out-of-context links on my precious home page real estate
– Live chat is great if you have the resources to have someone waiting there 24×7 to respond. Otherwise the first person gets there, sees no one else there, leaves after a few minutes. Then the second person arrives and the scenario repeats.
– Standardizing fonts and switching the header from Reno, Nevada to Reno.gov sound good, though.
– Improving Search (both your own tool and the ability of others to find you) is always a good idea. Many people don’t even bother to look at the navigation but jump straight to search.

In general, I’d say improving the navigation and search are the best things you can do to improve user experience and make the site more usable. Other items (like reducing the size of the slideshow) are good because they free up real estate to enable you to quickly and easily get users to where they need to be on your website to get what they want. Things like live chat and links to social media sites, while more “sexy”, are ultimately a lot less important.

Reply
Avatar Image Kristy Dalton

For more info on how citizens are using are website (as Arvind suggested), here is a report I put together a couple months ago: http://www.kristyfifelski.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/WebsiteReport-1.pdf

Starting with page 11, it shows what pages are most popular, etc.

@David, thanks for sharing. I agree with a lot of your ideas. I put the social media links a little higher on my list because of the information we have about public use of social media. For instance, the PEW Internet Online Govt report (http://www.pewinternet.org/Reports/2010/Government-Online.aspx) shows that “31% of online adults have used social tools such as blogs, social networking sites, and online video as well as email and text alerts to keep informed about government activities.” I want to make it as easy as possible to connect them to our sm tools.

Reply
Dan Israel

Hi Kristy,

If you want, you can improve the search on your site (like David suggests) and still stay within your $73 budget! Google’s custom search engine lets you to add search to your website – with no software or hardware to install – for free. You can do so with no ads, as long as you’re a government agency.

Learn more here:
http://www.google.com/cse/

(Full disclosure: I work for Google. But it’s a great product, and you can’t beat the price!)

You can set one up to test in just a few minutes, and it will generate the code you’ll need to add to your site.

Good luck!
Dan

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