The trend of government beta sites has hit Massachusetts with the debut of Pilot.mass.gov.
The site, released last month, serves as a testing ground and prototype for the Massachusetts Office of Information Technology (MassIT). Its purpose is to collect critiques and feedback as the state’s IT teams respond with a new site design and features.
Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker urged visitors to send their thoughts on the beta site’s homepage.
“We’ve been working hard to redesign our look and our capacity to serve you,” Baker said in a video. “So we’d like you to check out our website and give us the guidance and advice that we need.”
In the past, localities engineered everything from start to finish and the end result was frequently hit-or-miss. Since few people saw the sites before launch, there were also few warnings when features malfunctioned or when designs went awry.
To preempt problems through beta testing, the pilot has a “Tell us what you think” button at the bottom right of the each page. This allows visitors to comment on just about anything, or focus attention on six different topics. Some include bugs, navigation, site search and accessibility challenges. A short survey also accompanies the online suggestion form, offering visitors a option to comment anonymously or provide their emails for followup.
In a comparison between the commonwealth’s old site and the beta, a first look reveals an emphasis on search over category selections. A search bar is prominently displayed in the center of the homepage.
It’s also part of a trend among state and local governments to make information more accessible and story-driven, while using an agile methodology to develop the platforms that present that information.
In April, the City of Boston released a budget portal that puts the average citizen front and center, condensing an 860-page budget into a collection of data-rich stories.