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Lessons from NAGW 2010

* cross-posted on KristyFifelski.com

I just got back from the wildly useful annual conference of the National Association of Government Webmasters in the architecturally beautiful City of St. Louis. Here’s a summary of my personal highlights from the conference.

Keynote speaker web usability whiz Jared Spool offered an entertaining look at usability, including how educational institution websites are plagued with the use of “girls under trees” photos (you had to be there) and how cooking guru Julia Child was basically the godmother of offering a gourmet “user experience”. He also taught us to use the 5-second page test to determine the perception of a webpage’s usefulness on the cheap.

As an avid member of the Adriel Hampton fan club, I listened in on his social media session. Interesting to hear his ideas on location based social media use for government. He also always manages to find obscure and cool Twitter resources that make our lives easier. He organized articles on his “Wired to Share” blog as a handy resource for NAGW participants as well. Check it out.

Collyn Floyd’s insights on email marketing techniques and best practices was well worth the trip. She’s an online marketing specialist from The Karcher Group. This was the kind of session I love – packed with practical tips and how to’s, including screenshots of do’s and don’ts. Apparently, the ‘email capture’ part is extremely important. This is where you collect the email addresses on your website. Collyn says to make sure the sign-up form is above the fold, have a compelling headline, use the fewest fields, and have a call to action that implies value (instead of ‘submit’, use ‘sign up for deals now’). Good stuff.

Vendors/Other Organizations

Because Gov 2.0 doesn’t happen in a vacuum, other groups were invited to participate in the conference and share insights. We heard a pitch by Dan Melton for the Code for America project, which gives cities across the country the opportunity to work with a team of “fellows”, highly skilled and motivated private sector developers and designers, to solve the governments’ web and technology problems. I had heard of this project before and piped up with my burning question – Is this a free service for cities? I was pleased with Dan’s answer. The pilot project cities are paying into the pot to help the project along, but the long-term goal is to make a financially sustainable project for local governments. Sign me up! Er, after the pilot phase…

Participants heard about the new CityLife tool from Michael Riedyk and the team over at DotGov. They’re the folks who make the PageFreezer service that archives website content as well. CityLife is in beta testing with select cities, and it seems what sets it apart from other mobile apps is the ability for cities to decide what they want in their own app through a simple user interface. Looking forward to hearing more about this.

In the Flesh

It’s always fun to go to these events and meet some great folks in person that you have communicated with perhaps only over Twitter or blogs. It was great to meet Govloop’s Andrew Krzmarzick as well as John Moore from The Lab in Boston. And I also enjoyed putting a face to many of the NAGW members I recognized by name from our highly active listserv.

Of course, my conference experience just scratched the surface. Participants also heard from Google, Adobe and many other big names. All in all, NAGW 2010 was a great time learning important things with good people.

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Sounds like a great conference…wish I could have made it (had a family wedding with festivities that started Wed night) but glad Andy was able to represent.

Andrew Krzmarzick

Agree with all these points, Kristy (especially meeting folks like you!) – great summary of the event. I also really liked the keynote by Google’s Phil Mui and his analysis of activities that lead to better search results. I definitely would like to make it to Cincinnati next year!

Ron Pringle

Great post, Kristy! I love reading attendees’ synopses of our National Conference because every person’s experience is a different one. There are so many great sessions to attend that you cannot physically take them all in. Thanks for attending and presenting this year Kristy, and welcome to NAGW’s Board of Directors.

Steve, we’d love to have you there next year along with Andy in Cincinnati.