Content Management Is for Lovers (and Clydesdales)
It is not easy to fit an entire state on one Web site. However, that lofty goal is Virginia.gov's mission. Virginia residents can--from the site's homepage--check the weather, file their taxes, pay for a traffic ticket, or find out what's on offer at the annual Virginia Arts Festival. Managing the content level that Virginia.gov provides to users is a practice that must be frequently refreshed to prevent the site from clogging and Virginia.gov's staff from being overworked.
The state had implemented CrownPeak CMS (content management solution) to power its site in 2000; at that time SaaS was an emerging practice. David Hudson, director of production for CrownPeak, says, "Back when we started with Virginia.gov [SaaS] was a pretty new thing." In spite of the delivery model's novelty, project leaders took a chance and implemented the CMS to combat the growing problem of staff spending more time on grunt work than on improving the portal and information delivery systems.
After a four-week implementation, largely comprising content migration, Virginia.gov saw marked improvements. The site was easier to update and navigate, and staff could focus on visitors rather than content headaches. After winning a number of awards, including Best of the Web at the Digital Government Achievement Awards (the site proved to be an instrumental information provider in the state's recent hotly contested senate race), Virginia.gov decided to further improve its practices.
In 2006 Virginia.gov again performed a site redesign. Deanna Boehm, marketing director for Virginia.gov, says, "The portal had almost a decade of content that needed to be cleaned up, in addition to having to meet current industry and recently promulgated state standards for accessibility and usability compliance." Project leaders also wished to make the site friendlier to Web visitors. Creative staff had developed a design concept surrounding the celebration of Jamestown's 400th anniversary (the Anheuser-Busch Clydesdales will be on hoof). Configuring the site's content and graphics in a way that users would be comfortable required heavy testing and a full reevaluation of the portal's architecture. The project's leaders again looked to CrownPeak.
Because Virginia.gov was already running with CrownPeak, the implementation period the site had previously undergone was cut in half for the 2006 renovation. To try out the new creative features on the site, Virginia.gov worked with CrownPeak to create what Boehm calls a "development playground" at which employees were was able to "explore and test the new design features and organization with no impact to the current site." The site also implemented CrownPeak's RSS capability features for the first time, through which was created a calendar interface for users to easily browse upcoming events. As a government site, Virginia.gov also needed to comply with Section 508, which requires all pages to be available in formats that can be viewed by people with disabilities. CrownPeak ensured that the code was in place to support compliance restrictions.
After completing the 2006 redesign Virginia.gov soon found both relief internally and response externally. The portal estimated resource time-savings of more than 820 hours for the Web. Additionally, three months after implementing the CMS for the redesign, the portal saw an increase in visits by over 50 percent compared to the same time period in 2005. With the CMS system in place, Boehm believes that the portal will be able to continue to save work hours, further improving the site by freeing up the staff to focus its attention on site improvement. According to CrownPeak, the portal may also use the CMS solution in the future as it currently has plans to put in place Web 2.0 functionality for user collaboration. Jim Howard, CEO of CrownPeak, says, "If you have a good CMS solution you can continually add to it and upgrade it. Virginia.gov has been a customer for five years now and we expect them to be a customer five years from now."
Through using CrownPeak C MS, Virginia.gov has:
increased Web site visitation by over 50 percent;
saved an estimated 820 resource hours; and
complied successfully with all government Web standards.