The Power of WordPress for Government: Exploring Sites.usa.gov

This afternoon, GovLoop and WordPress are hosting an event, Do More With What You Have: Experience WordPress in Government, highlighting the power of WordPress to modernize and optimize government websites. The event included numerous case studies of WordPress websites and the robust scalable CMS services of the websites. At the event, government employees were connected with other successful WordPress users, developers and implementers to share best practices for smarter, more efficient and dynamic government websites.

One of the sessions explored sites.usa.gov, led by James Mathieson, Product Manager at the General Services Administration and Gwynne Kostin, Director, of the Digital Services Innovation Center spent some explaining how agencies can leverage sites.usa.gov. Sites.usa.gov is currently in alpha stage and is a shared service to help agencies focus on creating great content rather than on building systems to deliver that content.

Before Kostin and Mathieson jumped into sites.usa.gov, Kostin provided a brief overview of the Digital Government Strategy released in May of last year. “The digital government strategy really was a watershed moment building on the work done around open government, and exploring how we build a digital government moving forward,” stated Kostin. Kostin also highlighted the four core elements of the digital government strategy:

  • Information-centric
  • Shared platform
  • Customer-centric
  • Security and privacy

As Kostin states the ultimate goal of the digital government strategy was to, “deliver government services anytime, anywhere on any device.” Sites.usa.gov certainly falls in line with the efforts around the digital government strategy, especially in terms of a shared platform. Mathieson provided some specifics on sites.usa.gov.

  • Sites.usa.gov is a standard cms platform
  • Managed service
  • Cost effective: no infrastructure costs to maintaining and no software licensing costs
  • Agencies focus on the important stuff – the content
  • Community of users

With sites.usa.gov, agencies can work collaboratively with GSA to create WordPress driven websites, taking advantage of the CMS power of WordPress and the related free-plugins provided by WordPress and the WordPress community. Mathieson also mentioned some of the benefits of leveraging sites.usa.gov. Those benefits are highlighted below:

Secure, fast, cloud hosting via GSA

Since this is a shared-service, agencies do not have to worry about a cloud provider and the related security and maintenance challenges, GSA takes care of hosting the site for government users.

Agency control over the look and feel, publishing, user access

Even though GSA hosts the site, the government agency retains full control of the look and feel. An additional benefit is that since this service is in still in alpha phase, partnering agencies can access services for free and are given one-to-one attention to truly capitalize on vision, and help accelerate further adoption of sites.usa.gov. “Right now this is very much an in alpha site, so we are building out client sites based on what you want, you are getting a higher level of interactivity. Eventually it will be much more of a turnkey solution, right now it is much more a one-to-one interaction and talking through the important pieces of what you want,” stated Mathieson.

Content reuse – enter once and display as needed

“We have developed a syndication module that plugs into this, so that you can pull syndicated content from other agencies and show them on your site,” stated Mathieson. This allows users to post once, and have their content pushed out to various different locations across the web.

Mobile ready designs

Sites.usa.gov creates websites that are mobile ready and have responsive design. This means that regardless of how the site is visited (web, mobile, smartphone, tablet), the content is automatically optimized for viewing. This means that agencies can focus on the content, and technology will automatically optimize for viewing experience.

Mathieson also mentioned three other benefits, which were, ease of publishing, multi, multimedia social networking search optimization and a shared content pool. Sites.usa.gov is a great service being created out of the Digital Services Innovation Center in the Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies at GSA.

The event was jam-packed with exciting sessions around government, below are quick synopsis of each session at the event.

State of WordPress in Government

Peter Slutsky, the Director of Platform Services at Automattic/WordPress.com, provided the history and present state of WordPress, WordPress.com, WordPress.com VIP and discussed the growth and momentum taking place in Government.

Uncle Sam’s List

Github’s Ben Balter, discussed the White House’s latest WordPress-powered initiative, Uncle Sam’s List.

Measuring and Expanding the Value of Community

Joseph Porcelli, the Director of Engagement Services for GovDelivery & GovLoop, discussed the importance of community and provide a few case studies as examples.

WordPress.org & Optimizing Security for your WordPress sites

Andrew Nacin, Lead Developer of WordPress.org, provided a brief overview about WordPress’s security, its core software and how WordPress approaches development.

WordPress Powers the News – Publishing Inside The Washington Post

Melissa Bell, Director of Blog Engagement at The Washington Post discussed how WordPress is utilized to share the news online.

WordPress Powers sites.usa.gov

James Mathieson, of the General Servcies Administration, discussed how sites.usa.gov plays into the Digital Government Strategy and what the future holds for this innovative platform.

From Legacy to the Future – Moving Technology Mountains

Robin Sidel and Evonne Young from the Kaiser Family Foundation highlighted how they migrated from a legacy platform to WordPress, providing an overview of the challenges, opportunities and best practices from their successful transition.

Technology Challenges of Migrating Kaiser Family Foundation

Alley Interactive’s Austin Smith, joins Robin & Evonne to discuss the technical challenges and complexities of migrating Kaiser Family Foundation’s long-time website from an old system to WordPress.

Scaling WordPress

WordPress.org’s Andrew Nacin presented some tips and ideas around scaling WordPress in the enterprise.

The StartUp Agency – A Case Study on CFPB

Dan Munz, David Kennedy and Greg Boone discuss how CFPB was born, what challenges they faced and how WordPress became their CMS backbone throughout it all.

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Profile Photo Joe Flood

Glad that you wrote about this. One interesting question came up after their talk – is it GSA’s intention to have one government web site to rule them all? Other countries are moving in that direction, as they have a single government site where citizens can access services. Gwynne said that wasn’t their intention.

Why not though? Having tens of thousands (maybe hundreds of thousands) of government web sites out there is wasteful and confusing to the public. Wouldn’t it be nice to have one site with a single look and feel that’s organized around user needs instead of government agencies?

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