Put a welcome mat at your government agency’s digital front door

Nearly a third of Los Angeles county’s 10 million residents depend on the LA Department of Public Social Services for everything from health care to food assistance to shelter. For the LADPSS, shifting how they interacted with customers—from mostly phone calls and in-person to mostly online—became a priority.

“The experience we deliver to them couldn’t be based on our terms, it had to be based on their terms.”

Michael Sylvester, Assistant Director and Chief Information Officer, LADPSS

This shift meant embarking on an ambitious project to modernize their website, rebuilding it to respond better and faster to user needs. A key part of this was making it possible for those creating site content to also produce high-quality online experiences.

The digital makeover they launched is a good model for all government agencies, because your web presence does more than just offer information. As your “digital front door,” your website can either build trust and confidence in your people, programs and services, or work against them all.

What success looks like – and how you can get there

As you begin a website modernization effort, three key factors will help you measure short- and long-term success:

  1. Equity
  2. Operational efficiency
  3. Cost savings

Achieving these depends on the tools you use to build your site and the choices you make along the way.

Whether the software is custom or outdated, agencies are often forced to develop their content and site pages from scratch. Not surprisingly, this slows down how fast they can publish urgent communications. Before the LADPSS revamp, for example, content creators couldn’t preview content updates before publishing them live on the site. Many agencies suffer from this same challenge, preventing them from double-checking content prior to publication. This increases the chance of mistakes, causing time-consuming workarounds to fix the problems and risking public trust in the process.

But a website where you can drag and drop components to build larger experiences lets anyone from leadership to content creators to frontline workers create, manage, and deliver professional content on-the-fly. The LADPSS overhaul benefitted from a straightforward site setup process, templates to give a solid foundation, and an easy way to create a consistent user experience. The story of their rebuilding offers an inspiring blueprint for success.

More equitable options meet more needs

The goal of any government agency website should be to deliver a first-rate digital experience for each customer, anywhere they visit you.

In the 2022 Digital Trends—Public Sector in Focus report, more than a third of government agencies said their web experience didn’t meet customer expectations. And it’s easy to see how this can happen. The people you’re serving may speak different languages, some may be managing disabilities, and many have internet access only on their mobile phones or from public access points like a library.

“More than a third of government agencies said their web experience didn’t meet customer expectations.”

Source: “2022 Digital Trends—Public Sector in Focus,” Adobe

Through smart choices and a team effort, the LADPSS quickly built a site that could reach and support more people in the community more effectively. They were able to slim the site down from 600 pages of content to a reasonable 200 pages. That meant less information for users to wade through, with faster paths to discovery. Their user-focused design framework adapted buttons, links, and other aspects of navigation to the device a person was using.

They also translated the site into 11 more languages, and a mobile version became the default for anyone accessing the site on their phones. Today, LADPSS is able to reach even more people equitably today, because customers can access their benefits and learn about other resources on a site that’s now fully ADA-compliant.

Effective solutions create greater efficiencies

Rebuilding your site to serve people better does more than just create an effective experience for the public — it also improves efficiencies across your operations.

In that same 2022 Digital Trends report, nearly 60% of government leaders said that increasing organization efficiency was their top priority for 2022 digital investments, and with good reason. The best, most useful websites are easy to update, simple to navigate, filled with relevant information, and adapted to the needs of a range of users.

At LADPSS, the site overhaul simplified the way content was created. A team of 30 content specialists streamlined and standardized the website design, refreshing content and redesigning pages. This made it easier for customers to find documents and other resources, but didn’t require large engineering changes behind the scenes.

Then the agency brought in a UI-based setup assistant that showed staff step-by-step how to create the scaffolding for the new site including details, hierarchy, and templates. As they worked, the agency relied on modern customer analytics and easy-to-use site creation tools. The templates and components they used, including assets and themes, were professionally developed and easy to edit.

Their efforts transformed the way citizens interacted with the agency, which created additional internal efficiencies. Far fewer customers needed to make in-person visits because they could find what they needed online.

“The modernization effort was vital,” Sylvester says. “Instead of someone spending several hours to get an answer to a question, they could find the information they need on the site in just a few minutes — even over the weekend, when our offices are typically closed for business.”

“The modernization effort was vital. Instead of someone spending several hours to get an answer to a question, they could find the information they need on the site in just a few minutes—even over the weekend, when our offices are typically closed for business.”

Michael Sylvester, Assistant Director and Chief Information Officer, LADPSS

Thanks to their new, streamlined development process, LADPSS staff had more time for tweaking how web pages worked and improving the customer experience. With their content creators now able to make and develop what went on the site, the LADPSS saw a 68% improvement in content efficiency in just the first week of the site going live. Today, the enhanced functionality of the site helps the agency avoid service disruptions and frees up staff to focus on critical updates.

Building a website that’s easy to use and efficient to manage on the backend offers rewards far beyond just communicating with your agency’s audience. It means less effort and more satisfaction on the part of users, faster service delivery, more time for staff to work on adding value — in short, a better experience and smarter use of resources at every step.

Better service means bigger savings

The less work people have to do to access what they need from you, the less work you have to do in providing it.

When people can’t easily find answers on your site, it takes them longer to access the services you offer that could help them. That can lead to more call center interactions and paperwork, costing agencies time and money.

A recent study of the Texas Health and Human Services agency predicted that robust site analytics could, theoretically, help save $16 million in administrative costs for state Medicaid alone simply by reducing repeat phone contact and improving the re-enrollment and application process. Another $2 million in saving was predicted for SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), using customer experience solutions to help people find online information faster and complete their applications more easily.

And the U.S. Census Bureau, responsible for a massive nationwide survey each decade, already knows the value of an efficient website. The Bureau showed savings of around $1.4 billion when it brought the 2020 census online in 59 languages — the first to be done digitally — migrating mail-in reporting to online and reducing the need for door-to-door follow-ups. Breaking down the total, for every 1% of citizens who responded to the survey online, the Bureau anticipated $55 million in savings.

The right tools let you build the services people want today

It takes effort to create a website that’s simple to use and manage — time that might seem better spent elsewhere. But your site is often the public’s first impression of your agency, and a successful, positive experience builds trust from the start.

As you streamline your site, the improved user journeys will let people get things done on their own. That gives your staff time to figure out how to serve customers more effectively down the road instead of scrambling to help them today.

It turns out that raising your site’s performance isn’t just a nice-to-have — it’s a must-do-today.

Learn how Adobe can accelerate your digital modernization efforts and help transform your government agency’s “front door” with our modern customer experience solutions.