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June 8, 2009

The New Utah.gov – Why it rocks, and what we can learn from it

In this post: Utah’s Website gets a makeover – Is it first-class or second-rate? …

Jaimy SzymanskiThe State of Utah officially launched its new Website today and, let me say, if you haven’t yet taken a look – do so right now: http://www.utah.gov/.

Now that we’re all on the same page, if you’re like me, you were probably floored at the unveiling of a site that looks more like a Web 2.0 community and far less like the predictably ‘safe'(with a circa 1998 founding) government agency Website.

Attractive, rotating banner imagery.
Flash-based, scrolling iconography.
Navigation that’s chock-full of social, mobile and technology tools.

(Pretty sure I can stop here, and it’s already trumping 80 percent of the sites on the Web at this point – both government and non- included).

The launch of the new-and-improved Utah.gov Website delivers on a few key marketing and Web design messages:

  1. You’re never trapped in a stereotype. Go ahead and break the mold. Government sites may be known for mediocre design or dated technology, but that doesn’t mean that it’s the most effective route to reaching today’s Web-savvy constituent. Utah.gov recognized its customers’ need for interaction on multiple platforms and executed its vision in a stunningly successful template design.
  2. Users expect cross-channel connection. Deliver the options, or expect a swift exit. The first thing visible on Utah.gov’s home page is an intriguing set of multimedia symbols. From an iPhone icon to find mobile applications, to an RSS feed emblem, you immediately get a sense of Utah’s commitment to a progressive Web 2.0-centered online experience. By putting these options for connectivity with its agency front-and-center, the site allows for its users to choose how and where they connect with the State of Utah – on their own terms, dependant on their own media preferences.
  3. Customization is key to prolonged and repeat site use. Although the site’s default location is set to Salt Lake City, users from other areas can change the event screen simply by entering their own zip code into the nearby navigation bar. Voila – Utah.gov then transforms, albeit discreetly, into a more personal version of the site. Now, a user may want to return to check on upcoming events that apply directly to their area, rather than reading consistently generic or area-ambiguous Utah Web copy or event listings. Not to mention, with navigation to the State’s departments at the forefront, you can bet time spent on the site searching out relevant information will skyrocket.
  4. User-generated content is important, even if it is just search terms. My last post on connecting e-mail to social media touched on the importance of crowd-sourcing your content to increase read-through by your customers. Although it’s not apparent at this point if Utah.gov plans to call on its visitors to generate/contribute to site content, listing its most popular search terms on the home page is a good start.
  5. Finally, good design goes a long way. Had Utah.gov used the same exact copy, tools and multimedia features on a Website designed half as beautifully, I may not even be writing this post. The site’s overall flow, navigation and appearance make visiting it a true experience in the era of Gov 2.0.

Since you all have now taken a look (You have, right? Again, it’s http://www.utah.gov/ – Go there – now – please and thank you), I’d love to hear your thoughts. What do you think makes it stand out amongst other governmental agency sites? How do you think its features can be applied to other industries?

I think it’s a great start to a fresh Web presence for the State of Utah. Now, all that’s missing is a few social elements. Add a couple sharp bloggers with a multi-platform comment capability for visitors, article or page-specific forums, and the ability to create a custom ‘My Utah’ profile, and I’d be content.

(See, it doesn’t take that much to make me happy -. right?) 😉