This article was originally posted on the USAGov blog. Claire Loxsom is a Program Analyst on USAGov’s Content and Outreach team. All government agencies have a common goal: to serve the public. As the front door to government information and services, we help agencies achieve this goal. We strive to make it easier for the public to find what they need by aggregating and disseminating information about government programs and services.
This past year, I led an effort to redesign the staff Intranet site for the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). After months of surveying, planning, and testing (see the part 1 blog post, How Do You Redesign a ‘Dinosaur’? Redesigning an Intranet Site: the Beginning Stages), the site was launched in Fall 2017. I learned several helpful lessons along the way that I wanted to share:
My team at the Federal Reserve is about to launch our first style guide and now that we have gone through the process and created this valuable resource, I can’t imagine creating another app or website without it. Here’s why your team needs a style guide and lessons learned from our experience. CFPB Design Manual, Page Components: A pair of 50/50 image and text components, as seen on a landing page template.
This post was originally published on the USA.gov blog. An agency information sharing exercise to improve the customer experience, as related to the Office of Products and Programs’ Information Exchange Project Some people experience challenges navigating government services – especially if they need to work with more than one agency. Based on this premise, we set out to find out how agencies could share information with one another to improve the customer experience.
The team behind the U.S. Web Design Standards (the Standards) held their first Ask Me Anything (AMA), in August, to answer questions from their public Slack channel community. There was great excitement in the channel leading up to the chat, and more than 40 new people joined the already robust community of federal, state and local government, higher education, industry, nonprofit, and U.K. and Canada government officials that are interested in working with–and growing–the Standards.
This post was originally published on the USA.gov blog. After our content team moved to a more agile method of working, we also started to look at the metrics we use to measure the success of our work. To help us with that, our analytics team developed a new metric we’re experimenting with called the content efficiency metric. This metric is a key performance indicator (KPI) that we’re hoping can help guide our content decisions.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and Meals on Wheels America have created multilingual educational resources about financial scams that target the elderly which can be easily distributed to seniors in the communities they serve, and downloaded or ordered in bulk for free by the general public. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) Consumer Education & Engagement division offers a variety of financial education resources and tools. Our Office for Older Americans specifically strives to find the resources that best meet the needs of older adults in America age 62 and older.
The USDA’s multilingual FoodKeeper app has been updated to include three options for receiving food recall updates and expands storage timelines to over 500 products. This post was originally published on the USDA blog. The Department of Agriculture (USDA) today announced new updates to its popular FoodKeeper application that will provide users with new access to information on food safety recalls. The app has been updated so users can choose to receive automatic notifications when food safety recalls are announced by USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) and the Department of Health and Human Service’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
At HIV.gov, we’re often asked if videos are effective tools for communicating HIV prevention and treatment information. Our experience, the work of our partners, and current research continue to support the use of video for informing and empowering individuals. Using video as part of a comprehensive communication strategy can increase the engagement and effectiveness of the health messages. Recent data report: Video is an extremely popular format for content delivery 45% of people watch more than an hour of Facebook or YouTube videos a week.
Merriam-Webster officially defines a meme as “an idea, behavior, style, or usage that spreads from person to person within a culture.” But these days, most of us think of memes as those viral posts online that convey a message using a photo with text. They range from funny to serious to offensive, and everything in between. Sometimes they include a call to action, and other times they focus on creating an emotion.
This month’s Plain Language of Community Practice meeting featured Katherine Spivey’s presentation, Plain Language Spectrum: Every Step Counts! In this highly useful DigitalGov University (DGU) webinar, she explains how you can move forward with plain language even when you don’t have permission to edit copy, followed by a half hour Q & A session. Many people don’t get plain language (also known as plain communication or plain writing) right the very first time, but through practice, can gain clarity and improve their plain language skills.
After recently celebrating our Fifth Birthday and logo update, the FedRAMP PMO is excited to announce a few more changes to our website in the form of a new blog series and newly created Tips & Cues page. In the interest of communicating information about how to best work with FedRAMP regularly, we will be introducing a series of multi-part blogs. These series will be published weekly, in addition to any programmatic updates that occur.
Many know that digital tools have become indispensable for connecting with many audiences—but we also know that what’s available in the digital realm is always changing. So how do you know what tools are best for your purpose? And how do you plan for your organization’s digital future when the pace of change is so rapid? Recently, we asked colleagues what advice they would give for developing a digital media strategy.
Keeping the customer’s needs front and center is important when developing new digital tools. We recently developed a set of user personas as part of our work to establish a more robust—and data informed—understanding of the individuals that engage digitally with the National Archives (NARA). User personas are fictional, but realistic representations of key audience segments that are grounded in research and data. We recently applied customer data from a variety of sources including website analytics and online surveys to inform the creation of eight personas that represent our digital customers: Researchers, Veterans, Genealogists, Educators, History Enthusiasts, Curious Nerds, Museum Visitors, and Government Stakeholders.
“Hey, Computer, how do I access my public services?” Citizens will soon be able to ask their Intelligent Personal Assistants (IPA) this question through an Emerging Citizen Technology open-sourced pilot program. The purpose of the initiative is to guide dozens of federal programs make public service information available through automated, self-service platforms for the home and office such as Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Microsoft Cortana and Facebook Messenger. Last week, participants from more than a dozen federal agencies, both in D.
Last week, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) unveiled their new website at FEC.gov. This new site is the result of a years-long collaboration with GSA’s 18F and features completely revamped tools for exploring campaign finance data. It provides user-centered content for understanding the reporting and compliance requirements for people participating in federal elections, redesigned tools for exploring legal resources, and more. Why it matters On the agency’s “About the FEC” page, it says, “The FEC was created to promote confidence and participation in the democratic process.
Helping patients manage chronic pain has become an increasing challenge for health care providers, particularly in the face of an ongoing opioid epidemic in the United States. In response, the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has made funding research on integrative health approaches to pain management—exploring which approaches can be implemented as part of an overall treatment strategy—a research priority.
This post was originally published on the U.S. Department of Labor Blog. They say that life can be summed up as the process of a series of doors closing. By that, they mean that opportunities for taking different paths start to disappear as you move through life. It’s a logical sentiment, but there’s an obverse to it. When you’re young, all those doors are open. Doors as far as you can see.
Twitter is more than just a platform for sharing news and updates: it can be a tool for directly communicating with your community and understanding what is important to them. One way you can connect with your Twitter audience is by hosting a Twitter Chat. They can be a good way to discuss key topics, raise awareness, and exchange knowledge and resources between you and the community. Several HIV organizations host Twitter chats on health topics, during HIV awareness days relevant to their community, and/or during HIV/AIDS conferences.
Spring is a beautiful time of year in Washington, D.C. The temperature warms up; the cherry blossoms are out; and we frequently have an update of Congress.gov to share. In 2015 we added treaties and web-friendly bill text, and in 2016 we expanded the quick search feature. Today there is another round of enhancements to the Library of Congress website for tracking Congressional activity. The big new item in this release is the ability to download your search results to a CSV (comma separated values) file.
MedlinePlus is a consumer health website produced by the U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM), available in both English and Spanish. As part of our Search Engine Optimization (SEO) strategy, we recently added meta descriptions to our health topic pages. A meta description is a short HTML attribute in the head tag that describes the contents of a web page. When the meta description is not available or is poorly written, search engines automatically generate their own version to describe what is on a web page.
Related Event: Create Once, Publish Everywhere Applied—HHS Content Models and Portability, Tuesday, April 18, 2017; register here. Create Once, Publish Everywhere (COPE) The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) is sharing its content models and their related Drupal features for you to use on your sites. A content model is a representation of types of content and their inter-relationships. Content modeling takes content items and breaks them down into smaller structures, called content types.
How do we choose color in digital design? In print, we have the Pantone fan and what you see is what you get — as long as your printer is color calibrated. With computer monitors, one does not get such precision, even within one office. So how much time and effort do you spend on color selection? What you select could be your agency or office standard for the next five, ten or one hundred years!
On visiting The Great Inka Road: Engineering an Empire exhibition at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, it is impossible not be taken by the sheer scale of the Inka Road. Qhapaq Ñan, or the Road of the Inka, is a 25,000-mile long road system that fed the rapid expansion of the Inka Empire in the 14th and 15th centuries. It connected distant towns and settlements in the Andes, snaking up and down mountains, bridging impossible valleys, and traversing lush agricultural fields and terraces.
The Information Technology & Innovation Foundation (ITIF) recently published a report, Benchmarking U.S. Government Websites, that looks at the performance, security, and accessibility of the top 297 government websites. ITIF is a think tank in Washington, D.C. whose mission is to formulate, evaluate, and promote policy solutions that accelerate innovation in technology and public policy. Over the past 90 days, government websites were visited over 2.55 billion times. According to the Analytics Dashboard, 43.
Along with the New Year comes new buzzwords. Here are some that you are certain to hear about and see this year. Chatbot Short for ”chat robot,” a chatbot is a computer program that simulates human conversation, or chat, through artificial intelligence. They are commonly found on web sites and used to communicate with a person—you might have seen them on shopping sites as a customer service assistant. One well known example of a chatbot is ALICE (short for Artificial Linguistic Computer Entity), an open source, natural language chatbot that relies on artificial intelligence for human interaction.
We naturally gravitate towards story-telling. It’s part of our human nature that began thousands of years ago, well before the written word. We want to pass down our history and cultures, and we do this by telling stories because they resonate with us. Stories tap into our emotions. They make us feel. They move us to action. When we talk about the centennial of World War I, we have to make it personal for the American public, or else we run the risk of forgetting this war.
We at DigitalGov want to hear more about you – your job, your role, the challenges you face — all of it — as you work to deliver more secure, effective, and reliable digital services for the public. We are going to start holding user-research sessions with our readers who work in the federal government. This will be a big part of how we listen to and learn about those who are providing the public with better services and what their core needs are.
Regardless of the platform, industry or niche, you became a social media influencer in one of two ways: adopting early or promoting great content. Early adopters are willing to gamble on a new platform, try an untested strategy or set precedent for other users. The risk is in the understanding that they could fail publicly. The rewards, though, are equally large: the ability to amass a large and active following, build relationships with other key influencers, and succeed in a space that is equally forgiving of a short-term failure.
The Road to Launch Version 1.0 You may have noticed a new, cleaner, and more modern look to some government websites over the last year—these are the web properties that were early adopters of the Draft U.S. Web Design Standards from 18F, the digital services agency which is part of the General Services Administration (GSA). The Standards are located at https://standards.usa.gov, with helpful links to the individual UI components, design principles, and page templates.
DigitalGov University (DGU), the events platform for DigitalGov, provides programming to build and accelerate digital capacity by providing webinars and in-person events highlighting innovations, case studies, tools, and resources. Thanks to your participation, DGU hosted over 90 events with 6,648 attendees from over 100 agencies across federal, tribal, state, and local governments. DGU strives to provide training throughout the year that is useful and relevant to you. One of the most resounding comments from digital managers last year was people wanted to be able to attend all of our classes virtually.
One of the great challenges in designing a product — digital or otherwise — is stepping outside yourself and climbing into the minds of your users. You love the wonderful new app you’ve designed, but will it appeal to others? Fortunately, the field of user experience design (UX) gives us tools to understand our users through surveys, interviews, card sorting, and user testing. The Smithsonian Institution’s Office of Policy and Analysis has another tool to consider for your UX toolbox: IPOP.
As part of USAGov’s efforts to provide our audience with the reliable and quality information that they need, this summer, the Health, Education & Benefits (HE&B) topic desk completed its first content audit. Methodology and Results Data informed every step we took. In order to determine which areas to focus on first, the desk gathered data from four distinct sources: the Contact Center’s usage of our content to answer customers’ inquiries; site analytics; content inventory and review; and website survey comments.
Every first week of every month, USAGov’s marketing team sends an office-wide email newsletter to give an update on past and current marketing efforts and campaigns. It’s how we try to help keep the rest of the office in the know. The monthly newsletter can spur a content idea, a future marketing endeavor, and act as a reminder of what’s coming up that month that contributors need to be aware of.
Guidance for Contributing Digital Content to FDsys (govinfo) is now available on FDLP.gov. Federal Information Preservation Network (FIPNet) digital imaging partners now have guidance documentation for creating and contributing digitally-imaged U.S. Government content to Federal Digital System (FDsys)/govinfo*. The guidance specifications are based on current best practices from the Federal Agency Digitization Guidelines Initiative and the Association for Library Collections and Technical Services “Minimum Digitization Capture Recommendations.” The Guidance document is provided to encourage libraries and other stakeholders to contribute digitally-imaged Federal publications to FDsys (govinfo) to increase access to legacy and historic U.
If you were to perform research on the value proposition of training videos, you would notice that opinions are split on their efficacy. Despite all the tools that are out there that can help you evaluate video quality, views, and drop-off, there are some things that should be considered in the analysis of your organization’s videos. As a member of the Service Design practice at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), I was tasked with a research project evaluating how non-consumers interact with the CFPB in regards to complaint data.
In a move to win back users and improve the company’s image, Twitter introduced quality filters in August. They followed this move in November with an option to mute certain words. These changes will have larger ramifications for federal agencies, who will need to focus on quality of content in order to retain their audience base and reach. In recent statement on the change, Twitter promised that the filters would “improve the quality of Tweets you see by using a variety of signals, such as account origin and behavior.
Recently, OMB released M 17-06, Policies for Federal Agency Public Websites and Digital Services, which provides agencies with requirements, standards, and best practices for federal websites and digital services. This new policy might have some of us reflecting on our websites and applications to make sure we are in compliance. This task might seem overwhelming, but the following methodology might just serve as a much needed guide. Recently, we interviewed Sara Wachter-Boettcher, author of Content Everywhere: Strategy and Structure for Future-Ready Content.
Summary: How to leverage your resources to reach Spanish-dominant Hispanics online. A recent DigitalGov University (DGU) webinar provided an introduction to the intersection of two teams with different audiences reaching consensus on goals to maximize insight and outreach effectiveness. Social Media Outreach Goals What does social media outreach success look like? Success is when agencies and stakeholders have developed relationships that support each other’s social media and digital campaigns.
I recently interviewed Daniel Kuhns, Web Manager at FEMA, about the site widgets and the FEMA app his organization has been developing. The widgets currently available include: FEMA App, Preparedness, Severe Weather, Private Sector, Kids Fire Safety, and Are you a Disaster Survivor. The FEMA App offers many features such as weather alerts, safety reminders, shelter information and contact information. This information can be very helpful in times of an emergency, and some of it, to include the safety tips, are available offline.
In April, Facebook made it possible for organizations to use chatbots to send and receive messages from users of Facebook Messenger. That’s a big deal. Facebook Messenger is now used by 900 million people every month. As the name implies, it’s a messaging platform that people use to send short messages to each other through the app. It’s the most popular messaging app in the U.S, and the second most popular of those apps worldwide, behind only WhatsApp (which Facebook also owns).
