Top 5 Features of New

Last week, I was lucky enough to get a sneak peek at the new, which is being unveiled today.

Admittedly, I had my doubts going into the preview, thinking “How could they possibly improve upon the current design?” Since they built what was considered one of the best state websites back in 2009, I’ve been a big fan of the large, moving icons, the quick access to key content and rotating images of Utah’s beauty.

But believe it or not, Utah’s pulled off another stunning web revitalization effort that sets a new bar not just for government web design, but for any location on the web. Below are my five favorite features in the new launch:

1) Search Made Stunning: Based on website metrics, the search function has historically been used twice as much as any other feature. So not only does it now enjoy the most prominent placement on the site, but it’s also built with Google Custom Search to deliver the most relevant results to site visitors, including an auto-populating feature as soon as you start typing a word. How did they do that? Back in 2009, they aggregated data from across the state. But this time around, they got a bit more aggressive and searched state websites to find pages and pages of previously undiscovered (or hard to discover) data and information from 700 sites, including even the most remote cities and counties.

2) Location, Location, Location: Imagine going to a state website and being able to receive search results that are relevant to where you live. That’s what now does for its visitors. Go to the upper right and pick a city, then click on the “Near You” tab down at the bottom. Here’s what I wrote in my notes when I saw that feature: “Sick!!” (That means awesome, by the way). From public meetings to jobs to schools and parks, Utahans will quickly find the nearest results, usually within a few miles of your present location. Wannabe Utahans (like me) who don’t live there yet also get dazzled by potential destinations that encourage them to consider relocating, launching a new business venture or booking a trip to some of the most beautiful tourist spots in the world.

3) Made for Mobile: Go ahead. Try out the site from your phone or tablet. They’ve kept in mind the fact that more and more people are accessing the site on the move. They also recognize that information needs to be easily shared and shaped by the user, which is why social media icons are found on every page.

4) You Could Call It Youtah: Unlike most government websites, Utah is serious about making the site a citizen-driven community, encouraging public contributions of photos, videos, blogs, maps and mobile apps, widgets and whatever else might be valuable to fellow Utahans. Even the prominent photo on the main page rotates in a personal photo taken by someone living in the state.

5) Visualizations That Add Value: Sometimes sites use infographics that simply bring a “cool factor.” Not so with the new Each of the main pages incorporates an infograph that illustrates an important dataset so that it’s quickly consumable (and understandable) by the visitor. See an example of state spending to the right:

So that’s my Top 5 – check it out for yourself and let me know what you discover. Utah isn’t only a great state to visit…so is their new website. Learn more via the video below:

UTG2011 from Utah Interactive on Vimeo.

UPDATE: You may also want to take a look at a few more excellent reviews – both Alex Howard and Luke Fretwell have offered their thoughts on the refresh at @GovFresh and @GovGirl Kristy Fifelski gave some valuable feedback as well:

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Jeff Ribeira

Youtah…love it. Pretty slick. As a one-time Utahan, I’m excited to get some hands-on time with the new site!

Hillary Hartley

Great post, Andy! I love, love, love “You Could Call It Youtah.” Stealing that…or at least tweeting it. 🙂

Jeff Margenau

It’s like Google with a really big graphic and really slow download time! I am sure their users requested even bigger graphics and slower download times. I couldn’t even click on their “View more business Infographics” link at the bottom of the “Business” menu. But clicking on things and getting information is secondary to, “Wow that’s really a nice picture…er…I mean, website!”.

What’s happening to government sites? Since when has accessibility taken a back seat (if it’s even in the car anymore) to big pictures?

And where is the critical review of this site?

Megan Price

This certainly sets the bar WAY high. This website is fantastic. Not only does it make me want to visit “Youtah” but it is so easy to see where all the great state parks are, their visitation and much more information than I typically find myself digging for in most other states.

Kurt Williams

I have to agree with Jeff M my first visit did not go well. The interface on the homepage is not too intuitive and wacky scrolling feature and the footer pop at the bottom makes me cringe. I do like and understand the focus on the search because with a website this size it is hard to make for easy, intuitive navigation (not saying it cant be done). My system here at work is slow and lacking the newest hardware so I can only imagine what the experience would be on a newer well stocked set up. But…. a big thumbs down on accessibility. Innovative-yes, Fascinated-yes, but my high hopes were smacked down on my first visit.


Fun comment from when I posted this on LinkedIn….Craig Anderson has just left a comment on your network update:

“Steve, thanks for bringing this to our attention; it is indeed a fantastic website and will make a lot of people reconsider their vacation plans!”

Craig Anderson has just left a comment on your network update:

“Steve, thanks for bringing this to our attention; it is indeed a fantastic website and will make a lot of people reconsider their vacation plans!”

Daniel Honker

Great post, Andy. From the looks of the new site, Utah’s leaders appear to have a firm grasp on the fact that little things can really make someone’s experience with government more pleasant. It’s clear they deeply understand that many citizens’ interactions with their state gov start with the website.