People have high expectations when visiting local government websites and will land on the site expecting on-demand news and core information to be present. However, governments are yet to comprehensively explore deep into the world of digital and still lack some design techniques to make the experience both comfortable and informative for their local audience. Building a website in the commercial sector can be challenging, especially when trying to balance useful, positive visitor experiences with retaining engagement.
While you may think that your current website looks pretty and informative, the user might be having a completely different experience with plenty of suggested changes to make. To ensure your public sector website is ticking all the important boxes, here are some tips on how to make your local government website design accommodating across a variety of applications.
Many government websites are built from what they expect to accomplish instead of thinking about what the user expects to see when visiting the website. User surveys can reveal what users want from a specific site, giving you more insight into how your users intend to use your website. From these surveys, you can understand what the user’s goals are when visiting your website, what tasks the visitor expects to perform, and their device preference. All of this information can help you to design and construct a website that is better suited to your intended audience.
Government websites are not about graphic design and looking nice. Instead, the main goal is to inform the user. When starting to plan your web design, you should have a specific goal to accomplish, including designing your site with a clear navigational path that allows users to quickly and easily find what they are looking for. This is especially important for the homepage as this will normally be the first page that visitors see on the site. As a result, you need to position the important messages clearly for visitors while encouraging further engagement.
Web analytics offers some of the most useful reports of the 21st century and can be used to gather information on how your visitors are using the website. From these analytics, you will be able to see the behaviour, content, specific entrances and exits, and the most common devices used when visiting your website.
Gathering all this information for review allows you to see which parts of the website need improving and which are performing successfully. For example, if a page has a high bounce rate (the metric recorded when a visitor lands on a page and interacts with nothing before leaving) then it more than likely means that content is not interesting and needs to be updated. The same goes for what devices are being used. If smartphones are the most common device used for visiting your website, then you need to make sure that design is just as responsive on mobile as on a laptop or desktop PC.
The popularity of smartphones is on the rise, meaning that your website can be accessed anytime, anywhere, from the user’s fingertips. Visitors expect to experience the same outcome and site speed on their mobile phones as they would on a laptop or desktop computer. Therefore, instead of spending hours creating a range of different web designs for all devices, organisations would be best placed to implement optimised designs that are responsive within a form factor (the size and shape of the device). Introducing user-optimised structures and layouts that work across different mobile phone and tablet devices, without prior implementation by the development team.
Every website must be accessible for everyone to use and there shouldn’t be any barriers preventing access, especially for people with disabilities. Any design created needs to be accommodating to anyone who visits the website - this is especially important for sight-related disabilities. The sort of content that should be involved in accessible design includes voice command, catering to screen readers and keyboard access-only, providing equal opportunities to visit your website without problems.
Designing your website and navigation around typical usage might seem ideal, but users will always find different routes to locate and navigate to content on the site. Implementing various test runs can help you figure out if everything is accessible from differing users' viewpoints. Ask your testers to visit the website as if they were searching from their living room. By performing these try-out runs, organisations can figure out how users prioritise the information they undertake on specific pages, helping you understand if you need less effort on certain pages and more resource on others in order to provide optimal customer satisfaction.
Every page on your website must be accessible to visitors in order to provide benefit. That’s why government sites need to follow in the footsteps of major organisations by utilising search engine optimisation techniques to make sure all pages are visible in search engine search results and clearly show the information they contain. Organisations can successfully do this by targeting local searches and strategically using keywords, descriptive page content, and clear language to make sure the government website can be identified by all users searching for local gov or council services.
Being a primary, reliable source for current events and news in the local area will be one of the main reasons why many users visit your website. All the content on your site should be easy to edit from a central CMS (Content Management System) ensuring it is easy to keep important information up to date. This will also make the process easier if you have multiple people contributing content to the site and you need to upload regular content to ensure the website remains interesting and informative for your audience.
Social media has rapidly grown in popularity in recent years and it’s not unusual to see users regularly on Facebook, Twitter and/or Instagram. Using these platforms as an additional avenue to keep your target audience up to date with the latest news and urgent information is pro-active and handy for local residents. Not only is social media on-trend, but these sites are some of the most highly visited on the internet and harnessing this will ensure that any information you need to share can be done so on the platforms that your visitors are using most.
It’s surprising how many local governments who already have a working website forget about the importance of easy to locate contact information for their users. Once you land on the homepage, you would usually see a pretty image of the town hall to show off the location, but as you explore further into the website, the importance of contact details have been buried. As a result, visitors can find them difficult to locate. Many government sites don’t understand just how useful a contact page can be and that it should be visible for everyone. Make sure your web design plan includes a single page featuring all the important contact details, including email addresses and phone numbers, which can be easily accessible and will improve the user experience on your website.
Are you looking to upgrade your local government website to suit your audience? These tips will help to improve the user experience on the website, ensure it is accessible for everyone, and lead to an increase in engagement.
Want some further guidance on government web design or looking for a knowledgeable, expert company who can create a fully responsive, optimised website for you? At i3MEDIA, we have created a number of excellently rated local gov websites. Find out more here or get in touch with our team who will be happy to answer your queries!