Cancer clinical trials are a critically important step on the pathway for new or improved treatments to make their way to patients in clinics and hospitals in towns and cities across the country. Patients and their loved ones are relying on these rigorous studies to determine whether promising new therapies and approaches might extend how long they live or improve their quality of life. For many years, a steady number of patients with cancer, approximately 5%, have participated in cancer clinical trials.
This has been an exciting and successful year for Congress.gov. We accomplished a major milestone when we retired THOMAS in July. Over the course of 2016, we completed a number of enhancements to Congress.gov. In April we expanded quick search to include the Congressional Record, Committee Reports, Nominations, Treaty Documents, and Communications. In May we launched several new RSS feeds and email alerts and added saved search email alerts soon after in June.
In honor of Veterans Day, several VA mobile apps are featured this week in the Apple App Store. In the “For Those Who Serve” collection of resources, Veterans can find the latest military news, essential health and wellness information, and other valuable tools for everyday life. The highlighted VA apps are designed to help Veterans manage their physical and mental health. They are part of a larger suite of VA apps that connect Veterans to essential resources and expand care outside of the VA Medical Center.
I recently asked some friends—a group of intelligent, successful individuals—what they knew about World War I. The responses I received included, “Ummm…..it was in the 1910s?” or “Started in Europe when the archduke was killed?” Beyond this, it’s mostly blank stares and shoulder shrugs. People who consider themselves history geeks might mention President Woodrow Wilson’s 14 Points, or the creation of the League of Nations, but for many Americans, World War I is a forgotten war.
We all do it. Whether on Twitter, Facebook, or the comment section on a news article, it’s easy to get our writing on the internet. Many of us have personal websites or contribute to blogs. We work at organizations with content management systems that allow us to publish pages with a single button click. The fact that it’s so easy to publish content can trick us into thinking it’s equally easy to write useful content.
Daily imagery data taken by the Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera is now accessible via a RESTful API available from the NASA API Portal. The Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera (EPIC) is an instrument aboard NOAA’s DSCOVR satellite, which orbits at Earth’s Lagrange point, the sweet spot in space where the gravitational tug of the Earth and the Sun is equal. This allows DSCOVR to maintain a stable position between the Earth and Sun and thus a continuous view of the sunlit side of Earth.
Summary: Take a look at how we plan to preserve and pass on the digital history of the Obama administration. President Obama is the first “social media president”: the first to have @POTUS on Twitter, the first to go live on Facebook from the Oval Office, the first to answer questions from citizens on YouTube, the first to use a filter on Snapchat. Over the past eight years, the President, Vice President, First Lady, and the White House have used social media and technology to engage with people around the country and the world on the most important issues of our time (while having some fun along the way).
Trends on Tuesdays: Mobile Phone Camera Upgrades Offer Interesting Opportunities for Government Agencies
Professional photographer and early “iPhonography” pioneer, Chase Jarvis coined the phrase, “The best camera is the one that’s with you.” The recent jumps in mobile phone photo technology presents interesting opportunities for government agencies to consider as mobile phone cameras are starting to rival and surpass professional gear. When Google and Apple both announced their annual flagship phone upgrades this past month, the Pixel XL and iPhone 7 Plus, respectively, the most talked about and touted features were the cameras.
Infographics are a useful tool for communicators to share complex data and information in a quick, easy-to-read format. Infographics can be beautifully designed works of art, pulling in a reader through storytelling and visual entertainment. And like art, infographics can be large, epic works, or small treasures. While a massive infographic immediately arrests due to its overwhelming data content and creative approach, sometimes it can still fall flat by just being plain overwhelming.
In December, I plan to write two postings detailing a scenario analysis for the next ten years of the Federal government’s data technologies. Governments are on the cusp of amazing technological advances propelled by artificial intelligence, blockchain technologies, and the Internet of Things. Also, governments will face new challenges such as the recent global cyber attack that took down Twitter and Netflix. I want to invite you, the reader, to also send in your predictions for the future of Federal government data.
As you know, over the last few years DigitalGov has surfaced the innovative advancements many are making across the government space while providing a platform for learning best practices and coming together as a community. Over the course of the next few weeks, a small team from 18F and Office of Products and Programs are working on reimagining a future DigitalGov and DigitalGov University. We are looking to talk to a few readers of DigitalGov.
We recently interviewed Sara Wachter-Boettcher, author of Content Everywhere: Strategy and Structure for Future-Ready Content. Sara, a frequent conference speaker, runs a content strategy consultancy, and is the co-author of Design for Real Life. She has extensive experience consulting with major brands, universities, agencies, nonprofits, and others to make their content more memorable, manageable, and sustainable. How would you describe structured content? Most content on the web is unstructured, meaning it’s just a page with blobs of text on it.
Imagine this – a go-to member of your organization just retired, a furlough is approaching, and now no one knows what to do. What communications need to go out? Who is considered ‘excepted’? Can the daycare center stay open? In the absence of mind-melds, how do you make expert knowledge easily accessible to newer team members? The Strategic Initiatives Group (SIG) at the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) Office of Human Resources was confronted with the specific challenge of how to transfer complicated programs to new owners with no familiarity, so their team decided to build a tool to solve their specific problem and a host of others along the way.
Anyone engaged in content marketing or content production probably owns a robust editorial calendar. A calendar that is quickly updated, helps keep deadlines and is flexible can serve as a helpful blueprint of your content activities for the year. At USAGov we cover a lot of topics and partner with many agencies. Having an editorial calendar has helped us in a variety of ways, from staying on top of deadlines and deliverables, to giving us the space to focus on the topics that resonate best with our audiences.
This post is written by Jeannie Chen, Mary King, and Hilary Parkinson and is part of our ongoing series about our social media strategy. We welcome comments from staff, other cultural institutions, and the public, and will continue to update the strategy as a living document. When we introduced NARA’s new social media strategy in August, we called it a living document. But what does that mean? We wanted it to be the most relevant and up-to-date framework to guide our social media efforts, and to evolve as we worked.
A few weeks ago, Progressive Web Applications, Part 1: the New Pack Mule of the Internet _introduced PWAs and the technologies behind them. We shared that article to the MobileGov Community of Practice and asked about the pros and cons of this approach to winning mobile moments._ What Are Some Benefits of PWAs? PWAs bring a host of advantages over the traditional native mobile and Web methodologies including:
Come out and join us on Saturday, October 22, 2016 from 10:00 am – 5:00 pm for a Wikipedia Edit-a-thon on Gender Equality in the Innovation Hub at the National Archives Building in Washington, DC. Register for this event today! Help us improve Wikipedia entries related to gender equality with the National Archives and Records Administration. You do not need to have prior experience editing Wikipedia. During the event we will have an introduction to editing Wikipedia and a discussion of World War I Nurses and Red Cross records in the National Archives.
As localities struggle with issues such as the Zika virus and the Opioid epidemic, gathering and disseminating trustworthy information can be daunting. But one group of Federal agencies and offices have come together to create a free and easy way to incorporate public health web content, images, video, microsites, data, and infographics into other sites, apps, and social media. Digital media syndication of science-based resources from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) can be combined with your ongoing activities and can help coordinate health messaging for maximum impact and reach.
As any experienced retailer will tell you, the customer experience begins at the store entrance. Note the friendly Walmart greeter, the approachable minimalism of an Apple Store, and the calculated whimsy of Anthropologie. Store designers understand that a customer’s decision to make a purchase is often made within seconds of entering. The same holds true for visitors entering a museum. And while most museums are not expert peddlers of merchandise (though some museum stores certainly are), the savvy ones value the entrance experience and work to iterate and improve.
Here is the outline for our 2016 Open Government Plan. Let us know what you think. We’ve also posted this on GitHub/NASA for your comments: https://github.com/nasa/Open-Gov-Plan-v4. NASA and Open Government NASA is an open government agency based on the founding legislation in the National Aeronautics and Space Act of 1958, which calls for participation and sharing in the conduct of how we go about the business of expanding the frontiers of knowledge, advancing understanding of the universe, and serving the American public.
One year ago this week, we launched vote.gov (also known as vote.usa.gov). It’s a concise and simple site with a single mission: direct citizens through the voter registration process as quickly as possible. It was created by a joint team of USA.gov staffers and Presidential Innovation Fellows, all of whom work within the General Services Administration (GSA). Did it work? Yes. In fact, it worked so well that Facebook made it the destination for their 2016 voter registration drive.
What does Snapchat, the disappearing message-and-video platform most used by teenagers, have to do with government outreach and communications programs? Well, Snapchat has quickly become an incredibly effective digital storytelling medium, and content creators across multiple government agencies have adopted it as an important part of their programs. A recent New York Times article described how nearly 35 million users in the United States watched highlights and stories from the Summer Olympics on Snapchat.
Earlier this year, it was predicted that content marketing would become even more important due to its ability to enhance not just visibility, but also increase engagement with customers—who could, in turn, become great promoters of your content. Needless to say, much of our time these days as communicators is spent on developing, distributing, maximizing, and repurposing content. In the recent blog post, 15 Content Marketing Trends for 2016, it is noted that the “average American spends nearly four hours a day bombarded with different types of content.
Hi there, DigitalGov! Have you looked in vain for quality animated GIFs from a reputable source? Have your searches left you annoyed and frustrated because you can’t find a GIF with properly attributed and sourced content? Wondering what you can do and where to look? Come on over to the new Giphy channel from the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA)! We’ve opened our vault to reveal dozens of animated GIFs ready to share and use.
We are fortunate to meet amazing immigrants every day and share in their immigration journeys. Now we have a unique opportunity to share their stories with the world using Instagram. Today, we launched our Instagram account under the handle @USCIS and @USCIS_ES (Spanish version) and will share photos, graphics and videos to highlight our vital work. Our Instagram handle joins our popular Facebook and Twitter accounts. Instagram differs from Facebook and Twitter by being visually focused with photos and minimal captions.
****A mule is the hybrid offspring of a male donkey and a horse. This new species is stronger and better equipped than the species from which it comes. Overall, mules tend to be healthier, more sound, and live longer than horses. They are favored over horses in mountainous terrain because the mule has a reputation for being more surefooted than their equine cousins. Finally, mules do not require expensive grains, eat less and don’t tend to overeat as horses do.
Many content managers in the digital world understand the irrepressible desire to improve, fix, edit, add, and move things around. It’s our job, after all, to nurture the ongoing process of creating, updating, and testing. But, there are those sites or pages that never seem to make it to the high-priority list. For our Web team, this was our Center’s staff Intranet site. Our Web team recognized that the Intranet was in need of attention.
Social Security joins you and your family in celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs from September 15 to October 15. We know the contributions of Hispanics can be traced to before the origins of the United States with the discovery, exploration, and naming of many places in our nation, such as state names like California, Colorado, and Texas and city names like San Antonio, Santa Barbara, and Boca Raton. Hispanics have influenced every facet of life, from language to our cultural development.
No Longer an Idea of the Future, Artificial Intelligence Is Here and You Are Probably Already Using It
It might surprise some of you to know that artificial intelligence (AI) is already in use and a routine part of our daily lives, but we leverage this technology when we use our smartphones or other devices to ask Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana, Google Now, or Amazon’s Alexa a question to get the facts or data we are looking for. Using your voice, you can say, “Where’s the nearest gas station?
Suddenly, digital video is everywhereon your social timelines. As a government storyteller, you may be overwhelmed about all the tools available and all of the features each publishing platform has to offer. Facebook, Twitter and SnapChat all offer great video platforms that are free and easy to use, plus they make it easy for you to market to your social followers on those respective platforms. When most people think of Google, they often think of the search engine, but Google also has been on the forefront of creating media and research tools, metric suites and content presentation platforms for years.
September is National Preparedness Month. FEMA’s Ready.gov is encouraging everyone to plan how they would stay safe and communicate during disasters that can affect their communities. Additionally, Ready.gov is encouraging full participation in America’s PrepareAthon! and the national day of action, National PrepareAthon! Day, which culminates National Preparedness Month on September 30. These days, you probably use social media to update your audience on what you are doing, share an interesting article or two, and catch up on the day’s news.
We are working hard to serve you and continue to make improvements to Emma, our Spanish-speaking Interactive Virtual Assistant. Help us improve Emma’s knowledge by continuing to ask your immigration-related questions on USCIS.gov/es from any device. This blog will help you understand a little bit more about how Emma works and how you can help her serve you better. Our Interactive Virtual Assistant (IVA) “Emma” is available in English at USCIS.
In six years, you can get a lot done! If you are the International Space Station, you could have orbited the earth 35,040 times. If you are Apple, you could have released 10 new iPhones. If you are the National Archives, you have gone from zero social media accounts to over 100! It’s been six years since NARA’s first social strategy was released. Things have changed in the digital universe, and so we’ve been working on a reboot of our social media strategy.
When some U.S. athletes at this month’s Olympic Games started showing up at their events with dark red circles on their torsos, sports commentators and the media hungrily sought answers to what the marks could be. In less than a day after the spots were…spotted, the story of the mysterious circles was becoming clearer: they were the result of cupping—a traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) practice that involves placing cups on the skin to create suction.
This spring, the eRegulations Notice & Comment team began building out a new feature set for the platform — adding the ability for agencies with proposed regulations to show the public more precisely the changes being proposed and allow agencies to receive more granular, contextual, and better-organized comments. One of the challenges we wrestled with was how to share our work out frequently and openly with the dozens of interested parties, while not making that a blocker in focusing on our work of doing many demos for the many different parties interested in and informing our work.
The Content Corner: On-The-Fly Content Strategies (Round-offs, Back Handsprings, & Double Twisting Layouts Not Required)
As effective marketers and communicators, we are constantly seeking new and improved ways to reach our audience or customer base. These days, our “online lives” intersect with every activity we are involved in, so timeliness is essential. With fresh ideas and engaging, perhaps interactive, content, we can literally make a difference in the lives of our audience. Much of this can be developed and organized through a well thought-out content calendar in advance that seeks to align our content with upcoming events and trends that our audience is interested in.
Widgets, Mobile Apps, and SMS: Essential Agency Tools for Summer Heat Safety, Hurricane Season, and Emergency Preparedness
According to recent Pew Research Center surveys, 45 percent of American adults have tablets and 68 percent have smartphones. While the majority of smartphone owners use their mobile devices to keep up with breaking news and stay informed about what is happening in their communities, nearly half, 40 percent, also reported using their smartphones to look up government services or information. As is the case each summer, most of the U.
****We have previously written about microsites in the federal government. A microsite is a small collection of web pages—a subset of an organization’s full website. Partners can embed microsites that present curated information on a specific topic or campaign directly within their own websites. And perhaps best of all, microsites that are API-enabled are maintained and updated by the source organization so that when updates are made, those updates are automatically made on partner sites in real time.
****Content can be categorized in many ways. While breaking down your website analytics, pay a bit of extra attention to the difference between your short- and long-form content; you may find some interesting discoveries. Let’s first define the two terms: Short – Content that is generally created quickly, and consumed just as fast; e.g., tweets, status updates, short blogs and articles (350 words or less). Long – In-depth content designed to give a large amount of detail and info; e.
