A group for people that are in government organizations that are doing website management. This groups is meant for a discussion on best practices of websites.
Experiences overhauling/redoing websites
May 20, 2009 at 9:40 pm #72446
Here in the City of Franklin, TN we are looking at having an outside firm come in and give our website a major makeover (get it on a CMS, redesign the graphics, organize and bring over content). I’m wondering who of us has gone through this process before, and what insight did you gain from it? I’m especially interested in “Web 2.0”, if anyone has been able to use social tools/principles to engage citizens more effectively. If you were to do it again, what would you do differently?
May 20, 2009 at 11:32 pm #72456
We overhauled phoenix.gov this past fall – the project included not only a new “look and feel” but also a refreshed site architecture and upgraded content management system. There are more that 60,000 pages on the site, and about half of them are in the CMS and new design. The html pages have adopted an interim “look” until they can be migrated into the CMS.
Some suggestions I have for your redesign are:
1) Make the project collaborative and interdisciplinary from the get-go…involve not only your public information staff, but also your IT staff. It’s not enough for a site to be attractive…it also has to be functional and work within technology standards and platform.
2) Get feedback from content maintainers throughout your oganization…if there’s time, conduct focus groups and find out what individual department needs are. For phoenix.gov, we have a content focus vs. departmental focus because a resident shouldn’t have to know what department performs what service. However, we felt it important to still get some buy-in by collaboration.
3) If budget allows, go out for bid and hire a professional web design consultant to assist. Make sure it’s a Web designer…..there are graphic design firms that offer Web design services. However, be sure they have resources with technical acumen to create fully functional (as well as attractive) sites. Otherwise, the sites tend to just look lke pdf’s with hyperlinks.
We have an Extranet with all of our policies and standards, including a link to the CMS Migration page, which gives the project background and information for city content maintainers: http://phoenix.gov/phxmanual.html
4) Regarding social media….we’re still taking baby steps towards that, that include our City Manager allowing access to only the public information staff so we can learn how to use these tools. Our IT department also is working on a new administrative regulation addressing social media and alternative domains, and technical standards for accessing social media sites and best practices for using them. Actually, our CIO prefers the term Collaborative Web Technologies since social networking and government employees don’t really fit well together in the public’s perception 🙂
The two biggest recommendations I have on this issue is (1) get buy-in from executive management before embarking on using social media tools; and (2) create a task force that includes staff from public information, IT, law department (for first amendment issues, especially with regards to blogs), and city clerk (for public records issues) to perform R&D on the subject, and how best your organization can use it. There’s information at this site that might be helpful: http://www.usa.gov/webcontent/technology/other_tech.shtml.
Hope this helps! Let me know if you have questions…..
May 22, 2009 at 4:41 pm #72454
Margaret, thanks for your awesome response! Phoenix.gov looks great and the information structure is really impressive. I can tell it was well thought through and it’s a great idea to organize by content rather than by department. I wonder what difficulties this introduces for content owners, though (i.e. how would an editor in Planning know where to find all of her pages, especially if they are spread across different areas of access control?)
While we do have a task force forming, I have a feeling it may be a hard sell getting some of the execs on board with social stuff – the climate around here seems fairly traditional. Any advice with that? I would also love to know what kinds of legal issues you’ve encountered or anticipated. Most of the discussion I’ve heard centers around public record, especially where the line between public and private begins to blur, but I’m having a hard time figuring out what kind of standard we should be following.
Thanks again Margaret, you’ve given me a lot to consider.
May 29, 2009 at 8:46 pm #72452
When it comes to organizing the content, you might want to try to fit in some usability testing and information architecture type activities to see if there are ways to improve your website to make it easier to use for your constituents.
June 5, 2009 at 7:00 pm #72450
My firm has redesigned several government websites. Here are my lessons learned:
1. Obtain financial support from the administrator and municipal council
2. Involve department heads – ask what they need on the site
3. Identify content managers
4. Define how much of original content will remain, what needs to written anew
5. Define primary audiences for the site
6. Create a flat navigation structure
7. Benchmark against other sites
8. Very few gov sites are really leveraging social media although they could greatly benefit from it
9. Keep content pages short
10. Structure pages to be found by search engines
11. Use type, navigation, photography consistently on the site
12. Define your communication goals before you begin design and coding
Feel free to call me at 856.217.8662 to chat further.
June 10, 2009 at 4:05 pm #72448
I am doing this now for the City of Richmond Virginia and there is a lot of things that i have to say about this subject but I have seen this project in two other places and the biggest problem is make the project to big. if you are redesigning the website there need to be a phase aspect of this problem.
First separating Design, Behavior and Content so when you decide in the future that the design is no longer working you can work on that alone and do not get your hand tied due to choices that are being made today.
Next making small wins in the project where people can see advances and by into the changes that are happening.
Feel free to call me if you want some of my lessons learned at 804-646-7289
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