Utah.gov 2.0: personalized, search-centric design, real-time content

Today, the citizens of Utah have one of the best state government websites online – or at least the newest and easily one of the most beautiful. Whether they notice the change or not, Utah.gov relaunched with a major redesign this morning.

The new site is organized around search, with a big search field front and center. Search now indexes agency information, office hours, interactive maps, and related forms. Utah.gov also uses personalization by location and integration of new media from state officials and agencies. And, in a nod to the Web 2.0 world, Utah.gov will show “what’s trending” as more citizens uses the site. Visitors can already see the most popular searches.

“We are thrilled to announce the re-design of Utah.Gov. Utahns are tech savvy and they expect their government to be the same,” said Utah Governor Gary Herbert in a prepared statement. “Economic development in the State has been a top priority and the new design focuses on utilizing the most innovative technology to better serve Utah citizens and business 24/7.”

For a quick introduction to the new Utah.gov, check out this introductory video:

 

UTG2011 from Utah Interactive on Vimeo.

“Utah’s new site introduces a new dimension in government web design,” tweeted state CIO David Fletcher a few hours before launch. He gave the new Utah.gov a warm reception over at his personal blog:

It’s been two years since the state of Utah did a major upgrade to its website and a lot has changed during that time. The internet continues to represent an enormous opportunity for state government. In just five short years, the number of visitors to the Utah.gov domain has doubled, reaching 1.4 million unique visitors in March 2011. The new site has been developed, based on extensive research, to address the most important needs of Utah citizens. It takes into account changes that have occurred in Utah society and with technology. We appreciate the fact that Utah.gov has come to represent a trusted source for all kinds of information.

Two years ago, social media services, such as Twitter and Facebook, were still new to many Utahns, so we provided aggregation services where citizens could discover new agency Twitter feeds and begin to interact. The new site, integrates collaborative features into more aspects of the site so you will find information from Twitter and Facebook, and videos from YouTube integrated into many of the pages of Utah.gov. We continue to use the internet to open up government and make it more accessible through services like Open.Utah.gov. There’s also lots of data available in a variety of formats at Data.Utah.gov. Of course, we try to be as open as possible while still maintaining the privacy of our individual citizens.
Still, the most important features on Utah.gov are the numerous services that save time and money for citizens, while bringing tremendous efficiencies to state government as well as the vast libraries of information on topics as varied as healthcare, transportation, caregivers, business creation, and hunting. In 2010, Utah citizens engaged the domain for over 25.1 million interactive transactions, saving hundreds of millions of dollars in the process.

Utah.gov was recognized as the best community resource in Utah in 2008 and has won many awards over the years. Looks like they’ll be in the running for more soon.

UPDATE: There are plenty of other folks commenting on the new Utah.gov. Luke Fretwell shared his review of the new Utah.gov here at Govfresh.

At Govloop, Andy Krzmarzick writes that Utah’s stunning web revitalization effort sets “a new bar not just for government web design, but for any location on the web.”

Reno.gov webmaster Kristy Fifelski’s video review for GovGirl.com includes a few concerns regarding YouTube and collecting user-submitted content:

 

Abhi Nemani called Utah.gov a beautiful new government website over at Code for America, focusing in on the importance of search:

A citizen coming to Utah.gov isn’t given a sprawling tree of links they have to cut their way through. It’s just a search box. It’s just that simple. As the state government put in its release, “search is unmistakable.” In Britain, some innovators within the government have too been experimenting with the interfaces for government websites; they too determined this search-centric model is ideal. Understandably so, I’d say, because it aligns with the motivations a user has in visiting a government website: namely, you have a question. You’re wondering what time that office is open till or where that other one is; which form do you need to fill out and how do you submit it. Government is just as much an information resource as a service provider. Smart web design, like we see on Utah.gov, helps it do both.

Bottom line: When it put search front and center, Utah.gov’s redesign reflected how citizens navigate online.