Four years ago, BusinessUSA launched with a mission to revolutionize the way government provides services to small businesses and exporters. Using technology to erase bureaucratic boundaries, BusinessUSA streamlined the way businesses find and get what they need from government. This “no wrong door” approach combined resources from over 800 websites and created a single point of entry for businesses looking to grow and expand. At USAGov, we’ve been fans and supporters of BusinessUSA since the beginning.
The idea of portable content is nothing new. Content needs to be mobile ready, responsive, and readily consumed by tools such as the Internet of Things (IoT)—a proposed development of the Internet in which everyday objects have network connectivity, allowing them to send and receive data. Developers need to stop creating fixed, single-purpose content and start making it more future-ready, flexible, and reusable. Two significant factors assist in portability are information architecture (IA) and content strategy (CS).
Content marketing is everywhere and you’re hearing more about it every day—but how do you do it well? While content marketing can take many forms (articles, infographics, videos, and more), it shares a common purpose: providing useful content to attract new customers to your product or service. At USAGov, customized email messages to our subscribers represent one of our most powerful content marketing tools. What’s the Core Concept? Every USAGov email begins with an idea either from our content or marketing team.
User-Generated Content (UGC) is a buzzword as of late, popularized recently due to the ever increasing demand for new content. To define the phrase, let’s look to a shining example of it,Wikipedia, as a source, “any form of content such as blogs, wikis, discussion forums, posts, chats,tweets, podcasts, digital images, video, audio files, advertisements, and other forms of media that was created by users of an online system or service, often made available via social media websites.
Tech giants have changed the world of broadcast forever. In a little more than a year, video on Facebook went from being a seldomly seen media type on a user’s timeline to a strategic priority for Mark Zuckerberg. The platform now serves over 8 billion video views a day and Facebook continues to roll out improvements to Facebook Live, a tool that lets any Facebook user easily broadcast from their mobile phone.
Much of our work with government partners to deliver better digital services has resulted in full websites, applications, and embarking on large-scale transformation efforts. In addition to those types of projects, we also work on shorter, faster, smaller-scale projects designed to show our partners different points of view and different techniques to approach their most challenging problems. Recently, we partnered with the Office of Integrated Technology Services (ITS) here within the General Services Administration (GSA) on a four-month effort to develop a plain language guide, informed by research and interviews, to help technology companies interested in doing business with the federal government better understand how to join IT Schedule 70.
Facebook is a highly visual medium. Studies show that Facebook posts featuring photos are the most noticed, liked, and shared. Posts featuring an image stand out in the news feeds of people who like your page. While a great image can cut through the clutter, you don’t need to fill your feed. Think “representative” and high-quality images. Showcase a few great pictures that give a sense of an event–an AIDS walk, for example–and share the photos that bring to life an aspect of your work or your agency’s services.
Last summer, Kids.Gov revamped its presence on Pinterest in an attempt to find new ways to connect with its followers. The Marketing Team set out to learn more about our audiences and the kind of content they like. Despite being a difficult platform to navigate, we set lofty goals for ourselves and developed a timely strategy to pin every day. A year in… Twelve months later, our metrics are up and we correctly calculated that a shift to educational content would be key.
In early April, the National Institutes of Health put out a call for images highlighting NIH-funded scientific research. The image call was posted on the NIH image gallery website and advertised through the NIH Public Information Officers (PIO) Network. The NIH Image Gallery, which averages 6,000 views per day, features free-to-use images for the general public, educational institutions, and news media. Through the sharing of images, NIH hopes to distribute educational information, increase public outreach, and expand awareness of the scientific discoveries and breakthroughs being made by NIH-funded research.
So, you’ve recently joined an agile team — congratulations! Here at 18F, we work in an agile way — in other words, we base our designs on user needs, conduct usability testing, iterate quickly, and release MVPs (minimum viable products) rather than highly finalized releases. We take an agile approach to content too. While there’s really no “ideal” project or process most of the time, we’ve found that these guidelines help us develop useful services for millions of people.
The Energy Department launched Direct Current, our first podcast, on May 9. The first episode—all about rooftop solar, as well as the history of our agency—has been well-received so far by press, stakeholders, and the general public. One review stuck out. Headlined “From out of nowhere, the U.S. Energy Department launches a great podcast,” it underscored that most people might not realize how much work and planning actually went into creating our first 25-minute episode.
Today, I am happy to announce the newly optimized DHS.gov website. Over the past year, DHS has worked behind the scenes to update and modernize our flagship website, making it faster and easier to use. Some of the specific differences you’ll see are: Compatibility for both desktop computers and mobile devices (phones and tablets) Cleaner, easier-to-read site format and presentation Faster and more accurate site navigation using our internal search function and external search engines (like Google and Bing) DHS.
The medium is the message. Marshall McLuhan In a little over a year, Facebook video went from simply being one of the content types that could be shared to the user timeline to a 8B video views per day powerhouse that’s also a huge priority for Mark Zuckerberg. We’ve heard about the big numbers from digital native publishers like AJ+ and NowThis, and we’ve heard from the doubters who say that the metrics don’t hold up to traditional TV measurements.
Have you ever wished you could get inside the mind of Google? To figure out what makes its search engine tick? How great it would be if that were easy to do. Well, actually it is. I realized that recently when I was doing research for one of my personal passions, which is finding invasive plants in local parks and eliminating them. I wanted to see what information the Forest Service had on that topic, so I searched for “forest service invasive species removal.
Recently, Regional Administrator Sara Manzano-Díaz of the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) introduced a web-based leasing tool, the Automated Advanced Acquisition Program (AAAP), to 60 lessors and/or brokers at the Dow Building in Philadelphia. The AAAP tool was designed to consolidate and streamline the leasing process, making for a more efficient, transparent process that also gets the best deal for the American taxpayer. Ms. Manzano-Diaz said that the AAAP will transform how the GSA Mid-Atlantic Region conducts its leasing by transitioning the system to an electronic platform that will serve as the primary procurement vehicle for GSA to acquire office space.
We have written about syndication and its successes before. The content offerings of the HHS Syndication Storefront have recently grown. The National Institute of Heart Lung and Blood Diseases (NHLBI), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), is the latest to add content into the system. Now you can directly syndicate content items such as the “DASH Eating Plan,” a “Description of High Blood Pressure,” to an article outlining “Coronary Heart Disease.
Podcasting is growing significantly. Per Pew, the percentage of Americans who have listened to a podcast in the past month has almost doubled since 2008, from 9% to 17% by January of 2015. The percentage listening in 2015 was up two points over 2014 levels (15%). Edison Research also reported that fully one-third (33%) of all Americans 12 years of age or older now say they have listened to at least one podcast.
Good communicators are always…well…evaluating the way they communicate. As we think of the “customer experience,” it is key to constantly consider your methods for engaging with your audience. Just as the platforms themselves continue to change to keep their audience, continuing to refine our ways of sending messages will assure that you don’t get left behind. With the explosion of social media, almost to the point of supplanting traditional media, various software platforms seek to assist communicators with planning and even the day-to-day.
FDA’s “The Real Cost” campaign aims to be edgy, just like its teen audience. Last month, the campaign won the 2016 Shorty Award for the Best Overall Tumblr Presence. “The Real Cost” educates youth ages 12 to 17 about the harmful effects of tobacco use. The campaign works to prevent teens from picking up cigarettes or trying other tobacco products. The audience isn’t just any teens out there; it’s specifically teens who are open to trying tobacco.
It is very refreshing to see the large contingent of government communicators who are always seeking to do their job better, with a well-founded desire to provide those they serve with an enhanced experience. Based on a few examples, such as the many listserv emails that are sent across agencies, DigitalGov’s constant content stream and readership, and the many conferences and sessions related to communications—including webinars—it’s easy to say we have the best job in government.
The art of storytelling has been around since the dawn of mankind. Storytelling remains relevant today, and a recent effort by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) shows how agencies can use storytelling to showcase great projects while also teaching employees new communication strategies. Over the past year, Chris Reed, an environmental protection specialist in EPA’s Office of Policy, led a nationwide team that produced a set of 30 videos that highlight sustainability initiatives within the agency.
Structuring your content for portability across media platforms gives your agency the ability to not only place your message on other properties, but gives you the assurance that your information will always be up-to-date across multiple platforms. This ability is never more important than during an emergency, whether it is a natural disaster or a health crisis such as the Zika virus disease. Three members of the Open and Structured Content Working Group discussed all things structured content during the “Creating Portable Content with Structured Content Models” webinar earlier this year.
Summary: Improving the way you engage with the White House through our online petitions platform In July 2015, we announced a big change in the way we would answer petitions on We the People. We committed to responding to you within a 60-day timeframe, whenever possible. We assembled a team of people dedicated to getting your policy questions and requests to the right people so you get the most informed response.
You probably have heard this before, or may even hear it all the time, “Content is King.” What that means is, that in today’s fast moving digital communications age, with social media as the driver—organizations (agencies) must have a content plan to stay relevant. Sure, not every agency has the resources, or frankly is as interesting as NASA, with spectacular 4K video of the Aurora Borealis as a show on their own non-commercial consumer ultra-high definition (UHD) channel.
Lately, we have been hearing a lot about microsites—CDC’s Zika Virus microsite provides up-to-date information on the virus—but the big question is: What are they? A microsite is a single or small collections of pages that are meant to encourage user interaction while conveying information. A microsite has the power to educate consumers regarding a specific topic or just highlight a campaign. Microsites are separate from an organization’s full website and are dedicated to serving one purpose—thus eliminating the clutter and distractions that come with a full website.
A branch that does not stick to its source of nutrition will wither away and die. Just ask anyone who has received a bouquet of beautiful flowers about how long they really last. In the same way, as communicators we must stay connected to our audience, or we risk the chance of fading away into insignificance. First-time visitors are great, but return visitors are your loyal following. In the argument of whether to target your current audience or seek to grow more, why not stick your focus on equipping your current audience with ways and incentives to share your content?
About a year and a half ago, the Federal Citizen Information Center—today called USAGov—embarked on a very ambitious task: integrating our content operations. We blurred lines that defined silos and adopted a bilingual content approach to offer a more consistent experience, regardless of language preference or point of access to our information. See more about our rebirth. As we were figuring out our new content model, we saw the need to reinvent our style guidelines to reflect our new organization.
Last fall, the Law Library of Congress implemented an external archiving solution for the problem of link and reference rot in its legal research reports. “Link rot” and “reference rot” (a.k.a. “content drift”) are the terms used to describe, respectively, the problem of non-working Web addresses and Web addresses that work but link to modified content different from what the user originally saw. Link rot is most commonly identified when a user receives the familiar “404—File Not Found” error message, or a similar error message, on his or her computer screen.
Last spring I wrote about how we’ve been using more and better charts and maps to help you understand our statistics. Today I’m excited to tell you about a new set of graphical tools to make our news releases more illuminating at the moment of their posting. We want everyone to be able to “see” quickly what’s in the hundreds of news releases we publish every year—on price trends, pay and benefits, productivity, employment and unemployment, job openings and labor turnover, and other topics.
Deep down we’ve always known that people only read a small portion of any content shared online. In many ways that can’t be fixed but there are ways to help people read more or at least scan better. There was a book I loved as a child that featured the Sesame Street character Grover, titled The Monster at the End of this Book, where Grover keeps warning the reader to stop turning pages because there is going to be a scary monster at the end.
Transcreation is a relatively new term that blends the words translation and creation. In a nutshell, transcreation involves taking a concept in one language and completely recreating it in another language. A successfully transcreated message (either written or visual) evokes the same emotions and carries the same implications in the target language as it does in the source language, but in a way that resonates with the target audience. What’s the big deal you may wonder?
It seems of late that the focus on coding and technology within the federal space has become out of balance with that of good, solid content. As I believe I have said before with regard to user experience, great technology with poor content is still worthless. Amazing code that delivers poorly written or designed content still can’t help the user. And there is no code that I know of that can make bad content better for the user, aside from the algorithmically-derived content previously discussed.
One of the most common questions we receive is: Should I integrate the Draft U.S. Web Design Standards into my existing project? The answer is: it depends. A lot of design research supports the notion that many people who use government websites or services may benefit from consistency across interactions, user experiences, and behavior across those websites. A consistent look and feel with common design elements will feel familiar, trustworthy, and secure—and users will be able to navigate government websites more easily because of a common palette and design.
I’ve recently been required to focus more attention on social media from a federal agency standpoint and this has directly led to a greater consideration of content. One of my first steps was to begin sharing various forms of content and gauge the success of each type. In today’s post, I’ll share what I have learned and hope it opens your eyes to how we measure success and whether our metrics are right or completely meaningless.
Since our launch of the Draft U.S. Web Design Standards last September, hundreds of people have provided feedback on the project through GitHub issues and via email. We’ve received dozens of feature requests as well as over 400 contributions from the open source community. Over the past five months, we’ve incorporated suggestions from the feedback we’ve received, resolved a number of outstanding issues, and made various updates to our content and structure.
I feel as though I have ignored the beast in the room lately, and since I began my tenure on The Content Corner introducing that concept, I felt I needed to wrestle with it one last time before I depart. Previously, I discussed the concept of pair writing. Today I want to investigate how another software development concept can be leveraged to improve the quality and quantity of the content we create: Agile content development.
Online quizzes have rapidly risen to the front of the social media revolution. “In 2014, 8 out of 10 of the most shared articles on the Web were quizzes,” states Owen Fuller of content company Movement Ventures. Content creators leverage quizzes to successfully drive customer engagement and increase customer website conversions (to take action such as filling out a form, supplying an email address or making a purchase.) Federal agencies may benefit from using quizzes as part of their communication strategy.
Every week my main goal is to usually provide new ways to help you feed the content beast. However, today I am going to remind you of why feeding the beast is important, especially when it comes to your search engine rankings and helping users find your content. I’ve discussed key search engine optimization (SEO) tips previously and there is no shortage of SEO content available, but today I am going to focus again on how quality and quantity of your content can have an impact on your search engine rankings and how that content appears on search engine results pages (SERPs).
Identity theft is a big problem and it takes time and effort to deal with the issues that it causes. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), has a new tool that makes it easier for identity theft victims to recover from identity theft by providing a personal recovery plan. No matter what the person’s specific identity theft situation is, IdentityTheft.gov can help. The website has information—and recovery plans—for more than 30 types of identity theft, including child identity theft and tax-related identity theft.
As I begin to wind down my time at The Content Corner, I have realized that one of my biggest content concerns uncovered during my tenure is digital sharecropping. The recent announcement from Facebook that they will soon open their Instant Articles publishing capability to everyone was reason enough for me to revisit the topic of owning and controlling our content one more time. While I dislike the term digital sharecropping (coined by Nicholas Carr), I haven’t found a better or more succinct explanation for this ongoing drive for private companies and platforms to own our content (while we do all the work).
