Agencies were reluctant to redesign websites, New Hampshire CIO says

In an interview with StateScoop last week, New Hampshire Chief Information Officer Denis Goulet said the state’s multiyear effort to retool its online citizens services, which include website redesigns and new accessibility features, started with evangelizing state agencies that were initially reluctant to participate.

“I was going to every agency and talking to them about how you flip around the perspective,” Goulet said. “I told them straight up their opinion on whether their website is good or not doesn’t matter. It’s their constituents opinion that matters.”

Goulet said the New Hampshire Department of Technology has moved about 70% of the executive branch agency websites to a cloud platform and that they now share a common design. He said the standardized online appearance of the state government has garnered good feedback.

Goulet said the new website platform has expanded traffic-monitoring capabilities, which were put to the test during the COVID-19 pandemic when many state websites saw high traffic. He said that stress test eliminated worry of future crashes.

Goulet said the platform was also built to be “accessible by default,” but that adding new documents or applications to the platform and making them accessible requires additional work, so his office is training agency leaders how to do that. He said the Department of Justice’s release last month of final accessibility rules regarding state and local web and application content has been helpful.

“I’m getting [state agencies] calling me saying, ‘Alright, what are we going to do?’ That’s perfect. So I think we’re really going to up our game in New Hampshire based on just using that as a lever to help us make it important,” Goulet said.

Goulet said he hopes that within six months the state will have a new business services portal running. He called it a “transformational event” for New Hampshire.

“I really do think that for anybody that’s working on citizen experience or user experience, flip the perspective, go to the people who you’re serving to determine if you’re doing it right,” he said.