About Alex Howard

Alexander B. Howard is a DC-based a technology writer and editor. Previously, he was the Washington Correspondent at O'Reilly Media, where he covered the voices, technologies and issues that matter in the intersection of government, technology and society. If you're feeling social, you can follow him on Twitter, like him on Facebook or circle him on Google Plus In addition to corresponding for the O’Reilly Radar, he has contributed to the Huffington Post, Govfresh, Mashable, ReadWriteWeb, National Journal, The Atlantic, CBS News and Forbes. He graduated from Colby College with a bachelor's degree in biology and sociology. Currently, he is a resident of the District of Columbia, where he lives with his greyhound, wife, power tools, plants and growing collection of cast iron pans, many of which are frequently used to pursue his passion for good cooking.
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  • http://twitter.com/kristyfifelski Kristy Fifelski

    Some are talking about the accessibility of the Utah.gov site on a thread on Twitter. It seems some challenges are not being able to keyboard through the navigation, as well as the site being rendered unusable with javascript turned off. I’m sure they’re overwhelmed with feedback right now, but I’m hopeful that they’ll consider how to address this down the line. Very important for a government site.  

    • http://twitter.com/hillary Hillary Hartley

      Hi Kristy. You probably saw my tweet, but the Javascript issue was due to a file not getting loaded. I’d encourage you to try it again, and please continue to send feedback. We love having a talented webmaster combing through the site!

      And Alex – thanks for the kind words. Your summation is exactly correct. This site is the product of  listening to our users, analyzing metrics, and thinking outside the box.

      • http://twitter.com/kristyfifelski Kristy Fifelski

        Right on, we’re heading in the right direction! Now with javascript off, menus on homepage load, and search bar works. Looks like interior page stylesheets could use a little positioning tweaking (ex. http://www.utah.gov/blogs/) so main menu still clickable with js off. Thanks for looking into it – I’m sure people across the country will continue to explore the site and offer feedback and ideas in the coming days. One of the things I love about the nature of govies!

    • http://www.facebook.com/jeff.margenau Jeff Margenau

      This site is very inaccessible and provides a questionable design.  I use IE 7 at work and I cannot access all the menu items.  Did they do browser testing before launch?  The large graphic on slower connections is a total waste of bandwidth and does not convey any meaningful information to the user.  Oh yes, the graphic is very pretty – but slows down the download time immensely.

      The site is VERY clunky and it is not intuitive at all – unless you want to search.

      I also do not understand the design concept logic.  So if I discover that most people click on page X, would I then put the largest link taking up most of my homepage - page X?  No, in fact it says the opposite.  It says that everyone can easily find page X if that’s what they wanted.

    • http://www.facebook.com/jeff.margenau Jeff Margenau

      This site is very inaccessible and provides a questionable design.  I use IE 7 at work and I cannot access all the menu items.  Did they do browser testing before launch?  The large graphic on slower connections is a total waste of bandwidth and does not convey any meaningful information to the user.  Oh yes, the graphic is very pretty – but slows down the download time immensely.

      The site is VERY clunky and it is not intuitive at all – unless you want to search.

      I also do not understand the design concept logic.  So if I discover that most people click on page X, would I then put the largest link taking up most of my homepage - page X?  No, in fact it says the opposite.  It says that everyone can easily find page X if that’s what they wanted.

    • http://www.facebook.com/jeff.margenau Jeff Margenau

      This site is very inaccessible and provides a questionable design.  I use IE 7 at work and I cannot access all the menu items.  Did they do browser testing before launch?  The large graphic on slower connections is a total waste of bandwidth and does not convey any meaningful information to the user.  Oh yes, the graphic is very pretty – but slows down the download time immensely.

      The site is VERY clunky and it is not intuitive at all – unless you want to search.

      I also do not understand the design concept logic.  So if I discover that most people click on page X, would I then put the largest link taking up most of my homepage - page X?  No, in fact it says the opposite.  It says that everyone can easily find page X if that’s what they wanted.

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