They ranked among our top three most popular emails in 2015. At USAGov, we know that email is often our #1 driver of traffic to our content, and nine out of 10 times it’s our go-to outreach tool for disseminating timely information. But doing email sends consistently and effectively isn’t always clear cut, especially when you have a combined 1.3 million subscribers. We send email blasts to our subscriber lists about all sorts of content based on what they signed up to get.
I wanted to share our first dabble with data storytelling, a visualization supporting the Peace Corps Top Colleges initiative led by our awesome press team. Our goal was to enhance and expand the experience of the Top Colleges campaign and use of the data beyond the usual suspects like infographics, and other assets to show the reach of colleges and universities. We also wanted to connect all the earned media it receives to an overarching Peace Corps goal that is measurable (in this case lead generation) on the back end.
Here at DigitalGov, we generally focus on federal governmental digital efforts within the U.S. It is where we live and operate, so it makes sense, but many governments across the world struggle with the same issues and leverage technology as a common solution. When I came across an article where Australia announced its “government as an API” platform was available, it seemed like a great opportunity to see how another country is tackling structured and open content.
John Connor can’t save you. Robots are here to take over the world. Two interesting new consumer mobile and digital content experiences were launched in the past week, signaling some of the first mainstream brands embracing this new paradigm of interactive, bot-driven content experiences: Quartz’s News App and The New York Times Election Slack Bot. Both leverage different scripted technology but signal that large consumer-facing brands are using messaging technology as an experience and interface for interacting and sending and receiving information smartly.
Want to learn how to clearly communicate your message? Watch the new “Put Your Main Message First” video from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Created by USCIS’ Office of Communications, the video teaches you about the importance of organizing your information so that your audience understands your key messages. “It’s common in government writing to begin a document with the background or history of a program while leaving the important action items until the very end,” says Kathryn Catania, chief of the Plain Language and Content Division at USCIS.
You can now help your audience stay up-to-date on the Zika virus outbreak—and others—through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s microsite, which is an easily embeddable collection of virus information for your agency’s website. The Zika Virus Microsite is automatically updated on your site in real time as CDC updates existing Zika Web pages, according to the CDC. Staying current is made easy and maintenance-free. The microsite is built with Zika content, however the CDC now has the ability to quickly assemble additional embeddable collections that you can use on your site.
In this age of content marketing that has led publications to call certain ads “paid content,” those of us in government need to broaden our ideas about what “content” is. Many of us get it, but some agencies may also be missing opportunities because they don’t even grasp that content is a broad and fluid thing. Everything is content, not just words on a website. The federal agencies we commonly highlight fully get that and understand that a variety of content can achieve a goal.
While January was about looking ahead, February is focused on content and many of the new possibilities and challenges that will face us as content creators over the next year and beyond. At the intersection of these two themes lies the genesis of my topic today: location-aware content. More than a Map One of the most common places where we have become dependent on location-aware content is navigation. This can range from a variety of Location-Based Services, or LBS, such as simply finding out exactly where you are, how to get somewhere else and where can you find a pizza nearby.
You may have heard some chatter about syndication but thought to yourself—sounds good but does it really work? The answer is—Absolutely!! Here is your Proof NIH News in Health is a monthly newsletter that has recently been syndicated. Since syndication, the newsletter’s content can be found on multiple websites. These websites include state and local governments, non-profit groups and private companies. Here is an example of the newsletter on the NIH website.
When discussing trends for 2016, I made some mention of the content overload that started in 2015 but will certainly increase in 2016. Contently recently found that organizations created 73% more content in 2015 than in 2014. I see no reason why that number will decline in 2016, especially as content becomes the beast of burden of choice for a majority of organizations both public and private. Today, I wanted to share some content types that you can leverage to possibly help stand out among the deluge.
How government agencies blog has come a long way in the past decade. As we welcome 2016, here is a look at how the White House, NASA and the Department of the Interior run their blogs and share content. White House: Blog Less, Empower More When you go to WhiteHouse.gov, their blog is featured prominently as a main source of news for the administration. It’s not just a repository for past Administration actions, it’s a dynamic and responsive site to help connect Americans with opportunities to engage on the issues of the day, his schedule, and news from the President and his senior officials.
With January, and the tearing off of the old calendar, comes the annual taking stock of where we’ve been in the last year and where we can go in the year ahead. So for this month’s editorial theme, we’re taking a closer look at what we think 2016 will bring for digital government—from mobile and content, to open data and accessibility. If our “prognosticators” are correct, this year will be the year when apps become more Web-like; video could overtake social media as the preferred method to communicate; and the number of sensors providing real-time access to (government) data will dramatically increase…just to name a few.
The beginning of a new year is generally a time where people on a personal and professional level look ahead and prognosticate. When it comes to almost any digital media, the one thing we can be certain of is that the pace will quicken, the offerings will expand, and something totally unexpected will jump out and surprise us. However there are several specific areas related to content that everyone should keep an eye out for in 2016.
Open and structured content models assist in the dissemination of information to various devices and media types. In the age of smartphones, tablets, social media tools, syndication and websites, the need for modular content is growing. How can you make your content adaptive to all of these mediums? Open and structured content models can help you create content that is platform-agnostic, format-free and device independent. Because, as Ann Mulhay, ex-CEO of Xerox succinctly puts it:
If good content is essential to good user experience, as Tyrus Manuel proposes in his November 23, 2015, DigitalGov post, then plain language is also part of good user experience. Plain language helps the public do what they need to do—find forms, apply for benefits, look up information and more—when they use federal websites and other digital tools. All federal agencies are supposed to implement the Plain Writing Actplain-writing-act-of-2010/), the law that requires plain language when we communicate with the public.
If you have a website, then you most likely have cornerstone content—though you may not think of it in that way or even considered it. Just as in architecture, a cornerstone is a basic and essential part of any online presence. Cornerstone content is also important to any new visitors to your agency site, even if you are operating a fairly small or minimally viable website. Properly developed (and frequently maintained) cornerstone content pages can help users answer a lot of initial questions and quickly establish a trusted relationship with your brand/agency/site.
Fresh from last week’s article about workflows and their importance in the content creation process, I stumbled upon a new twist in content production known as pair writing. Many of you familiar with agile methodologies or software programming in general should know the term pair programming. Pair writing hopes to take some of the same efficiencies found in pair programming and apply them to content creation. Two Heads Are Better Than One Pair programming gained prominence in the early 2000s as a method to improve the quality of software by having two programmers work together while coding.
I noticed recently that I have spent a decent amount of time discussing or referencing content workflow, but I haven’t spent much time on how to actually create or use workflows. Developing content workflows can be a fairly painless process that can make your regular content creation a much smoother and efficient process. Content workflows will vary depending on your agency and can cover specific topics such as blog workflows, social media workflows or even general site maintenance.
I always think of SEO like the dentist—no one really likes it, but you need to do it. Yet, despite my lack of excitement for the topic, this will be at a minimum my second post (here’s the first about the relationship between creating good content and SEO practices. Today I want to dive a little more into often overlooked aspects of the content creation process and overall content maintenance.
As DigitalGov focuses on user experience this month it is good to remember one harsh truth: You cannot have a good user experience with bad content. It is important to keep a “content first” strategy in place during any website redesign or new site development. It is so easy for the various disciplines involved in designing a site to lose sight of the content and of each other. I’ve been there, and I am sure most of us have.
My office is preparing to embark on a complete redesign of a 10-year-old system that averages 20,000 users a month. The success and adoption of the new system design and the product as a whole will be heavily determined by how well our team translates users’ needs. Providing a good user experience will also play a critical role in reducing struggles long-time users may encounter with a new system. Note: Due to the early stages of this project and various procurement concerns, I am leaving out some of the specifics but still felt that this practical discussion of user research could be beneficial.
A recent DigitalGov webinar on syndicated content and the recent achievements of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention helped open my eyes even wider to the possibilities of open and structured content. By offering critical health information via syndication, CDC and other Department of Health and Human Services agencies are helping resource-strapped local agencies share critical Web content with very little effort. APIs and Syndication Structured content and APIs form the core of any open content platform, whether it be syndication or other types of data sharing.
Many of us depend a great deal on subject matter experts (SMEs) to generate content that will eventually end up on our site. These are men and women that have critical knowledge to share with our audiences, and it is our job to make it match our various editorial and content guidelines. Using a simple tool called content templates can be very helpful in making our jobs as communicators and the SMEs’ job as straightforward as possible.
As the 2016 presidential election heats up, here at 18F we’ve been working with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to make campaign finance data more accessible to the public. Today, we launched betaFEC, the first piece in a complete redesign of the FEC’s online presence. We were excited to work on a project that allowed us to delve into intricate campaign finance data, plain language, and the FEC’s first API.
USDA has been looking for ways to improve content delivery to our customers and making their first interaction with USDA and government a positive one. In 2014, USDA launched New Farmers, a website dedicated to helping new and beginning farmers and ranchers find the resources they need to start farming. But even back then, we knew we could do better. Our reimagined New Farmers website features advice and guidance on everything a new farm business owner will need to know, from writing a business plan, to obtaining a loan to grow their business, to filing taxes as a new small business owner, to obtaining affordable healthcare for themselves and their employees.
First, McDonald’s started serving breakfast all day. Now, Twitter announced it is dropping its 140 character limit for tweets. Black is white, up is down. Or is it really that big a deal? Is Twitter just keeping itself relevant in the battle for your content? LinkedIn and Facebook were first with their strong push for organizations to stop linking to content on their platforms and actually generate original content there.
Recently, I shared some suggestions and personal lessons learned for agencies either shopping for a new CMS or preparing to revamp their content strategy and workflow. Let’s take things one step further and focus on arguably the most important parts of your CMS: the content creator or user. Arguments can be made that content is the most important, but the user creates that content, so either way we have a tight first and second most important ranking.
If you were visiting a federal government website two years ago, the best odds were that you’d have been using Internet Explorer as your Internet browser. But today, that’s no longer the case. Within just the last year, Chrome has taken over the top spot as the browser most used to view federal websites, according to data from the Digital Analytics Program (DAP), and it seems to show no signs of slowing.
The FTC’s second Spanish-language fotonovela is about scams that promise you can make money selling high-end products or brand-name merchandise. If the pitch sounds familiar, that’s because the story is based on facts from a recent [Federal Trade Commission] FTC lawsuit against a company that targeted Spanish speakers nationwide. Income Scams tells the story of Fatima, a consumer who is looking for a way to earn some extra money.
These days you couldn’t be faulted for thinking your content management system (CMS) choices are limited to two open source systems and maybe an enterprise-level offering that no one uses anymore. And while it’s true that for the public sector the popular open source options are extremely attractive from a cost standpoint, if nothing else, the CMS marketplace is as full of options as it ever has been. So whether you are shopping around for a new system or looking to revamp your current one, there are a variety of items that need to be considered as you examine your CMS options.
Through the course of this blog, I have frequently mentioned the need to feed the content beast and have discussed tactics such as the content pillar and various other aspects of developing a solid content strategy. Recent research from the Content Marketing Institute found the average business-to-business (B2B) company uses 13 content marketing tactics or channels, such as blogs, videos, events, etc. I’m sure that most federal agencies also have as wide an array of channels as well.
One of the most important rights of American citizens is the right to vote. It is the foundation of our democracy, and in many ways, the basis of our government. This is why the team at USA.gov is excited to announce the launch of vote.USA.gov. USA.gov is an interagency initiative administered by the Federal Citizen Information Center, a division of the U.S. General Services Administration’s Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies.
Yahoo’s mobile analytics service, Flurry, released a new and provocative report about mobile apps versus mobile browser usage, in which they found audiences are spending almost an hour more with their mobile phones than last year. They also discussed the importance of how “content is king” in mobile apps. The top mobile app categories included mobile messaging/social applications, entertainment, and games, which is nothing new; these continue to reign as the most popular among users as repeat research from different sources continues to prove this.
As of 2015, Millennials spent 30% of their time consuming user-generated content (UGC), and 54% of that group find UGC more trustworthy than content generated by a specific brand. This covers everything from user-generated reviews on Yelp! to short-form videos. Another benefit of UGC is that it helps crowdsource the burden of feeding the content beast and can allow you to more fully engage not only with your customers, but with other staff within your agency that may not be a part of a typical content creation regime.
Every second counts, even those precious two or three seconds it takes your website to load. When it comes to mobile, users won’t wait. During a recent DigitalGov University webinar, Jeremy Vanderlan, Technical Deputy for AIDS.gov, explained how even fractions of a second can have a negative impact on a user’s impression of your website. Performance/load time for Web pages has become so important that Google now considers it one of three equal components to good user experience, along with design and functionality, he noted.
Several months or so ago, I raised the question of whether you and your agency should be podcasting. Incidentally, my post coincided with the launch of DigitalGov’s new podcast series. As I discussed in my previous post, the long-niche broadcasting format has continued to grow in popularity and success with popular podcasts such as NPR’s Serial and Marc Maron’s WTF podcast series that recently featured President Obama as a guest.
A few weeks ago the Council’s Innovation Committee released the Open Data Prioritization Toolkit. The response to the toolkit has been positive, but we also heard back from the community asking why the Open Data toolkit’s summary was locked up in a non-open format—PDF. The Council Operations Team noted the irony of publishing a guide to opening data in a non-open format made a decision to eat our own dogfood.
Following the recent OMB memo that all publicly available federal websites and Web services must implement HTTPS by December 31, 2016, Web content managers across government are considering the SEO (search engine optimization) implications of the transition, among other details. In August 2014, Google confirmed that HTTPS is a ranking signal in their algorithm. But being a ranking signal and having an impact on findability are two different things.
For the past several weeks, I have been writing about fairly cerebral and more technical aspects of content generation and language in general. This week, I felt it was time to get back to a more basic content concept: content optimization. Frequently when content optimization is discussed it is heavily focused on search engine optimization (SEO) and the development of keywords. Doing everything you can to help people find the information you have created is important, but it goes far beyond chasing a search engine’s ever-changing algorithm.
Several months ago I discussed the concept of a world without Web pages and the importance of structured content and thinking about content, not pages. This week, I’m taking that discussion further by discussing the importance of modularity in Web design and how that complements our efforts to create more structured and reusable data. Break It Down One of the critical aspects of our current efforts in structured data and adaptive content is the reductionary process.
For the past several weeks, I have been inflicting you with my recent dive down the rabbit hole of natural language generation and the larger discipline of natural language algorithms. Most of the focus has been on the power of natural language generation and how it can help you rapidly produce content on a wide array of topics in an easy to read format with little effort on the part of a human.
Nearly half of companies recently surveyed said that automating content creation would save their content marketing teams the most time. We’ve already covered Natural Language Generation (NLG) algorithms and how they have made some forms of automated content generation a reality already, such as for sports recaps or financial data reporting. Let’s take a deeper look at how NLG can help your agency rapidly deploy new content and provide a more personalized content experience for users.
In the span of two days, I received as many emails from respectable content marketing blogs worrying about the dangers of machines taking the jobs of bloggers and other content creators. The man vs. machine dynamic has existed since the dawn of the industrial age, but is it finally reaching the point where a technology called Natural Language Generation (NLG) can replace humans in one of their last refuges?
