The internet has only been available to the public for about the last 30 years but it has already drastically changed the world. Online services continue to shape the landscape of the way people communicate and how information is transferred. Accessing different websites is now one of the main ways people get their news, check their bank accounts, talk to friends, and so much more.
The purpose of a government website is a little bit different from most other sites though.
Today, there are nearly 2 billion websites online, with thousands that belong to different government agencies and organizations. Unfortunately, local governments that have been slow to adapt and update their websites, may not make a very good first impression on citizens visiting their site.
This is just one of the reasons why it’s important to have an effective government website. In fact, your organization’s website is one of the most crucial tools you have for meeting the needs of citizens and connecting with your community. These things are arguably the main purpose of a government website, and effective websites do both exceptionally well.
Hopefully, your agency already has a good understanding of the purpose of a government website and designed it with that purpose in mind. Regardless, there’s always room for improvement. Additionally, if you are a new agency, you’ll want to have an effective website and give the community a positive first impression when they visit.
Here are some things to consider when reviewing your website strategy or outlining a new one:
Make Information Easy to Find
Government websites aren’t important just because of the information and services they provide to citizens. They’re also important because most citizens would rather go online and look for information rather than pick up the phone or go somewhere to get what they need. It can even be said that finding information is the purpose of a government website in the minds of citizens. This makes it crucial to not only have a wealth of information available online but to make it easily accessible.
Ease of Obtaining Services
The health measures resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic limited person-to-person contact and meant businesses in practically every industry had to make services available digitally. As a result, many people now expect to at least have the option of digital services. Pandemic withstanding, citizens would much rather pay their utility bill, apply for a permit, or renew a license online rather than having to call and spend time on hold. Therefore, a government website should enable citizens to accomplish things quickly and to easily access the services they need.
Design With Mobile in Mind
Mobile devices accounted for 54.4% of all website traffic in 2021, so it’s safe to assume that more than half of citizens will be visiting your agency’s website on a device like a smartphone. Whether it’s accessed via a smartphone or computer, the purpose of a government website remains the same, so it’s essential to ensure the services and information on your website are just as easily accessible for mobile users as they are for desktop users.
Even when you try and make sure information can easily be found, some people still might not find what they’re looking for soon enough and get frustrated. To spare them the long wait on the phone to get a simple question answered, adding a chat bubble to your organization’s website can help. The chat can be attended to during normal work hours by one of your staff so citizens can get quick and simple answers to their questions.
Give citizens an option to sign up for text or email alerts whenever there is severe weather, traffic accidents, hazardous road conditions, evacuations, or other emergency events. This won’t only help keep citizens informed of the latest information, but it can help more people get to safety faster in the event of an emergency.
Add a Feedback Gathering Tool
The purpose of a government website is defined by the needs of its citizens, meaning your agency’s website strategy should have a way to gather feedback from citizens so they feel heard and know they have a convenient way to voice their concerns.