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.

Google Public Data Explorer adds Census Bureau data, state government statistics

Last month, the Google Public Data Explorer went public. Today, Google added U.S. Census Bureau and state government finance statistics to the database, allowing everyone to gain new insight into our present.

The numbers may be beautifully displayed but they tell a grim tale when it comes to state budgets. The crisis in state budgets across the country will be the primary driver for the adoption of new approaches to governance and service delivery in 2011. If Gov 2.0 goes local, citizensourcing smarter government couldn’t come at a more timely moment.

State of Minnesota Moves to Microsoft’s Cloud for Collaboration

This morning, the state of Minnesota announced that it would use Microsoft’s private cloud computing technology as a platform for its collaboration software. Microsoft’s blog post reasonably Minnesota’s move to the cloud as an “historic first.” Given that the state’s press release, embedded below, describes it the same way, that’s not unfair. Details have yet to emerge on the security or privacy requirements that the Redmond-based software giants signed to gain the customer but, as the release notes, “the move makes Minnesota the first U.S. state to move to a large collaboration and communication suite in a private cloud environment.”

While federal, state and local government entities have used Amazon, Google Apps or Salesforce.com, today’s news at least adds Microsoft’s offerings into the conversation. The implementation will likely deploy the Windows Azure platform to deliver Microsoft’s Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS).

“As states battle growing deficits, they are continually being asked to do more with less,” said Gopal Khanna, Minnesota’s State Chief Information Officer in a prepared statement. “Rethinking the way we manage our digital infrastructure centrally, to save locally across all units of government, is a crucial part of the solution. The private sector has utilized technological advancements like cloud computing to realize operational efficiencies for some time now. Government must follow suit.”

Not all reactions are quite as optimistic, however, particularly with respect to reduced costs. “I forsee short term gain,” tweeted researcher Simon Wardley, “large future exit costs, increased consumption, no long term reduction in IT expenditure.”

Why no long term reductions in state IT expenditures by going to Microsoft’s private cloud?

“See Jevons’ paradox,” Wardley replied. “Causes are co-evolution, long tail of demand, componentisation and increased innovation. In other words, you’ll just end up doing more. Countries & States are in competition with each other … not just firms. It’s not MSFT specific, it’s general to all clouds. The ‘cloud will save you money’argument forgets consumption effects. You might as well argue that Moore’s law should have reduced IT expenditure. [Cloud will] reduce your costs if your workload stays the same but alas it won’t, it’ll increase for the reasons previously listed.”

State of Minnesota Signs Historic Cloud Computing Agreement With M 092710090511 MN BPOS Announcement Releas… http://d1.scribdassets.com/ScribdViewer.swf