This column revolves mostly around content creation and strategy, but an overlooked part of the content lifecycle is helping people find your content. Your content is made to be seen and without planning for promotion, it may never be found. The methods available to you may vary (wildly) at your agency, so remember your mileage may vary. So Many Options Within the U.S. Courts, a plan is indispenable just to navigate the myriad communication options available, both “print” and digital (I use print in quotes because generally these days a print layout will only be presented in PDF form.
18F uses HTTPS for everything we make, and the U.S. government is in the process of transitioning to HTTPS everywhere. As part of this effort, we’ve recently partnered with DigitalGov University to produce a two-video series introducing the why’s and how’s of HTTPS. In an Introduction to HTTPS for beginners, we cover what happens when you use the web, how HTTPS helps protect users, and examines why the web (including the U.
England’s Government Digital Service (similar to our own U.S. Digital Services and 18F) did a study of how content on their websites is consumed on mobile and non-mobile devices and learned several key points for a future-focused and mobile-friendly government organization: Mobile platforms account for the lion’s share of most of their content (see their graphic above), so being mobile-first and at least mobile-optimized is mandatory. More intense, complex tasks are still frequently started on desktops, but young and less affluent users expect to be able to do them on their smartphone.
I recently wrapped up a series of user interviews as part of a review of our judiciary-wide intranet in order to provide better digital services to our customers (and yes, our internal users are our customers, not just the general public). As I prepare to delve back into determining user and content needs for a more varied audience and wider platform, I thought it might be helpful to share lessons learned during my recent effort and any new strategies that might be helpful for anyone getting ready to jump into their users’ brains.
Social media is front and center at Share.America.gov, a U.S. Department of State site managed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, that describes itself as a “platform for sharing compelling stories and images that spark discussion and debate on important topics like democracy, freedom of expression, innovation, entrepreneurship, education, and the role of civil society.” The truth is that you don’t really need to read that statement to know its purpose.
All content needs to be developed with a mobile-first strategy, from headline choice to paragraph length. Although we are all now living in a post-mobilegeddon world, many of us are still implementing a mobile strategy. This strategy should consider several factors, including viewport size, cellular versus WiFi considerations, and load times. It should also include a review of existing content and a rethinking of new content, down to what I will call the “cellular” level (no pun intended).
A Content Management System (CMS) allows people to easily publish, maintain and update information online. Choosing a CMS (or deciding whether you need one at all) is one that many agencies have faced. It’s not an easy choice because there are many solutions available to content managers. As government agencies, the majority of content we deliver is for a large audience, the public. Therefore, your CMS should be a tool that will allow you to quickly and easily share information with the public.
Throughout my five-plus months so far on this blog, I have focused a great deal on creating content, the various methods to improve your content, and what exactly content is. One thing that I may not have emphasized enough is the quality of the actual writing itself and how no content strategy on the planet will help you if the content is not well-written and with a clear knowledge of the subject matter.
Content syndication is an easy and cost-free way for you to add credible NIH health research information directly to your website. When NIH updates its content, those updates display immediately on your website through syndication, providing timely information for your audiences. Content syndication allows you to maintain the look and feel of your website while supplementing your information with critical, relevant content from NIH. Now you can pull the latest NIH grant content directly into your site.
Storytelling plays an important role in helping to establish the human connection that is often lost in today’s digital deluge of information, shares and tweets. A large amount of the content we consume today is derivative, second-hand, and generally passes through us like a breeze. But by using a method of sharing content that is as old as time, we can actually make a connection with our audience and evoke an emotional response.
Driving visitors to a destination means reaching your users where they are at. In 2005, as part of the greater USA.gov marketing strategy, GobiernoUSA.gov launched an email program. These communications initially took the form of short blurbs that directed people to important site content and promoted other government information hosted by various federal agencies. From disaster preparedness, to health care, to now Twitter chats and Google Hangouts… our email strategy aims to provide timely messages to the public via the channel of their choice.
The clarity of a headline or title plays a critical role in whether your content is ever seen and read by your customers. As the battle for eyeballs continues to escalate, digital media providers seem to be resorting more and more to “clickbait” titles and headlines. However, as with all forms of overused marketing, consumers soon learn to tune it out and develop negative reactions to any headlines that feature these worn-out tactics.
Over the last several years, continuing advances in computer processing power and storage have brought about the growth of what some call big data. Mobile and wearable devices now also generate large amounts of data via our interaction with various apps and our geographic location. This endless stream of information is being harnessed to create extremely informative dashboards like analytics.usa.gov and helping make advances in medicine and even farming possible.
One of the more commonly overlooked pieces of any effective content strategy is a content style guide. Many times, content contribution takes place without even being aware of the need for a style guide, while other times a content style guide is considered something only used by print editors and publishers. Stalwarts like the AP Stylebook or the Chicago Manual of Style have been essential tools for editors and journalists since the 1950s, but they also have a critical role to play in the development of any content style guide.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, what’s the value of a striking, cool chart or map of some BLS data? At the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), we’re always thinking of better ways to help our users understand the information we produce. The global economy is complex, and the statistics to explain the economy can be complex too. Data visualizations are one tool we use to present our data more clearly.
Over the past several years, DigitalGov has been extremely focused on structured content, content models, and their role in future-ready content (and rightly so). A shift of focus back to the content itself as opposed to where it will be published is critical for agencies as we aim to reach as many customers as possible, regardless of what device or screen they are using. Making the end user an extremely high priority in our content publishing is also important, but there are several other user groups that we need to make sure aren’t lost in the shuffle:
As human beings, we love stories. We like regaling our friends with tales from a recent road trip. We listen intently as grandma recounts that special moment she first met grandpa. Stories are how we relate to people. Stories help us form memories. Stories carry on tradition and culture from one generation to the next. The story is an powerful tool, and that’s why we’re focusing on creating story-based narrative content at the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC).
Here at DigitalGov, customer service is a focal theme during the month of May, and by some type of cosmic chance, I was invited to share my insights on content strategy and content creation at a Customer Service Community of Practice event at the Department of Labor. The event focused on topics I commonly discuss here in The Content Corner, such as efficient and interesting content and how better content translates into better customer service.
In last week’s column, I went back to a frequent theme of mine and discussed another method for helping to feed the content beast, which was learning when to say no to a new and potentially resource devouring digital channel or platform. However, we also need to take a look at six of the most common content types that you may be creating and examine the ROI for each. Ascend2 recently published the results of their annual Content Marketing Survey providing some useful insights into the effectiveness of specific content types measured against the difficulty it takes to create them.
Thirteen years in digital is an eon, and on the eve of its 13th birthday, we at USA.gov found ourselves reckoning with a mid-life crisis. In the thirteen years since Firstgov.gov was launched (and ten years for FirstGov en Español), the sheer volume and sophistication of government websites has exploded. We’ve seen Web customers evolve from timid and curious users to adroit searchers who can download music, read a newspaper, and respond to a text message simultaneously—using only their thumbs.
There is a quote that goes something like, “Just because we can do a thing, it does not follow that we must do a thing.” I attribute it to the President of the United Federation of Planets in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, partially because I am a geek, and secondly, the internet provided no better options. It is an important mantra in life in general, but also very important in the world of digital media and your agency’s content strategy: sometimes you need to say no.
Smartphones make up 75% of the mobile market—which makes mobile-friendliness a must for government agencies. With the recent update to Google’s search algorithm, or what some are calling Mobilegeddon, the case for building a mobile-friendly site becomes even stronger. For many government organizations, responsive Web design (RWD) has been the answer to their mobile question. While RWD is by no means a panacea, it can provide agencies with a way to reach their customers on many devices with one site.
This story begins with a post about reverse mortgages, but don’t worry: we won’t go into the world of complex home loans. Rather, this is a story about how one federal agency is partnering with another to amplify its content and reach millions of people online—and why more agencies should do the same. Many federal agencies create valuable digital content, but distributing that content at scale can be a challenge.
One of the most interesting trends forming at the start of 2015 is the rise of new digital publishers. Online entities from Facebook to GE are continuing their strong forays into the world of content production. This shift, especially among social media platforms such as Facebook, Linked In and Snapchat, could significantly alter the digital landscape turning content partners into content competitors. No Longer Just an Aggregator LinkedIn’s decision to grow their original Influencer program from such respected names as Bill Gates and Richard Branson into a full digital publishing suite available to all their members in multiple languages may have been the watershed moment of this new age of content publishing.
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ohmyOKPSGPg&w=600] Animated gifs are increasingly found throughout the digital experience of today’s users. They offer a dynamic presentation of information in a format that can be both more performance-effective and cost-effective than standard video or images, making them valuable for federal teams looking to bring their programs to the modern digital space and improve customer satisfaction. To find out how animated gifs can be developed to measurably improve public services, we hosted “Essentials of Animated Gifs for Gov” for almost 200 managers in the U.
No, this is not another post about podcasting but about a different voice entirely. It is the words you use, the conversation that you are having with your users. Is your content using the most effective language possible to communicate and to convey emotions like trust or empathy? As an article from Larsen Design states, “You don’t want to sound like Brahms when your audience is listening to Beck.
Mobile video is starting to hit its second wave for both consumption and creation, and government agencies can prepare now to ride this new channel for mobile and social engagement. Fueled by mobile bandwidth and cellular stability steadily increasing and consumers’ comfort with larger mobile devices fueling more video watching on mobile, a plethora of social apps now allow you to live stream and watch on mobile devices.
In May 2014, Sarah Crane discussed the importance of structured content, APIs and the development of a “Create Once, Publish Everywhere” (COPE) strategy at USA.gov via a three part video series. After my recent post about a world without Web pages, Sarah and I connected and we discussed the challenges she has experienced during the COPE project at USA.gov and some lessons to consider whether you’re at the beginning or early stages of a similar project.
Multilingual does not always mean multiple accounts or websites. Increasingly, multilingual content is delivered in an integrated way, with two (or more!) languages delivered on the same website, app, or social media platform. The World Digital Library (WDL) is one example of how multiple languages can be incorporated on single platforms. The WDL is a hub for cultural artifacts that includes books, manuscripts, maps, newspapers, journals, photographs, sound recordings, and films.
Along a somewhat personal journey (that you have chosen to join) to better define the term content, I’ve stumbled upon the puzzle of podcasts. Full disclosure: I have never been and most likely will never be a consumer of podcasts, ten years ago or today. I tried several times to listen to “Serial” and my lifestyle just doesn’t seem to allow for the level of concentration that a podcast requires.
A (possibly infamous) blog post from last Friday and the discussion/debate that followed reminded me of several important points that we all may lose sight of during our hectic schedules. 1. Audience Determines the Message The first big item was that audience determines message; or more importantly, the best way to reach your audience may force you and your agency out of your comfort zone. Thankfully, it makes you embrace new—and at times—slightly scary technologies and helps you redefine what your concept of content is.
I recently read a disheartening statistic which stated that only 32% of B2B organizations and 27% of B2C organizations had a documented content strategy. When you combine these results with the general assumption that the federal government lags behind in areas such as this (especially since content strategies have a marketing basis), then the number of federal agencies (large or small) that have a documented content strategy must be even smaller.
Metadata, tagging, content modeling … they’re not identical concepts, but they’re driven by the same basic principle: when you structure your digital information, it can be more easily searched, reused, connected, shared, and analyzed. If you’re new to structured content, where should you start? Ideally, your metadata strategy will be part of your overall content strategy. In practice, however, a lot depends on your agency’s culture, its technical resources, its existing practices, and the state of your content.
Imagine a world without Web pages, only intelligent, self-assembling chunks of content waiting to respond to your needs. The page is irrelevant, there may be no context beyond what is included in your content. The content has to survive on its own, perform its goals on its own. Originally when creating content, you would take into account the things that surround it on that page; they give it additional context and relevance.
Myth-busting isn’t just for television. And through a multi-faceted, tech-savvy campaign based on strategic partnerships, one federal office has found a winning strategy for combating misinformation. National Drug Facts Week (NDFW) is a health awareness week for teenagers, with the goal of debunking myths about drugs. The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), part of the National Institutes of Health, organizes the week and reaches teens in a relevant, engaging way.
Audit. It’s a word that generally has no positive connotations whatsoever. We hear the word audit and we think of tax audits or timesheet audits, etc. The word normally strikes fear or dread in the hearts of most mortals. But it is also a task that all websites will need to perform from time to time, and hopefully after reading today’s column you can view content audits as positive opportunities and not as dreadful chores.
As we all continue to wrestle with the “content beast”, one effective method for generating ideas for content and fleshing out an editorial calendar is to look for trending events or even upcoming holidays. In the spirit of full disclosure, the idea behind this particular post was inspired by the back-to-back Valentine’s Day and Presidents’ Day holidays (I decided to skip “Do a Grouch a Favor Day”). But its not as simple as picking a holiday or event and then just running with it.
Content is one of the most important things about your site. After all, it is what keeps your users engaged and keeps them coming back to your site. Depending on the type of website your agency manages, you should always think of ways to best deliver your content to your end users. If the content you provide is constantly changing or evolving, then you should present this content in a way that is as equally dynamic and allows for the end user to easily manipulate the data to find what they need.
Users don’t like surprises. Unexpected or unwanted content undermines the credibility of your agency and frustrates users who come to your website looking for specific information. Using links appropriately in your website content is one way to build trust with users, according to an article by Kara Pernice of the Nielsen Norman Group. Here’s a real life example: If the link above led to an article about 3D printing, you’d probably be pretty annoyed right now.
There is a tendency in government to discount a range of strategies closely connected to marketing. A good example, and a recent buzzword, is content marketing. Content marketing’s main goal is to drive a user to click or sign-up; to turn them into a lead or a buying customer. We’re the federal government, we aren’t selling anything, we don’t care about conversions or lead-generation. Wrong. Citizens visit government websites more and more often to solve a specific problem:
Things you don’t know about this website, DigitalGov.gov, that is. It’s our first birthday, and we’re celebrating by sharing some fun facts with you. A more sober look at our strategy can be read on our 6-month post, but this is a party post! w00t! We’ve published an impressive 480 articles and counting (this post is like #485), and we are learning more and more about you. You still love posts on metrics and on customer service, but “Government Open and Structured Content Models are Here”?
Top tasks matter. Visitors come to your website with specific goals in mind. Using a top-task methodology can be particularly useful when redesigning your homepage. But, top tasks aren’t the whole story. Our government websites also have a large range of tiny tasks that, when managed carefully, have the potential to deliver value. In The Stranger’s Long Neck, Gerry McGovern explains how, when visitors come to your website, they have a small set of top tasks they want to complete quickly and easily.
Good content drives your digital presence. No matter what you produce content for—social media, websites, blogs—getting people to see your work is critical. But getting noticed is not as easy as it used to be. A recent Vox article on the future of blogging talked about this problem: “The incentives of the social Web make it a threat to the conversational Web. The need to create content that ‘travels’ is at war with the fact that great work often needs to be rooted in a particular place and context—a place and context that the reader and the author already share.
