State and City Government Websites
State government websites that have received awards include Mississippi, Utah, Maryland, Indiana, and Arkansas. States are implementing chatbots and focusing on user experiences using their websites while cities are concentrating their efforts on improving mobile website experiences and making their websites user-friendly and accessible. Two trends in how U.S. governments are using their websites include making their citizens' experiences seamless and automating more processes for efficiency. Details of these insights are below.
State Governments Whose Websites Have Won Awards
State of Mississippi
- The state of Mississippi's government website won "Best Government Website" in 2016 from the WebAwards.
- This state won the award because of its interactive nature, which was designed to "provide a more efficient method for obtaining information and services."
- It also won fourth place for "Overall State Government Experience" from the Center for Digital Government in 2018.
- The reason Mississippi won this award was because it had a well-designed website and innovative channels that "provide citizens meaningful information and services, robust data integration and an exceptional user experience."
- Specifically, Mississippi "emphasizes data analytics as a way to create better content and promote the services people use the most. The state has also prioritized voice-activated content."
State of Utah
- The state of Utah's government website won "Best Government Website" in 2015 and 2013 from the WebAwards.
- According to WebAwards, the "Best Government Website" award is judged on "design, ease of use, copywriting, interactivity, use of technology, innovation and content."
- In 2018, Utah's website also won first place for "Overall State Government Experience" from the Center for Digital Government.
- This award is judged on the "variety, availability and quality of the citizen interaction" with the state's website.
- Specifically, Utah's "digital web strategy seemingly drives everything on its websites, and it has taken on innovative solutions such as customer service chatbots and user feedback mechanisms. Its work also shows that the state has made inclusion and accessibility a priority."
- Utah is also turning its focus to AI and automated assistance including the use of Amazon Echo and Google Home.
State of Maryland
- The state of Maryland's government website won second place for "Overall State Government Experience" from the Center for Digital Government in 2018.
- Specifically, Maryland "has embraced personalization, taking a user-centric approach and creating direct engagement with citizens via live chat and chatbots.
State of Indiana
- The state of Indiana's government website won third place for "Overall State Government Experience" from the Center for Digital Government in 2018.
- Specifically, Indiana "uses an enterprise customer relationship management system and has a high level of website consolidation, which combine for a good, intuitive experience for citizens.
State of Arkansas
- The state of Arkansas' Government website won fifth place for "Overall State Government Experience" from the Center for Digital Government in 2018.
- Specifically, Arkansas "has a lot of services deployed across its various channels, which include a Gov2Go mobile app. The state has also had success with a service desk meant to help citizens solve problems."
Insights on How U.S. State Governments Are Using Their Websites
- According to the Center for Digital Government, 80% of the states "ranked chatbots and Alexa-type artificial intelligence (AI) implementations among their top three experience avenues."
- Chief innovation officer for the Center for Digital Government, Dustin Haisler, indicated that while the organization knew that states were experimenting with chatbots and voice-assistance technology, it was still surprising to see these technologies among the top three for so many states.
- Some reasons why states are implementing chatbots include freeing up employees to manage more complex issues, reducing costs associated with labor, and providing citizens with more personalized service.
- Citizens can get answers from chatbots at any time of the day or night, which reduces wait times and frustration levels.
- Some states are also using chatbots internally to help government employees find answers to their questions quickly and efficiently.
- According to Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds, the state implemented an Alexa skill and Google action to increase citizen engagement.
- The digital assistant in Utah can help fishermen find the best fishing spots and provide information on "the hundreds of public meetings every day by 3,000 governmental organizations in the state of Utah."
- The digital assistant in Mississippi can answer questions on taxes, vehicle licensing, and fishing and hunting licenses, among other topics; provide Amber Alert information; provide government contact information; provide traffic alerts within a 20-mile radius; and give facts on the state of Mississippi.
- The Center for Digital Government also found that states are focusing on the "citizen experience with government" more than they have in the past.
