Maryland Department of Information Technology Secretary Elliot Schlanger shared with StateScoop the design and development process behind the effort and what we can expect in the future.
What was the impetus for the redesign?
Governor Martin O’Malley and his team wanted to ensure the state’s portal platform continued to evolve and align with constituent needs and expectations. The vision was to deliver a best-in-class solution that creates an engaging online experience and encourages a dialogue between Maryland citizens and their state government, whether they are at home or on the go.
The Department of Information Technology facilitated a redesign committee of stakeholders to define the direction and desired improvements. Our eGov portal provider and partner, NIC, also brought best practices and the experience of operating numerous other states’ portal platforms.
When you launched the site, you talked about taking a “research driven design” approach to development. Can you expand on this?
The new design is based on a combination of website analytics, online surveys and customer service data, focus group feedback, and industry best practices for government website design.
Sessions with state representatives from the DoIT, the governor’s office, state agencies, and various experts from around the state and the country were held to discuss the needs, interests and best practices surrounding citizen portals. Focus group sessions with businesses and citizens were conducted across Maryland to obtain users preferences and expectations for their state government website.
Can you talk about the technology behind it?
We pooled several technologies to develop the new Maryland.gov portal.
The website was developed using the Microsoft SharePoint 2010 platform with the use of custom developed web parts and a metadata taxonomy system. Responsive web design is achieved by using HTML5 and CSS3 with media queries to scale content and empower users to consume Maryland.gov information and services on any device.
Social media integration was achieved through product application programming interfaces and aggregating social content for display. The “Instant Search” uses the state’s customized Google Search Appliance and also associates keywords to content to make the search results relevant to the user.
You’ve integrated geolocation tools to help citizens easily find government offices or parks near them. Can you share the development process and how that was implemented?
The “Near You” functionality represents a high level of collaboration and technical integration between the state’s geographic information system department and the various agencies who offer geographically-based services. For example, the data mash-up for Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration office wait times uses the Google Maps API for government office locations and a GIS developed API to display data from the MVA branch office queue system.
Social media plays much more of an integral role in the new site compared to the old one? What was your strategy behind integrating social media?
Maryland has one of the most robust social media communication strategies with over 200 social channels maintained by Maryland state agencies. One of our redesign strategies was to utilize these channels and engage the user directly through the portal. The new Maryland.gov deeply integrates social media feeds throughout the context of navigation on the main sections of the site. The focus on social media throughout the portal extends the portal as a communications platform, and provides meaningful updates and information relative to the section of the site being visited.
What plans do you have for future development?
The new Maryland.gov serves as the foundation for future development across the enterprise of state agencies. Maryland has been a long-time leader among states with agency website enterprise branding standards.
New branding standards include responsive design best practices, and agencies are currently working to incorporate the new standards into their specific websites under the Maryland.gov umbrella. We plan to continue to enhance the social media presence and integrate data available through the Maryland StateStat Open Data Portal to further support citizen, business, and visitor interaction and service delivery.
We will continue to evaluate website analytics and customer feedback to guide our development efforts and make Maryland.gov a user-centric and rewarding website for all Marylanders.