Rome wasn’t built in a day. Neither are website redesigns. In line with the piecemeal responsive Web design implementation trend we recently highlighted, the new Ed.gov website redesign happened in three phases. In this case, budget limitations and existing content management systems (CMSs) influenced the decision-making process. “We use three different CMSs,” said Jill James, Web director at the Department of Education. “We timed the phases of our redesigns with technical upgrades that we needed to do anyway.
Spread the Word about Clinical Trials! As we have recently seen with the Ebola outbreak, clinical trials are immensely important to medical advancement and treatment. The National Institutes of Health (NIH), in conjunction with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has developed a new syndication tool to disseminate NIH Clinical Trials information. This effort will help recruit, educate and promote the efforts of NIH Clinical Trials. The content of the media player displays basic information on clinical trials, related videos and how to find a clinical trial to participate in.
If you and your organization don’t already have a content strategy, then you are most likely working too hard to create content that is less effective in communicating your desired message and less relevant to your end-user. The lack of a content strategy can leave you at the mercy of the content “beast” where you are constantly scrambling to feed it with little time to think of the quality of the random scraps you keep flinging into the cage.
You may have noticed we launched our new Ed.gov homepage today. This completes the third and final phase of our visual refresh for our main website. We released the second phase of the refresh back in June. So, what’s new? Streamlined Homepage The new homepage takes our efforts to streamline navigation on the website one big step further. There are fewer links and more open space on the homepage.
Running a government website or social media account is complex: while trying to meet your agency’s mission goals and your customers’ needs, you also have to keep track of issues like ethics, information security, privacy, and accessibility. It’s enough to make your head spin. Luckily, no one … errr … no online communications person … is an island: we have colleagues whose expertise neatly fills each of those niches.
As I mentioned in a recent blog post about image search, we’re avid users of Elasticsearch for search. We also recently ported another vital part of our system to Elasticsearch: analytics. This post is a technical deep dive into how our analytics system works, and specifically how and why we used Elasticsearch to build it. Background DigitalGov Search is essentially one giant software-as-a-service (SaaS), with 1,500 government websites as its customers.
As we round out 2014, we’re reflecting on the exciting year we’ve had at DigitalGov since we launched in February. Our mission is to share information and resources from agencies across the federal government that are working in the digital space, and highlight the services and communities that can help you meet your digital government goals. We look forward to bringing you more great content in 2015, but first we wanted to highlight the most popular articles on DigitalGov this year.
In Design Secrets of the World’s Best e-Government Web Sites, the Asia-Pacific online communications powerhouse FutureGov singles out eight national e-government portals as the best-designed in the world, and identifies the best practices these sites exemplify. “Ultimately, these websites are the best in the world because they are designed to be practical, simple, quick and adaptable,” writes Joshua Chambers, editor of FirstGov Digital. “One core principle stands out above all others: a well-designed government website must make it as easy as possible for citizens to find the information and services that they need.
In December of 2004, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued the first Policies for Federal Public Websites. Over the past decade, we’ve seen technology completely transform how government delivers information and services to the public. On this 10-year anniversary, we’re taking a walk down memory lane to recap some of the pivotal moments that have shaped today’s digital government landscape. Year Activity 2004 February—Facebook launches (for colleges; opens to the public 2007) March—Interagency Committee on Government Information (ICGI) convenes to draft Web recommendations June—ICGI issues Recommendations for Federal Web Policies July—ICGI becomes the Web Content Management Working Group (predecessor to Federal Web Managers Council) August—HHS publishes its seminal Research-Based Web Design & Usability Guidelines (foundation for Usability.
In May 2015, we’re hosting the second DigitalGov Citizen Services Summit “Spring 2015 DigitalGov Citizen Services Summit”). This round we are looking to you—federal innovators across government—to help build the agenda. We want to get you the information you need, ignite discussion, foster sharing, build capacity, even get you to challenge and debate each other in the name of delivering better digital services. So, we’ve set up a crowdsourcing platform where you can suggest presentation ideas and vote for your favorites.
Creative content can be found in all corners of the federal space. Recently, the Law Library of Congress blog, In Custodia Legis, and the United States Courts blog, The Third Branch News, were named to the ABA Journal “Blawg 100” out of 4,000 legal blogs eligible for selection. We wanted insight on their blogging success, so we spoke with Andrew Weber, Legislative Information Systems Manager for the Law Library of Congress.
Being customer-focused means doing the gumshoe work of research and rounds of analysis to find gold by understanding user goals. For the task-based innovation network, Open Opportunities for DigitalGov, that meant developing personas in order to overcome our own biases and learn about the different motivations of our participants. In this article, we’ll talk about how we created our personas and how we plan to use them to meet both innovators’ and program needs.
Sonia stands at the pharmacy counter, flashing her most brilliant smile. Jorge, the handsome neighborhood pharmacist, dispenses his own easy smile as they chat. Sound like an ordinary soap opera? This telenovela is actually a tool to help Spanish-speaking women make smart medication decisions. The four part telenovela series ¡Nunca Más! was developed by the Office of Women’s Health in the Food and Drug Administration. The office works to make all of their materials available in Spanish, and the popularity of telenovelas in the Spanish-speaking community made the project a perfect fit for delivering important health information.
Shortcuts, Vanity or Marketing URLs, are all names for the requests Web managers get to shorten Web addresses. The shortened links make it easy to share long links as well as track clicks on those links. On a recent discussion thread on the Web Managers listserv, several agencies offered the criteria they use to manage the requests and we’ve compiled it below. NIAID Criteria At the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), the New Media and Web Policy Branch developed the following guidance for Internet and Intranet URLs:
The verdict is in. Placeholder text is harmful in search boxes. Searchers are on your site to complete a task. Having placeholder text inside a search box distracts from the task and it reduces the usability and accessibility of the search box. Placeholders look simple, but are in fact very tricky to use. When people are trying to accomplish a goal, their focus is not on the form an organization requires them to use.
It’s a well-known fact that the Hispanic population is growing at a rapid pace, and among the areas seeing the most interest and growth is business. According to the Small Business Administration (SBA), there are more than 3 million Hispanic-owned businesses in the U.S. today, a number that is growing at three times the national average. Latino purchasing power is expected to top $1.5 trillion by next year, which means that if the Hispanic market were its own country—it would be the world’s 11th largest economy.
How important is it to show the most relevant result at the top of your search results page? Very. Searchers expect to find what they’re looking for quickly and easily—and without scrolling—when they search on government websites. If a Web page isn’t “above the fold” as one of the first listings on the first results page, the data shows that there is little chance of it ever being clicked. If it happens to fall on page 2 or beyond, it becomes a vanishingly small part of a very long tail.
Several federal agencies and offices have worked together to create a free and easy way for public health partners to incorporate our Web content, images, video, data, and infographics into other sites, apps, and social media. Through digital media syndication, the science-based resources of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) can be combined with your ongoing activities at the state and local levels, and can help coordinate health messaging for maximum impact and reach.
In the first part of A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Tokens, I explained why we built a social media-driven image search engine, and specifically how we used Elasticsearch to build its first iteration. In this week’s post, I’ll take a deep dive into how we worked to improve relevancy, recall, and the searcher’s experience as a whole. Redefine Recency To solve the scoring problem on older photos for archival photostreams, we decided that after some amount of time, say six weeks, we no longer wanted to keep decaying the relevancy on photos.
On September 6, 2013 at 11:27 p.m., EDT., viewers tuned in through the Internet to watch NASA launch its Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) spacecraft. As viewers logged onto the website, something unusual happened. For the first time, metrics indicated that NASA.gov’s mobile users outpaced their desktop users. 93 percent of their viewers were watching the launch from a mobile device. At the time, NASA Web managers were already considering changing their website.
Content is no longer limited to .gov sites. As mentioned in a recent blog post, Sharing is Caring, Adding Social Media Accounts to Search, DigitalGov Search uses Flickr, Instagram, and YouTube to populate image and video search results. On September 30, 2014, I presented with Justin Herman from the Social Media Community of Practice about: What DigitalGov Search is How it integrates social image and video search How search analytics can help social media managers better understand their customers’ needs If you weren’t able to join us, you can download the slides or view the 30 minute webinar on YouTube.
Lots of people ask us questions. So it only makes sense for us to partner up to answer some of those questions. Since the 1970’s, USA.gov has partnered with Dear Abby to help get free printed government publications on a variety of topics (health, disaster preparedness, caring for aging loved ones, etc.) into the hands of the people who need them most. While much of the work at USA.
“Content is king” is a generally accepted truth for those of us who produce digital media. But once you have compelling content, how to best present it to your audience becomes the next challenge. In recent years, Web innovators started emphasizing the effectiveness of “digital storytelling,” or content focused on individual, human experiences using compelling and engaging formats to convey information. At the Department of State’s, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, we recently tried our hand at executing a digital storytelling effort employing rarely-used-in-government techniques to tell a story about cultural heritage, partnership, teamwork, and preservation.
Meet Hannah Rubin, who works in the Congressional Research Service (CRS) at the Library of Congress. She’s the focus of this month’s Member Spotlight. In addition to her “real” job, she’s also currently working as a “20%-er” with the DigitalGov User Experience Program via our Open Opportunities program. What do you love most about your current job/position? CRS has a unique mission: to provide objective, nonpartisan, confidential, and authoritative research and analysis for Congress throughout the legislative process.
The Office of the Federal Register’s mission “informs citizens of their rights and obligations, documents the actions of Federal agencies, and provides a forum for public participation in the democratic process.” As the winner of the Bright Idea Award, FederalRegister.gov is clear and easy to use, but most citizens rarely frequent it. More frequently they start searching for information on Google or on agency websites, where it is more difficult to discover pertinent rules and regulations.
Six months ago, we launched this DigitalGov.gov platform to support federal agencies in delivering 21st century digital services and information to the public. It seems a good time to share some of the thinking that went into the development of the platform, and what we’ve learned so far. Looking back, we knew we had great content for digital innovators. Here at the Center for Digital Government at GSA, we created the go-to references for federal agencies around Web, mobile, social media, challenges and prizes, and were growing API content.
The National Archives and Records Administration and Wikimedia D.C., invite you to help us improve access to open government data on Wikipedia. We are excited to announce that we will be hosting the Open Government #WikiHack, a two-day hackathon at the National Archives Building in downtown D.C., over the weekend of September 27 and 28. Did you know that Wikipedia articles with NARA digital images saw over 1 billion page views in FY13 alone?
Content is no longer limited to your .gov website. Social media accounts also contain a treasure trove of information relevant to your site’s visitors. Keeping that in mind, DigitalGov Search has worked to bring all your content, wherever it is, to your search results. Finding something you didn’t know you were looking for is the best form of discovery, so make sure there are ample opportunities to find your content in all its forms.
Welcome to the first edition of a new series of articles spotlighting members of our Government Web Manager Community. This month, we introduce Jill James, who’s the Senior Web Editor/Director for the Department of Education, in their Communications and Outreach Office. We asked Jill a few questions about her work at Dept. of Ed, as well as her life outside of work, and we’re happy for the chance to get to know her better!
As traffic to desktop .gov websites declines, how we publish our content increasingly matters. We need to meet people where they are as they seek information on the Internet. To do so, we need to adjust to the new world of mobile applications, social media, and instant answers provided by search engines. Freeing Content from Our Websites In this content sharing era, it is important to separate the content from how it appears on your site.
As Web analysts, your customers and their needs can vary greatly. One minute you are leading an analysis that will influence strategic decisions, the next you are distributing reports to folks who will never use them, but just have to have them. Sometimes, in the darkest hours, it can become more of the latter. That’s when you risk falling into a routine; when you risk forgetting the real power of Web analytics—effecting change.
Short URLs are useful for tracking clicks, but they can create a poor user experience because the person clicking the link can’t see the final destination. That’s why Go.USA.gov was created—to show users that they would reach official government information. To maintain this trust, Go.USA.gov is only open to government employees and only shortens government URLs—that is: .mil, .gov, .fed.us, .si.edu and .state.xx.us URLs. We are willing to make exceptions for other government URLs that meet our criteria.
Content models provide an opportunity for agencies to structure, organize, distribute, and better publish information in multiple forms and on multiple platforms. Federal agencies discussed why content models are important for future-facing content in our What Structured Content Models Can Do For You Webinars in May and June. The point—with good content models, a single piece of Web content becomes an adaptive information asset that can be leveraged anytime, anywhere.
As technology changes, government must change with it to address new challenges and take advantage of new opportunities. This Administration has made important strides in modernizing government so that it serves its constituents more effectively and efficiently, but we know there is much more to do. Last year, a group of digital and technology experts from the private sector helped us fix HealthCare.gov—a turnaround that enabled millions of Americans to sign up for quality health insurance.
If you aren’t currently including email marketing in your digital outreach efforts, you’re missing out. Think about email marketing in the same way you think about tools like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and your website. It’s another digital platform that allows you to reach your customers and achieve your goals. Email marketing can be used in different ways, depending on your communications goals. You can build brand awareness. You can drive action from your subscribers to complete a task on your website.
A growing trend both inside government and outside is to have a simple welcoming page for outside developers who may be interested in your team’s efforts. This material is often located at website.gov/developer 1 and points visitors to technical material that developers may be interested in, especially APIs. Collecting technical documentation in one place facilitates the developer experience, ensuring that they can find and begin using APIs with as little friction as possible.
Recently, I had the pleasure of speaking (in my own capacity) before the Council for Inspectors General for Integrity and Efficiency Public Affairs Officers (CIGIE-PAO) task force about branding. The invitation came by way of a colleague I greatly respect. Bridget Serchak is currently Chief of Public Affairs for the Department of Defense Inspector General and the group’s co-founder. She explained to me that the purpose of the CIGIE PAO is “to try to raise awareness of the role and function of IGs across government so that all federal employees in particular, but also our Hill constituencies and good government groups understand what IGs do and don’t do.
Over the years, the staff intranet at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) had become increasingly difficult to use. Old, irrelevant content routinely bubbled to the top of search results, and essential employee tools were hard to find. NARA staff agreed that the site was due for an upgrade: fixing NARA@work was voted a top priority for 2013 in the annual Employee Viewpoint Survey. NARA managers, from the Archivist of the United States on down, supported the effort and helped recruit staff to participate.
Responsive Web design is widely-known as a go-to solution for designing a website to fit on any device’s screen size. As we found in our February workshop, federal agencies are implementing it for various reasons. There are various ways to implement responsive design. Some agencies have implemented it via structured data and content modeling and others have completely redesigned their website. Agencies who are not yet at that point are looking for ways they can begin.
Do you scratch your head trying to figure out the latest trends to reach out to Hispanics in the U.S.? If you answered yes, don’t worry, you’re not alone. The current Soccer World Cup is lending a great analogy to help you think through your strategy to your customers. Some rules in soccer, as in other sports, are based on absolutes: if the ball crosses the touchline it’s out of bounds.
