The Ongoing Transformation of PBGC’s Website

An interview with Michael Rucki, Division Manager of Communications and Website Services, and Rigina Pietrowski, Web Communications Specialist at Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation

Creating good citizen experiences is not a one-time exercise. At the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC), Michael Rucki, Division Manager of Communications and Website Services, and Rigina Pietrowski, Web Communications Specialist, are very clear on that point.

“When it comes to websites, if you’re standing still, you’re falling behind,” Rucki said.

PBGC.gov recently underwent a complete technical and design overhaul to better engage the diverse users who accessed the site for pension and benefit information. While PBGC had a fully functional website, it hadn’t been redesigned in six years. In the interim, organic content and functionality growth had negatively increased the complexity of the website.

Through the site’s ForeSee customer satisfaction surveys, the web team knew it was time to update. “The comments over time showed some recurring issues,” Rucki said. “Many people said it felt cluttered. The navigation confused them and the homepage was very messy. We heard them on that.”

But before Rucki and Pietrowski dove into the redesign, they made sure to understand exactly what users wanted from the website. Not only did they analyze data from the website satisfaction surveys, they also referenced traffic and navigation data from Adobe Analytics and Google Analytics. Additionally, they reached out to internal stakeholders at PBGC, including customer service representatives and subject matter experts about their interactions with customers.

Their investigation uncovered a wide user base with diverse needs. “We have a large portion of visitors to PBGC.gov who have never been to the site before and are hearing about us for the first time. But we also have pension practitioners who’ve worked with us for years and are looking for specific technical information or forms. And then there’s also a big chunk of customers who just want to see if we owe them a pension,” Rucki explained.

To meet those diverse needs, the team focused on simplifying navigation to disparate content. “We tried to make it simple to use, no matter what brought somebody to PBGC.gov on a given day,” Rucki said. “But, it was more than just a look and feel issue; it was also determining how we talk to someone when we don’t know what they’re looking for. So how do we talk in a way that can guide whoever’s coming to the site to what they need?”

In addition to simplifying language and navigation, they also ensured any content was readily available in different formats. User data showed that increasing traffic came from mobile devices, yet the previous site did not have a reliable mobile interface. The new website, created with Drupal, is responsive so it can easily be viewed on various devices.

So far, the redesign is getting positive reviews. Pietrowski said many users have commented on the clean design and easy navigation, while others haven’t even noticed a change. That latter feedback is just as encouraging, she said, because that means users are focusing on their needs rather than the new interface.

Despite early success, Pietrowski and Rucki aren’t stopping their efforts. Using these and other feedback mechanisms, they’re learning where the new design meets expectations and where it could still be improved. For instance, following the site launch, the print formatting for certain content was not meeting customer needs. The team responded to that feedback and is improving the site’s printing of content like complex tables.

Not only are they reacting to feedback, but the web team is also looking to the future. “As Mike mentioned, if you’re not constantly updating your site, then you’re already in the past,” Pietrowski said. “Who knows what the next device will be, so we want to make sure that our mobile functions are as responsive as possible and able to adjust to whatever is next. That’s why we’re constantly testing and updating.” For example, PBGC recently engaged the Digital Analytics Program for feedback on its redesign.

Rucki agreed. “It’s a constant cycle,” he concluded. “Whether it’s a small, immediate tweak or an interesting idea that becomes something for a future release, we’re always trying to improve the customer experience. We want make sure the website is always helping PBGC with its mission of protecting America’s pensions.”

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