Recent data, surveys, and legislation reveal that 2019 will be an important year for making government websites mobile-responsive.
The proliferation of smart devices has transformed the landscape for government websites. According to a Pew Research Center study, 77% of Americans owned a smartphone in 2018. To keep pace with rapidly evolving digital trends in 2019, governments will need to adopt a mobile-responsive digital strategy, ensuring that their websites and online services are accessible from a variety of browsers and devices.
Legislation now mandates mobile-responsiveness on the federal level. On December 20 2018, the 21st Century Integrated Digital Experience Act (IDEA) passed, requiring that new government websites and digital services be mobile-responsive and that existing sites and services be prioritized for an update. Mobile-responsive is defined as “a website configuration that can be easily navigated, viewed and accessed on a smartphone, tablet computer or similar mobile device.”
(An example of CSS page layout. Image courtesy of Dries Buytaert - https://dri.es/redesigning-a-website-using-css-grid-and-flexbox)
IDEA is bound to have far-reaching effects on the federal government’s online presence. According to the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation, as of March 2017, 41% of the most popular federal government websites were not mobile-friendly. In the first half of 2019, all federal agencies will be required to take action: modernizing, digitizing, and standardizing their website, services, and forms (including those with signatures) in conformance with the stipulations of the new law.
Legal considerations aside, it is in a government’s best interest to adapt to modern channels of communication. With nearly 50% of government website traffic coming from mobile and tablet devices, non-responsive websites result in a number of undesirable outcomes. For example, a citizen may call City Hall for information that could have easily been obtained on a responsive website, taking up time for both city staff and citizens. A non-responsive website could even prompt a citizen to give up whatever they were seeking to do.
Higher drop-off rates mean less revenue – remember, constituents are also a source of business! There are fees associated with a number of government services – applications, permits, licenses – and a non-responsive government website disincentives usage and as a result, payment.
With Analytics Dashboards widely available, it is now easier than ever for governments to gain insight into their website usage and make data-driven decisions. Analytics reveal the staggering number of visitors reaching your website from mobile and tablet devices, as well other interesting data points: how many people are on your website now, which browsers and operating systems they’re using, top pages, visitor locations, and more.
The 2018 Digital Cities Survey revealed that the #2 initiative that is likely to have an increased focus in 2019 is “Citizen Engagement/Experience.”
Improving citizen engagement requires a comprehensive digital strategy that incorporates best practices in government web design as drawn from the private sector, such as making government websites mobile-responsive, accessible, and consistent. When government websites begin to mirror the user experience of private websites, only then will governments unlock the potential for unparalleled engagement.
To learn more about best practices in mobile responsiveness and government web design, check out our new ebook: Best Practices for Driving Constituent Engagement through Digital Services. In this ebook, we draw from over six years of learning and insights from our government partners to recommend ten best practices for implementing digital services in the public sector.