While many people tout the death of the home page, it’s still an important piece of the user experience on USA.gov. In 2013, 30% of all sessions on USA.gov included the home page—that’s 8.67 million sessions. The numbers for GobiernoUSA.gov are even higher—79% of all sessions included the home page. According to Jakob Nielsen, “A homepage has two main goals: to give users information, and to provide top-level navigation to additional information inside the site.
Federal agencies are required to provide meaningful access to government information to people with limited English proficiency. This applies to your agency’s digital content too. You need to determine how much information you need to provide in other languages, based on an assessment of your audience. The need is increasing The number of people who are not proficient in English is growing dramatically every year. According to the 2010 Census, there are approximately 25 million who speak a foreign language at home and whose English-speaking ability is at the level “less than very well.
The Web now contains over 1.51 billion pages of content, according to WorldWideWebSize.com. That’s a lot of reading material, and a lot of content competing with yours for attention. People won’t waste time (even a few seconds) on an article that doesn’t matter to them in some way—not when there are so many other interesting things to read on the Web. But what makes something “tweet-worthy?” What can you do to capture your audience’s attention and entice them to share broadly in their networks?
World Cup fever, everyone’s got it—even the Broadcasting Board of Governors‘ (BBG) Voice of America has reporters covering the event. For this year’s World Cup, VOA has teamed up with the Office of Digital and Design Innovation (a digital team inside the BBG) to create two new sites: one in English and one in French. These mobile-firsts sites are light-weight, responsive and built to meet the needs of the network’s African audiences, which are increasingly turning to mobile for news and information.
The National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering recently launched the “NIBIB Bionic Man,” an interactive Web tool that allows students and the public to learn about cutting-edge research in biotechnology. The bionic man features 14 technologies currently being developed by NIBIB-supported researchers. Examples include a powered prosthetic leg that helps users achieve a more natural gait, a wireless brain-computer interface that lets people with paralyzed legs and arms control computer devices or robotic limbs using only their thoughts, and a micro-patch that delivers vaccines painlessly and doesn’t need refrigeration.
On June 10, 2014, the Metrics Community of Practice of the Federal Web Managers Council and DigitalGov University hosted an event to honor the memory of Joe Pagano, a former co-chair of the Web Metrics Sub-Council. This third lecture honoring Joe focused on search engine optimization (SEO). While commercial search engines do a remarkable job of helping the public find our government information, as Web professionals, it’s also our job to help the public make sense of what they find.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) just released the OpenFDA Research Project. At the heart of the project is the OpenFDA API, which allows developers to perform searches on FDA’s drug information database. Coming soon is the ability to search FDA information on medical devices and information about food. Visit the FDA’s API Basics page to learn how to access OpenFDA including interactive sample queries. The FDA’s API documentation is a great example of how to create detailed guidance for developers.
This morning I was walking down 18th Street, crossing Pennsylvania Avenue by the World Bank when I heard what sounded like “a test from the Emergency Broadcast System.” I looked behind me and realized it was coming from my purse and that my phone was jiggling. I pulled out my phone to see that there was a flash flood warning. I looked up and saw dozens of people on the crowded sidewalks pulling out devices.
Structured content and open content models can help you create content that is platform-agnostic, format-free, and device-independent. This was the theme of the “What Structured Content Can Do For You: Article Model” webinar last month. [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kG25vyQ5Jps&w=600] Using a content model is less about how you are crafting your message and more about how the internet is going to react to your content or how you can manipulate it, according to Holly Irving from the National Institutes of Health, Russell O’Neill from the General Services Administration, and Logan Powell from U.
As government innovators, we work to improve public services every day. In essence we are already in a public private partnership. But how can your agency capitalize on existing public private partnerships to engage citizens and enhance services? Four panelists from across government shared their public private partnerships success stories at the DigitalGov Citizen Services Summit last Friday. The three other panels were on performance analysis, customer service across channels, and inter-agency work.
During the DigitalGov Citizen Services Summit last Friday, customer service experts from across government came together on a panel to share what customer service means to them and their organization and specific ways they leverage it. The other panels were on performance analysis, public private partnerships, and inter-agency work. The panelists spoke about the strategies they use to integrate multi-channel customer service and the organizational barriers they’ve encountered. The panelists acknowledged that while the the government, as a whole, has room for improvement in providing truly integrated cross-channel customer service, leadership is beginning to recognize the importance and cost-savings, not to mention happy customers, it brings.
Are you measuring Twitter followers and press release downloads without any clue as to what people are doing with your agency’s products and information? Or do you not even know what to measure, never mind whether that measurement would be meaningful? Fear not, fair government communicator—there is hope! On May 15, top government communication measurement experts from the U.S., U.K., and Canada presented on Evaluating the Effectiveness of Government Digital Communications via DigitalGov University.
At the DigitalGov Citizen Services Summit last Friday, Jacob Parcell, Manager, Mobile Programs at the General Services Administration led a panel on the challenges and benefits of Inter-Agency work. The other panels were on performance analysis, customer service across channels, and public private partnerships. “The challenges are real,” said Parcell, who quoted President Obama’s famous salmon quandary: “The Interior Department is in charge of salmon while they’re in fresh water, but the Commerce Department handles them when they’re in saltwater,” Obama said.
At the DigitalGov Citizen Services Summit last Friday, more than 200 innovators across government and industry came together to share how digital services can improve citizen services and reduce cost. Four panels convened to share information on performance analysis, customer service across channels, public private partnerships and inter-agency work. We have a recap of the Performance Analysis Panel below. How do you show and track performance in 21st century digital government?
openFDA launched today and with it the first publicly available dataset—Drug Adverse Reaction and Medication Error Reports—that covers more than 4 million records from 2004 to 2013. The openFDA team compiled 10 things to help developers use this dataset more effectively, including: Interactive examples created by the openFDA team to give perspective to the data. The example scenarios with queries help teach how to perform different types of searches on the data.
Bing, Google, and Yahoo have all rolled out major redesigns to their search results pages in the past year. The last time DigitalGov Search did a major redesign of their results page was in January 2012. It was long overdue for a facelift. So, our team redesigned our search results page. We’ve kept an eye on best practices in the search industry and what media websites (like NPR.org and NYTimes.com) are up to, But, we’re not simply following the leaders.
We had a GREAT DigitalGov Citizen Services Summit today. There were more than 200 digital innovators from across government and industry working to build the 21st century government the public expects. The four panels focused on performance analysis, customer service across channels, inter-agency work, and public private partnerships. Here’s what you missed in a short highlight video. [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EIWwnomPxo4&w=600]
On Friday, we made a big change over on the USA.gov blog—we turned off the ability for people to comment on our posts. Now before you all start looking at me like I have five heads and wondering what Koolaid I’m drinking, let me explain our reasoning. We’ve had comments on blog.usa.gov since it launched in March of 2011, and our previous blog—GovGab—always had commenting too. I mean, commenting was one of the things that made a blog different from a regular old website right?
In our final video interview with Sarah Crane of USA.gov, she talks about adaptive content and how it works with APIs. Missed Part 1 and Part 2? Watch them to find out how USA.gov dealt with their inconsistent customer experience and content sprawl. [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=giK-RsHjA4c&w=600] Interested in learning more about adaptive content and content modeling? Check out the new Structured Content Models and the training on Event Model Creation. We’ve created an editorial theme calendar to coordinate content each month around one focus.
Have a DigitalGov success?—published an API? Got buy-in from leadership? Changed a part of your customer-service paradigm? Developed a cool dashboard? Got the app out the door? Heck! Have you prototyped a wearable, drivable or flyable? Have a DigitalGov opinion?—think we should be focusing more or less on something? Have an idea on how to improve development? Want to share your digital gov mantra? Internet of things? You are doing and thinking a lot, and we have a place for a few of you smarties to share with other agencies.
Part 2 of our interview with Sarah Crane from USA.gov shares how the USA.gov team is tackling content sprawl with the USA.gov API. Missed Part 1 last week? You’ll want to watch it before next Tuesday, when we will publish Part 3 where Sarah talks about adaptive content. [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PtXsAIoRqb4&w=600]
We won’t build the government of the 21st century by drawing within the lines. We don’t have to tell you the hard work of building a digital government doesn’t exist in a vacuum or a bubble. Show us social media without mobile, Web without data and user experience without APIs. You can’t? That’s right—in reality, digital government intersects and cuts across boundaries every day in order to deliver the digital goods.
During the recent redesign of Data.gov, the team developed a process that helped them respond to public feedback, track the actions and hold themselves accountable. In a DigitalGov University webinar, “Designing in the Open—Public Participation in Government Web Design,” Phil Ashlock, chief architect at Data.gov, and Jeanne Holm, Data.gov evangelist, shared how integrating feedback from virtual, online and face-to-face testing, as well as across multiple social media platforms, helped dramatically change the design in the response to the needs of their users.
DigitalGov Search recently rolled out a new open source technology stack, which gives the team access to real-time analytics and dashboards to monitor search trends. The ELK stack consists of Elasticsearch, a real-time search and analytics engine; Logstash, a log management tool; and Kibana, a data visualization engine for creating dashboards. The dashboard-building capabilities surface trends not seen otherwise when buried in the data, Ammie Farraj Feijoo, manager of DigitalGov Search said in a recent article in GCN.
Two years ago, federal agencies were set on a fast track to create a 21st century digital government. The Federal Digital Strategy served up a heaping set of deliverables on a tight timeline. Agencies opened data sets, built mobile apps and websites, published APIs, created and updated digital governance structures, and joined with other agencies in measuring digital services performance. Last May, as the final deadlines were met, some asked, “What’s next?
Smartphones, tablets, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, not to mention your agency’s desktop website, are all clamoring for information, but sliced and diced in different ways. How can you make your content adaptive for efficient delivery to all of these mediums? Structured content and open content models can help you create content that is platform-agnostic, format-free, and device-independent. We’ve created two open and structured content models that we want you to use and adapt.
Communication professionals pride themselves on coming up with big ideas and big messages. But moving a great idea from conceptualization to execution can be challenging, especially when you want to keep your budget in check. Storyboards can greatly assist in this process, a strategy I found to be critical to the success of a new animated video developed for StopBullying.gov. StopBullying.gov provides information from various government agencies on what bullying is, what cyberbullying is, who is at risk, and how you can prevent and respond to bullying.
Search is easy, right? You type a term in a search box and the exact page you’re looking for appears at the top of the list of results. But search is hard and has many shades of grey. On April 10, 2014, Loren Siebert, our DigitalGov Search senior search architect, presented on: Complexities of recall and precision, Popular open source search technologies, and “Search magic” like stemming, synonyms, fuzziness, and stopwords.
You’ve got the right words, the active verbs, the carefully chosen adjectives and adverbs. You’ve got the facts. You’ve got the talking points. All you have to do is put it together, right? Wait. What you want to tell people is not necessarily what they need to know. I know it’s hard to organize material for your reader, but it’s the key to writing in plain language. Besides being the law, it’s also a best practice and the best way for getting people to read your content.
The script is king when it comes to creating a video. Once you have the words, it’s the pictures that will tell the story. Storyboards are a key component in video production. They serve as a guide during the production process, allowing the video producer to determine how the use of footage, sound bites, audio (music, sound effects, natural sound) and graphics, will effectively communicate the key messages before production begins.
The White House launched a hub for consumer-facing tools across the federal government, and they want to feature your agency’s tools that can help make people’s lives easier. As of now, they are featuring tools from these agencies: Department of Education’s College Scorecard Department of Energy’s Hybrid Car Calculator & Home Energy Yardstick Department of Agriculture’s Local Farmer’s Market Map Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Credit Card Agreement Patent and Trademark Office’s Patent Litigation Resource Center Check out the tools and let them know about the tools that should be added.
Our digital gov neighbors in the U.K. have been working on their own digital strategy, including the consolidating into a single website. When the GOV.UK team introduced social sharing buttons, that allow users to post a link to the page on Facebook or Twitter, on their pages, it wasn’t in response to audience request, but as an experiment. And after two and a half months, they decided to do some analysis.
Government Web pages are found mainly through search engines. Google recently redesigned its search results page and there are quite a few small, but impactful, changes in this latest redesign. Specifically, it affects how page titles are displayed. Many experts now recommend even shorter page titles. Below are a couple of articles (plus tools) to see how the change may affect your page titles: Page Title & Meta Description By Pixel Width In SERP Snippet
At DigitalGov Search, we keep an eye on on our what our government counterparts are up to, both in the U.S. and other countries. We recently came across Gov.UK’s philosophy on and approach to coding in the open. It caught our attention and we realized we should also articulate our open source strategy. Use and Contribute to Open Source Projects Since 2010, we’ve embraced and leveraged open source software to build our site search service for federal, state, and local government websites.
In 1994 when the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) launched it’s first website, the Web was a very different place. Many websites that were launched had little consideration given to, or even had an understanding of, things such user experience, content strategies, or design. Over the next 20 years our USGS Web presence has grown immensely as we’ve pioneered new research, tools, and applications in the support of understanding our planet’s complex environment and the ground on which we stand.
[ ](https://s3.amazonaws.com/digitalgov/_legacy-img/2014/03/Birthday-Cake_Internet_World-Wide-Web_25-years-old_Featured_301x212.jpg) With the 25th anniversary of the Web, we wanted to share stories from the beginnings of Web in the federal government and how online government has evolved in the years since. The State Department may have been one of the first, in 1991, with a bulletin board presence launched thru the Government Printing Office, according to Janice Clark, Director in the Office of Website Management, Bureau of Public Affairs.
E-books are great for one thing: reading on mobile devices. Their reflowable text adjusts to fit the reader’s smartphone, tablet or e-reader in the type size the reader chooses. They are essential for reading on smartphones, and better than pdf’s for all but the biggest tablets. But e-books are not great for design. They’re generally single column, with images “anchored” within the text flow. Graphical enhancements are very limited, and are supported differently (if at all) on different devices.
Slowness Hurts Web Pages Have you ever been frustrated when visiting a Web page that doesn’t load quickly? Have you ever left a slow Web page before it finished loading? You’re not alone. Several recent studies have quantified customers’ frustration with slow Web pages. Customers now expect results in the blink of an eye. This expectation means that your customers are won or lost in one second. A one second delay in loading a Web page equals 11% fewer page views, 16% decrease in customer satisfaction, and 7% loss in conversions.
All of us want to improve the content and information we provide to the public, but we’re intimidated by where to start: Does our website provide clear content? Is the best information hidden on pages a few layers down? What should we tweet about this month? What are customers saying about our information? The best source of this information is a resource right in your agency–your agency’s Contact Center.
We’ve redesigned our mobile search results page. It now uses a card-based design and is responsive. This design gives searchers a more consistent user experience and access to the results anytime, anywhere, and on any device. Take a sneak peek of the new responsive results page. Go to USA.gov (or your website) from any mobile phone or tablet and do a search. See the sample results page for a search on passports on USA.