- State websites are not only concerned with the user interface, but also on the "under-the-hood issues" that ensure the experience is not only available, but also effective.
- They are actively monitoring their website to determine which channels are most effective and which features citizens are actually using to ensure only those channels and features are provided.
- For instance, states are asking themselves questions like, "Do we have people using these new technologies? Are we reaching the right segments of the population? It’s about fitting all these things together."
- According to a study of five state government websites, 15% of users are seeking more information on their state and local representatives.
- About 50% of citizens use their state government websites a few times a year, but 25% of California and Illinois residents use their states' websites up to a few times a month.
Insights on How U.S. City Governments Are Using Their Websites
- According to the Center for Digital Government, 64% of city governments respondents stated that mobile apps are among their top three engagement channels.
- Cities are moving away from just a mobile website and are developing native standalone apps, which was surprising to the Center for Digital Government because they can be expensive.
- Nearly 50% of all visitors to government websites access them through a mobile device, which why states are focusing on ensuring their website content and design are optimized for mobile.
- Mobile users are over twice as likely (32%) to access information on parks and recreation as those accessing a government's website on a desktop (15%).
Ease of Use
- One aspect of website development that U.S. cities are focused on is the ease of use for citizens.
- For example, Louisville, Kentucky recently automated personalized information for citizens based on their address. Citizens simply enter their address on the city's website and "it automatically populates information like [their] street-sweeping date and how to contact [their] council member."
- Sharon Meador, manager for business systems in the Louisville Metro Government IT department stated that this website functionality puts "the most important information is right there at [their] fingertips."
- Additionally, Louisville implemented a new quick-search function that "makes it easier to reach commonly read pages, as does a new 'popular pages' tab driven by Google Analytics and updated weekly."
- Ease of use also means that cities are focused on helping disabled citizens use their websites as well, with features such as keyboard navigation, page readers, bigger text, bigger cursors, and highlighted links for visually impaired visitors.
Trends on U.S. Government's Digital Use
Unifying Citizens' Experience
- A trend that is impacting government websites is the desire of citizens to have a single unifying experience when dealing with governments.
- They are looking for a "no wrong door" government experience, which means that the government can offer citizens a "digital front door, or a central entry point, that connects to all departments within seconds."
- By creating a single entry point for citizens, they no longer have to wait in line at government facilities because they can experience centralized services from their own home and on their own time.
- Moreover, the "no wrong door" digital strategy allows citizens to be kept informed throughout the entire process because they can receive updates as their request, application, or other need moves through the system.
- Initially, this philosophy was designed to "break down silos across health departments and help millions of Americans secure health coverage," but now governments have seen how technology can unify their citizens' experiences across other departments.
- This is a trend because research reports have confirmed that more governments are looking to create seamless experiences for their citizens.
- An example of a U.S. government website that is unifying its citizens' experience is the state of Oklahoma's website. The state moved its entire Office of Management and Enterprise Services online and offered a single point of access for all service requests. This has alleviated "the burden on citizens to download, print, and mail PDF applications" and has simplified the back-office workflow, making it easier for staff to complete daily tasks.
Automating Manual Processes Via Website
- A second trend that is impacting government websites is the automation of processes that were previously completed manually.
- Automating manual processes through government websites makes the entire citizen experience more efficient and reduces the burden on government employees.
- According to McKinsey, governments are under pressure to operate more efficiently and the process of automation can lower operating costs, cause less wastage, and result in fewer errors.
- McKinsey also noted that the four out of five government processes in human resources, finance, and applications could be automated.
- This is considered a trend because of the research report that indicated that governments are attempting to automate as many processes as possible and because of the number of companies that have been recently established to help governments automate these processes.
- Examples of government websites that have begun to automate manual processes using their websites include the following.
- Helena, Montana moved payments online and automated them, increasing revenue by $10,000.
- Lee County, North Carolina digitized more than 158 forms, making them easily accessible on it website.
- Ashville, North Carolina moved its public records search online and saved its citizens more than 100 hours in a year.