Admittedly, I had my doubts going into the preview, thinking "How could they possibly improve upon the current design?" Since they built what was considered one of the best state websites back in 2009, I've been a big fan of the large, moving icons, the quick access to key content and rotating images of Utah's beauty.
But believe it or not, Utah's pulled off another stunning web revitalization effort that sets a new bar not just for government web design, but for any location on the web. Below are my five favorite features in the new launch:
1) Search Made Stunning: Based on website metrics, the search function has historically been used twice as much as any other feature. So not only does it now enjoy the most prominent placement on the site, but it's also built with Google Custom Search to deliver the most relevant results to site visitors, including an auto-populating feature as soon as you start typing a word. How did they do that? Back in 2009, they aggregated data from across the state. But this time around, they got a bit more aggressive and searched state websites to find pages and pages of previously undiscovered (or hard to discover) data and information from 700 sites, including even the most remote cities and counties.
2) Location, Location, Location: Imagine going to a state website and being able to receive search results that are relevant to where you live. That's what Utah.gov now does for its visitors. Go to the upper right and pick a city, then click on the "Near You" tab down at the bottom. Here's what I wrote in my notes when I saw that feature: "Sick!!" (That means awesome, by the way). From public meetings to jobs to schools and parks, Utahans will quickly find the nearest results, usually within a few miles of your present location. Wannabe Utahans (like me) who don't live there yet also get dazzled by potential destinations that encourage them to consider relocating, launching a new business venture or booking a trip to some of the most beautiful tourist spots in the world.
3) Made for Mobile: Go ahead. Try out the site from your phone or tablet. They've kept in mind the fact that more and more people are accessing the site on the move. They also recognize that information needs to be easily shared and shaped by the user, which is why social media icons are found on every page.
4) You Could Call It Youtah: Unlike most government websites, Utah is serious about making the site a citizen-driven community, encouraging public contributions of photos, videos, blogs, maps and mobile apps, widgets and whatever else might be valuable to fellow Utahans. Even the prominent photo on the main page rotates in a personal photo taken by someone living in the state.
5) Visualizations That Add Value: Sometimes sites use infographics that simply bring a "cool factor." Not so with the new Utah.gov. Each of the main pages incorporates an infograph that illustrates an important dataset so that it's quickly consumable (and understandable) by the visitor. See an example of state spending to the right:
So that's my Top 5 - check it out for yourself and let me know what you discover. Utah isn't only a great state to visit...so is their new website. Learn more via the video below:
UPDATE: You may also want to take a look at a few more excellent reviews - both Alex Howard and Luke Fretwell have offered their thoughts on the Utah.gov refresh at @GovFresh and @GovGirl Kristy Fifelski gave some valuable feedback as well: