Does your government website look like it was released in 2003? Was it actually published in 2003? If you’re answering yes to one or either of these questions, it makes sense that you’re considering modernizing your government website. In an increasingly digital age, the majority of Americans not only understand how to use the Internet, but also expect public sector entities to offer an equal level of convenience to modern private-sector websites and applications. An antiquated website isn’t suited to make important information for your community-members easily accessible, let alone offer online applications for filing documents with your government.
Read on for helpful considerations to make when planning to improve the functionality, look, and accessibility of your government website.
Why Do Local Governments Need Modern Websites?
Whenever you have a question, what do you do? Most likely, you Google it. When you are considering making a purchase, where are you shopping? There’s a good chance you’re thinking of Amazon or another ecommerce website.
The honest reality is that the private-sector and consumers alike have fully embraced the digital world and continue to do so, while unfortunately the public-sector has been hesitant to innovate over the span of decades. As a result, most local governments have extremely outdated websites that
- prevent them from offering modern accessibility to public records (as required by federal and state open records laws)
- Are not intuitive for people that need to use it (which goes against ADA compliance requirements about websites.)
- Don’t allow you to offer online application filing for things like permitting, licensing, business registration, court document requests, and many others.
Learn more about the Keys to Local Government Innovation in the digital age.
What Aspects of Your Website’s Functionality Do You Need to Consider?
Understandably, jargon around building a functional website probably sounds like a foreign language to you as a government official. Here is common lingo related to building a website that your government needs to consider when working on your new site:
1. User Experience (UX):
What is UX?
UX can be described as, “all of the ways users interact with your site.” Users as it pertains to governance include
- Government employees & leadership
- Businesses that are private-sector partners or considering taking on government work.
- Anyone that visits your government website
Why Does UX Matter for County & Municipal Governments?
Think about your favorite websites or phone applications. They’re simple and easy to navigate so that you can get from the homepage to the particular web page you’re looking for. These websites have a great user experience.
The best government website designs have a similar approach. Whether they’re looking for a specific public record or need to file an application, having great UX will allow community-members and business representatives to do so in just a few clicks.
2. Website Architecture
What is Website Architecture?
Website architecture is the structure of your website. Whether they land on your homepage or any random page of a site, good website architecture makes it easy to navigate from any landing page to their ideal destination in just a few clicks.
Why Does Information Architecture Matter for Government Websites?
Local governments have a lot to cover on their websites, like resources, forms, public records, public events, and job listings. Your local government needs to give serious consideration to what’s included in your navigation menu, as well as how easy it is to access important information throughout the entirety of the website for community-members in critical need of applications and public records.
3. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
What is SEO?
Search engine optimization is the process of making improvements to a website with the goal of driving more clicks to a website from search engines like Google. While private businesses use Google to promote their goods and services, focusing on SEO as a local government can make it much easier for people to look up relevant information about your community.
Why is SEO Important for Local Governments?
Building relevant landing pages that address the following things will make it easier for people to find what they’re looking for when Googling things about your community:
- Application types
- Document requests
- Payments to your local government
- Upcoming events / public meetings
- Emergency alerts
- Helpful resources (like informative guides about disaster mitigation, COVID-19 information, invasive species, road closures / traffic advisory, emergency preparedness & response, etc.)
- Here’s an example of a helpful traffic advisory page that appears when a community-member Google’s “atlantic city road closure”
- Jobs in your local government
To improve your government website, efficient SEO tactics include having straightforward page titles and title tags (the title that appears on Google,) and links to / from helpful pages that are directly related. For example, a business registration form landing page can link to other related applications available on the website. This is a process known as internal linking.
How to Streamline Online Government Application & Fee-Collection Processes?
A great load of inefficiency in many local governments comes from either not offering online applications for things like permit applications, court record requests, and other prominent form types or having highly confusing website architectures and online application processes. Either way, you’ve likely got government clerks and administrators wasting hours helping people filing in-person or calling in for support filing an online application.
Luckily, cloud government software can become a direct extension of your government website, making intuitive applications for all of your citizens, local businesses, courthouses, clerk’s offices, inspection requests, and other common document types across government departments. Relevant fees for these various forms can be paid straight from your website with an integrated payment processing vendor of your choice.
Learn more about Government Software Solutions & Applications Across Departments as well as Local Government Fee & Fine Processing.
What Types of Applications Can Be Filed on Your Government Website?
Atlantic City, NJ is a perfect example of a locality that embraced local government digital transformation. Notice the “Online Forms / Payments” section of the navigation bar that makes it easy for community-members to access.
Here are various forms that can be made available on your .gov website with GovPilot:
- License types across the board including:
- Events in public locations (BBQs, protests, private parties & gatherings, etc.)
- Garage sales
- Taxi operator licenses
- Permit types across the board including:
- Construction permits (including fences, dumpsters, HVAC, etc.)
- Zoning permits
- Parking permits
- Short-term rental permits
- OPRA / open records requests (+ FOIA in NJ)
- Court record & appeal requests
- Business registration (including cannabis businesses)
- Job applications (and other government HR forms)
- Emergency reporting / complaint management
- Inspection requests (including health, building inspections, and any other inspection type offered in your community)
- Bids for public sector / private sector partnership opportunities
- Marina leases
Keep in mind, forms can be customizable to make any form type accessible from your government website in a simplified manner.
Making a Better Local Government Website
Your citizens deserve easy processes when it comes to using their local government’s website. That’s why if you’re still using a site that was designed 10 years ago (or earlier,) you’re doing them a disservice and making government workflows substantially more difficult for everyone involved.
Consider how you can make your website more functional for simplified processes when it comes to filing applications, accessing records and information, finding government job postings and more. Be sure to think about your user experience and SEO for a truly modernized government website, and to embrace government software for streamlined online applications.
To learn about how GovPilot can streamline your government permit and license applications and truly digitize your locality, book a free demo.
Improving Your Local Government Website FAQs
How to Find a Local Government Website Developer?
With a limited budget, you will need to do your due diligence to find a website developer that isn’t too pricey but has shown that they’re qualified to manage your government website re-build. Ask them for references and be sure to take a look at the functionality of their website navigation and whether or not the sites have a good user experience.
What Should Be Included on a Local Government Website?
Government websites need to offer resources, public records, general critical information, and announcements that pertain to your neighborhood and its residents. This information not only needs to be made accessible from your website, but should be easy to track down regardless of where a constituent lands on the website.
Are Online Forms on Government Websites Cyber-Secure?
A major benefit of embracing GovPilot government technology is that the software applications are stored in the cloud. Our cloud-based servers stored on Microsoft Azure are considerably more cyber secure than physical on-site servers used by many local governments.
Here are a few helpful government cybersecurity resources:
- Local Government Cybersecurity: Everything to Know
- How to Train Local Government Workers on Cybersecurity
- Why the Cloud is Safer Than Physical On-Site Servers for Local Governments
Why Does Local Government SEO Matter?
Oftentimes, Google rewards websites implementing SEO best practices with helpful landing pages are rewarded with high-rankings in popular Google Searches or even a Featured Snippet that puts the relevant information from your site right at the top of a Google result.
By creating informative landing pages about local news, resources, etc., community-members will be able to access critical information from your local government straight from the Google search results.
What Should Be Included in Your Local Government Website Navigation Menu?
The navigation menu is the list of options featured at the top of the screen on any website (government or otherwise.) To improve the functionality of your website, you’ll need to give serious consideration to the various “buckets” that different types of information and website pages fall into. Typically, government websites feature online applications, payments, resident resources / how to's, job listings, departments, as well as contact info in their navigation. Consider which questions arise most and which service / resource types are most in demand to be accessible from your government website. Those topics should be at the forefront of your website in the navigation menu.
- Local Government Accountability: Operating a Truly Ethical Local Government
- Modern Government Trends, Events, & Technology
- Tornado Mitigation & Disaster Plan
- Wildfire Mitigation & Disaster Plan
- Local Government Disaster Preparedness Guide
- Continuity of Government: Government Procedures During a Crisis
- Government Cybersecurity: How to Prevent Ransomware Attacks
- Local Government Automation: Benefits of Going Digital
- Government Blockchain: How Local Government Can Use Crypto
- How Local Governments Can Encourage Civic Engagement
- How Do Online Permitting Systems Work?
- What is GovTech? Everything to Know About Government Technology
- Best Software for Government Procurement
- Building Inspections 101: How Municipalities Can Improve Public Safety
- Municipal Planning: Reclaiming Your City Streets