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Best Practices For Government Website Design: How South Dakota Brought Its Government Forms Online

How the South Dakota Department of Revenue worked with Lawrence & Schiller and SeamlessDocs to successfully revamp its website user experience for citizens, businesses and employees.

Government websites aren’t typically known for their design and functionality. But, Roberta “Bobi” Adams, Deputy Director of Strategy and Communications at the South Dakota Department of Revenue, wanted to break the mold for her department. 

“If you saw our website before, you would have absolutely no question why we wanted to change it,” laughed Adams. "It looked like this..." 

Old SDOR Website Image

“We wanted to modernize the look and feel of the site, but more importantly we wanted to improve its usability. From our research, we discovered that the functionality most important to our constituents was the ability to complete forms, digitally.”

The demand was especially true for younger generations. Adams said, “Citizens, especially those around my kids' age, don’t want to print and mail documents anymore. They want to access them online.” 

So, Adams hired Lawrence & Schiller (L&S) to oversee the project and help turn their vision into reality.

Building the right framework, from search to submission

Travis Adney, Senior Digital Strategist/Marketing Technologist at L&S, led the team that constructed what the website’s redesign and rebrand could look like. In particular, they focused on improving citizens’ experience of finding relevant digital documents. 

For Adams and Adney, it was important for the Department of Revenue to have full control over editing, accessing and processing online documents, while also providing a cohesive experience for the end-user. 

Screen Shot 2020-10-09 at 12.21.03 PM

(The new South Dakota Department of Revenue website.)

To have the best of both worlds, Adney emphasized the importance of finding a digital document and signature solution with:

1. Seamless API: A platform that could easily integrate into existing technology without burdening the IT team.

2. Customization options: The tech needed to also have robust configuration capabilities so that when it was implemented into design means that constituents wouldn’t feel friction, or a siloed experience, while completing forms online.

A Seamless Partnership Between Constituents and Department

After an extensive search for a software platform that would provide the kind of control, and government specific expertise they were looking for, the L&S team was elated to find SeamlessDocs checked all of the “must-have” boxes for forms, eSignatures and payments.

The new website launch, coupled with the new online document and signature options, has changed the way The South Dakota Department of Revenue conducts business. The agency now has full control and autonomy over its forms, and can conduct transactions with citizens and local businesses entirely online.

80th Annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally LogoThis was particularly important this year in the run-up to the 80th annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. This legendary motorcycle rally is among the largest events held in South Dakota every year, attended by hundreds of thousands of tourists and citizens, and fueled by hundreds of vendors, each of whom need to complete a sales tax application. Each year the Department of Revenue receives approximately 1,000 applications.

In previous years, vendors had to complete their application process by printing and mailing in paperwork for processing. This paper-based process left room for plenty of error: applications lost in the mail, incomplete documents, illegible handwriting, missing pages, incorrect filing of received submissions—the list goes on. These hiccups added lag time, and additional back-and-forth before vendors could get approved. 

With its new website this year, the Department of Revenue ran the entire application process online, with immediate, real-time access to each applicant's application. They were also able to automate email responses to let applicants know the status of their submission, or request additional information if needed. For staff, every application is available right at their fingertips if someone calls in asking for an update.

Furthermore, Adams and her team were able to add and update COVID-19 guidelines to forms in real-time, a process that in the past would have taken days and required assistance from a third party vendor. With SeamlessDocs, forms could be edited in minutes to reflect the most recent updates from state agencies.

Agile Technology with a Future, for the Future

Adams says that the success and optimism she and the entire department have about digital documents and eSignatures wouldn’t be possible without agile technology. 

“SeamlessDocs is so responsive to our needs,” says Adams, “Our department requires a lot of customization and SeamlessDocs has been a great partner to work with. It’s important for us to something more than just ‘off-the-shelf.;”

Adney added that finding technology that won’t get left behind was top-of-mind for him. “Throughout our partnership, the SeamlessDocs team has worked with us to build a solution that meets our design and functionality standards, and the needs of South Dakota employees and citizens. The integration between website, frontend form submission, and backend data processing is truly seamless, and can grow and evolve to meet future parameters of the site.”

An image of South Dakota's "Online and Out of Line" Initiative.


As the South Dakota Department of Revenue continues to bring more forms online, its even rolled out some social media messaging to encourage more citizens to use the growing number of forms available online. Using the hashtag #OnlineAndOutOfLine, citizens are reminded they don’t have to show up in-person to get important jobs done.

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