Children’s mobile media use has doubled and in some cases tripled in the last two years, according an eSchool News report of a study by Common Sense Media. Here are the other key findings: Roughly twice as many children use mobile media today than in 2011. “Traditional” screen media use, such as television and video games, has decreased by more than 30 minutes per day. Children still spend most of their media time watching television, but viewing habits have changed.
You can now log in to Go.USA.gov with your username or email address, one of the new improvements added to the government URL shortener. Previously you could only log in with your username. You can now: Log in with your username or email address Search your short URLs Add notes to short URLs Shorten URLs from your browser with the bookmarklet Download improved CSV exports Use the API to get all short URLs from your account Learn about the new features, other minor changes, and known issues.
If you have ever visited census.gov, you know that sorting through the vast array of information about America’s people, places and economy can be daunting. Based on customer research and feedback we collected and analyzed over time, we heard loud and clear that both search and navigation of our site could be much better. Visitors to census.gov should not have to work so hard to find the information and statistics they are looking for to complete their research, personal projects or business needs.
Piggybacking on one of my earlier posts, People are Crazy about Mobile, I’m going to talk about “Distracted Walking.” Who among us hasn’t walked and texted or checked Facebook or Twitter on our smartphones, but have bumped into someone or something while texting on your smartphone? I know I am guilty of that. Maybe you’ve seen this viral video of a woman who, distracted by Facebook on her phone, fell into a fountain.
Mobile first means more than just focusing on text content; it’s also includes considering visual content as important element of the user experience. The infographic from Design for Infographics highlights what happens when a visual experience doesn’t meet mobile users expectations. Here are some tips on making sure your visual content, like infographics, create good visual user experiences. 1. Infographics should tell a story. Explain the key point’s people need to consider in your graphic.
While composing email on mobile phones is still a tricky feat, email reading is quickly shifting away from the desktop. According to data from the US Consumer Device Preference Report: Q4 2013 from Movable Ink, way more than half of all email — a full 65 percent — is now being accessed via mobile devices in the U.S. That’s up relatively steeply from just 61 percent for the third quarter of 2013.
1. Meet all Laws, Requirements, Policies, and Directives for Federal Contact Centers Understand and follow all Privacy, Security, Disability, and Service Contract Act requirements. 2. Use Performance Metrics to Influence Business Rules and Drive Improvements Develop Key Performance Indicators/Metrics (see Performance Goals). CSLIC could be used as a start. 3. Develop and Use a Comprehensive Quality Assurance Program Monitor quality. Use data to provide feedback to website/content team.
USA.gov offers two different types of URL shorteners – 1.USA.gov and Go.USA.gov. No matter which URL shortener you use, there are some usability, accessibility, and SEO issues you should keep in mind. 1.USA.gov 1.USA.gov is powered by bitly.com and open to everyone. If you go to bitly.com and shorten a .gov or .mil URL, you will get a 1.USA.gov short URL. This is a free service and you do not need to register for an account.
Why Invest in a Content Management System? Does it take too long to update and post digital content? Do you lack consistent branding across your website(s)? Is outdated, redundant content leading to a poor customer experience? Does your agency website show up too far down in search results? Are you re-creating the same content for different platforms such as Web or mobile? A content management system (CMS) can address these issues and significantly improve how your agency delivers and manages digital information—positively impacting your bottom line.
In July 2013, U.S. Forest Service fisheries biologist Pete Schneider launched a YouTube Live video event from the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center in Alaska. The goal of the project was to not only deliver a reliable 2-month long, 24/7, live video stream where an international audience could witness spawning Sockeye salmon, hungry Dolly Varden, cunning Cutthroat, and schools of disorientated Coho fry, but to also use the platform as way to collaborate and converse with viewers.
It is undeniable the reach of online video into our modern lives. From cats in shark costumes riding on Roombas to the 2.1 million people live streaming the 2012 Super Bowl. Online video inspires us with TED talks and allows us to feel the rush of Felix Baumgartner jumping from space. With online video so embedded (online video geek pun) in our lives, it makes perfect sense for Government to use online video to engage its citizens.
One of the most important jobs for an organization is to think about the entire ecosystem of their brand and what the user experience is across each channel. Whether it is through accessing information on your site through various devices, calling a help line, engaging through social media, and/or having a face-to-face conversation, there may be any number of combinations for how people interact with your organization. And the expectation is that the tone, interactions, functions, and visual design will all be cohesive.
“The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug.” — Mark Twain It’s simple—you’re the technical expert; you know the topic inside out, so of course you can easily explain it to a captive audience. Right? Not always. Communicators in every industry know that message development matters. External audiences, internal audiences and stakeholders of all kinds need clear information about your services, benefits and products.
After having the same look and feel on our website since 2010, Commerce.gov is embarking on a fresh redesign to put the user in the driver seat. Drawing on anonymized user input, we have made some significant changes and are excited to announce the launch of our new site – Beta.Commerce.gov. First, you’ll notice that we’ve made search front and center. Our search feature was visited by one in seven users, and we’ve made it even easier to find and use.
Improving the federal government’s ability to deliver digital information anytime, anywhere, on any device—via open content—is a key goal of the Digital Government Strategy. A content management system (CMS) can help your agency move to an open content model, making it easier for people to find, share, use, and re-use your information. The key steps in getting ready to move to a CMS include: Prepare Your Content Choose a CMS Migrate Your Content to a CMS Prepare Your Content Develop a Content Strategy A content strategy defines such things as topics, themes and purpose, and can also play a part in website governance, customer experience, metadata and search engine optimization (SEO).
“Future-ready content,” “responsive design,” “create once, publish everywhere” are all buzzwords you hear when talking about the present and future of Web publishing. But how do we get there? We all know that technology is only part of the answer. Open content models and structured data are a big part of the answer. Lakshmi Grama, Senior Digital Strategist in the Office of Communications and Education at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) discusses what structured content and open content models can do to help government agencies create content that is platform-agnostic, format-free, and device-independent in this November, 2013 webinar.
Analyzing your visitors’ search terms can help you better understand their needs. It can provide valuable data about the content and organization of the content on your site. Create a Semi-Automated Report of Terms Here’s how to create a semi-automated report for analyzing large amounts of search data on a regular basis. A human still needs to review the data for changes and new trends, but this process can save a lot of time once you have a solid understanding of the data and the spreadsheet functions in place.
A Twitter town hall, or Twitter chat, is an event where agencies invite public engagement for a scheduled time period during which users can ask questions or find out more information about a topic via Twitter, much like a webinar. The questions are tagged with a pre-designated hashtag, and the agency responds to questions using the hashtag, follows-up via a blog post, or uses another digital means of meaningfully responding to the engagements.
A few days ago a coworker asked me to look at a paragraph. He said it was on the top customer service priorities in our division. So I scooted my chair over and looked at it. Then I looked at him and asked, “But what is it supposed to do?” He said, “It’s supposed to convey, at a very high level, what we’re doing in the next year.” I said, “Oh.
As non-lawyers peering into the legal world, be advised this post is not official legal advice from the Office of General Counsel. These are our impressions and what we took away from the Legal Learning Series session Social Media – Privacy, Records and Litigation. Do you collect comments and post photos on your agency social media accounts and websites? If so, are you aware that much of that content could possibly be considered personally identifiable information (PII)?
Content refers to the various types of material in different formats, such as text, images and video, that provide information to the user (it also fits into a mobile product’s information architecture). From the 42 Mobile Gov User Experience guidelines and recommendations released last week, you deemed 7 ‘critical’ around the content element. Specifically, it is critical that mobile gov products; Provide user-centered content Eliminate unnecessary elements Use analytics to identify content priorities (e.
A sure way to drive employees crazy is to never share what executives discuss or decide until a new mandate lands on the organization’s collective head. While senior leaders should expect some privacy in decision-making and debate, they should also expect to openly hold themselves accountable and to make sure their employees know where the organization is headed. One way to offer that clear accountability and communication is by keeping people apprised of what happens in important executive meetings, even as those meetings are happening.
There has been a shift in consumer behavior during the last few years, a move toward immediacy and convenience, and with the responsive redesign of USA.gov and GobiernoUSA.gov, consumers can now have access to the same information and services when they need them, and on any platform and device. The number of mobile users is growing rapidly. In 2012 USA.gov and GobiernoUSA.gov received more than 2.5 million visits from mobile devices, not including tablets.
Structured content refers to the concept of organizing and treating digital content like data. It’s a way of publishing content as modular, discrete pieces of information that are tagged with machine-readable descriptions. Structured content has the potential to transform how people find, understand, share, and use government information. Why Structured Content Matters Most digital content published by the federal government is still found on static HTML Web pages. This unstructured content doesn’t always adapt well to smaller screens, and it’s harder to discover, share, or reuse the information.
Wikipedia says that structured content refers to information that’s been broken down and classified using metadata. It can also refer to information that’s been classified using XML or other standard or proprietary forms of metadata. The National Institutes of Health’s National Cancer Institute (NIH/NCI) move to structured content has allowed them to easily deliver their content anywhere, anytime, and on any device. The Challenge The National Cancer Institute (NCI) has a huge base of information on cancer treatments that is continually updated.
Can you imagine how frustrating and confusing it would be to find several variations of the same agency name on different sites or even different pages or documents on the same site? This is what happens everyday to Spanish-speaking customers accessing the Spanish names of some federal agencies. They try to navigate the website to perform important tasks like applying for benefits, accessing health information, doing business over the Internet or filling out forms.
Mobile Gov Experiences are agency stories about creating anytime, anywhere, any device government services and info. This entry is a story shared by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) launched a free, educational iPad app called “Solve the Outbreak,” which lets users play the role of Epidemic Intelligence Service agents – the “Disease Detectives” who are on the front lines of new outbreaks wherever they occur.
Great websites for kids have many of the same features as websites for adults, but some key differences are worth noting when writing digital content for kids or teens. Kids have short attention spans, so it’s important to keep your site engaging, fun, and active. Here are a few tips from Kids.gov on ways to create great online content for kids: Make your kids’ website fun and interactive When your site is interactive, kids don’t even realize that they’re learning.
Techcrunch. com reports Mary Meeker’s much anticipated annual Internet Trends report released at the D11 Conference last week shows astounding growth regarding use of smartphones and tablets. Among the highlights; Mobile Internet users have reached 1.5 billion, up from 1.1 billion a year ago, a 30% increase The number of smartphones is up to 5 billion mobile phones worldwide Mobile usage is now 15% of all Internet traffic, up 50% from 10% the year before Tablet shipments outpaced desktop and notebook shipments 3 years after being introduced There seems to be a shift from smartphones and tablets to other types of mobile enabled devices that Meeker is calling Wearables, Drivables, Flyables and Scannables See the complete slideshare for more Government mobile strategists who pay attention to Meeker’s stats will likely stay ahead of the curve regarding the expected continuing exponential growth in mobile usage, devices and applications and keep citizens and stakeholders engaged on whatever device they use.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the active practice of improving aspects of your website so that commercial search engines (such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo) can find and display your Web pages in the results when they’re relevant to a searcher’s query. Users generally expect to find the most relevant results at the top of the search engine’s results page. These four steps can help you achieve good SEO:
Don’t include Internet music, video, or graphics in your video unless you understand the copyright. Yes, this is a pain, but companies take copyright very seriously and regularly file both takedown notices and lawsuits against offenders. Numerous laws like the Digital Media Copyright Act (DMCA) discuss in great detail the “ins and outs” of using web–based media. Here’s a few important points on understanding copyright: Assume All Material is Copyrighted Nearly all the material on the Web is covered by intellectual property laws.
The Canadian government is changing how we think of traditional Web management. They built a platform of standards-compliant (HTML5, WCAG and WAI-ARIA), accessible and secure components that its agencies (and even provincial and municipalities) can use to build and maintain their sites. They are also focused on optimizing for mobile devices and improving usability and interoperability through their platform. Paul Jackson, project lead and one of the lead developers for Canada’s Web Experience Toolkit, or WET, shared details about the toolkit and how anyone can get involved, during a DigitalGov University webinar, April 17.
Agencies have been working away at building better digital services and here, at the Digital Services Innovation Center, we’ve been building resources to help. We have been focusing on three areas, The Digital Analytics Program. We announced this program in early October to help agencies better measure performance and customer satisfaction to improve service delivery. It includes digital metrics guidance and best practices, training and a federal-wide Web analytics tool and support.
A case study on how the Department of Education used the Drupal content management system (CMS) to publish press releases as structured content to automatically generate listing pages and reduce errors and posting time. The Challenge The Department of Education was posting press releases using a system that posted them as static HTML files. The site design required press releases to be linked from several different pages, but the system was not designed to create those links automatically.
A case study on how NASA is choosing a new enterprise content management system (CMS). The Challenge NASA.gov needs a new enterprise CMS. They’re facing issues such as software obsolescence, inconsistent website governance, and a large amount of unstructured content stored in flat HTML files. Their current system is almost a decade old, and the vendor no longer provides technical support. They need an enterprise solution that will enable offices throughout NASA to collaborate on content creation, instead of having each component create content in isolation.
Automated translation is touted as a one click solution. But is it? From time to time, the listserv lights up with the issue of translating websites into other languages and I’ve seen the interest increase as Web managers struggle to comply with competing mandates to serve their customers. Many Web managers are tasked with installing the “magic button” solution on their websites to make them multilingual and comply with current mandates, such as Executive Order 13166 and the Justice Department’s 2011 Renewed Commitment Memo.
Kids and adults use Web search tools differently. Kids fail more often, because they often don’t have enough knowledge or experience to search using the right keywords, or understand search results. If you’re designing websites for kids, remember that they use search tools differently than adults. Kids prefer surfing over searching. If kids can’t easily find what they want, they will likely: Miss important content Become frustrated Leave your website and not come back Help Kids Search Successfully If you’re thinking about putting a customized search engine just for kids on your site, you should understand how kids use search engines.
Introduction USA.gov and GobiernoUSA.gov use social media to make government information easy for people to find, access, and use. Among the essential tools we use are videos, which we host on USA.gov YouTube and GobiernoUSA.gov’s YouTube channels. We are always looking for opportunities to feature and leverage important government information, by posting videos from various government agencies. We welcome and invite all government agencies to collaborate with us on providing useful and relevant information to the public.
Government videos need to follow two main laws: People with disabilities must be able to fully experience them, and They must adhere to privacy laws 1. Making Video Accessible for People with Disabilities (Section 508) Federal employees are required by law (Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973) to make the materials they create usable for people with disabilities. Section 508 applies to video as well. There are three main requirements for making a video 508 accessible.
[ ](https://s3.amazonaws.com/digitalgov/_legacy-img/2013/12/b8-stock-footage.jpg) If you’re creating video, stock footage can be your best friend. If you need shots of people walking around, a photo of Chicago, the sound of footsteps or a Latin soundtrack, someone else has already probably already created it and made it available for free! Also known as B–roll, stock footage is extra material that may or may not have appeared in previous productions. Be sure to read about copyright, to ensure you don’t grab licensed video or music by accident.