We’ve written many times on GovLoop that more and more citizens and stakeholders are interacting with public sector organizations online.
And recently, we’ve seen examples of very impressive websites, from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to New York City, that are effectively communicating more information with less clutter.
But there is an important opportunity that is often missed when it comes to website design: the chance to keep people engaged through repeated interaction. After all, this is what distinguishes the web from traditional communication channels like television. Online, we as users get to participate, even if it’s just something as small as adding a comment or filling out a form.
One of the most impactful ways to reach the constituents who visit your organization’s website is through what’s known as an ‘overlay.’
An overlay is a simple, understated method that appears over your homepage when someone visits your website. It asks visitors to provide contact information so you can connect with them later. You can encourage them to visit a park, inform them of a policy change, download a report, or register for an upcoming event.
Here’s an example of an overlay hovering over GovLoop’s homepage.
The best part about this tool is that it’s simple, effective and – perhaps most appealing – your citizens have seen it dozens of times in their daily lives. From non-governmental organizations to multinational retail outlets – even here at GovLoop – overlays are used all over the web to continue the discussion with customers and stakeholders long after they’ve clicked away to the next website.
It seems only natural that public agencies, especially those with an imperative to connect with constituents regularly, would adopt this simple customer engagement technique.
Here are a few notable examples of agencies that have made use of overlays:
- The U.S. Department of Interior’s (DOI) website overlay contributed to massive growth in stakeholder connections. In the first eight months of implementing the overlay, the DOI more than doubled its unique subscribers and more than tripled subscriptions to its topics.
- The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission’s overlay went live in June and the organization is already seeing the benefits. “Initial results are looking great! We’d been averaging about 40 direct subscriptions per day. In 24 hours we had 507 newcomers,” said Scott Ball, Internal Communications Director. That’s an increase of 1167% in audience growth.
For more examples of overlays doing great things for public sector organizations, check out USDA’s ChooseMyPlate.gov, Minnesota Department of Revenue, FEMA’s Ready.gov, and Nottinghamshire County Council in the UK.
It’s so easy to overcomplicate the process of interacting with constituents through technology. Overlays provide a simple technique that’s proving itself as an invaluable tool to keep the conversation going.
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