At this very moment, how useful is the content on your site? How many steps does it a take a user to find what they need? How many sections do they need to wade through before they can consume the one, small piece of information they’re looking for? How much of it is outdated? How many pages are you waiting to update based on seasonality, or once that ‘one thing’ takes place and then you’ll have more information to provide? At this very moment, how useful is the content on your site?

These are questions we raised with our agencies and departments, but they’re applicable to anyone assessing a government website. We can build as many services as we want, but content — the information we share with our citizens — is crucial to how we engage. Upon initial assessment, the content we were providing on the original indy.gov site wasn’t entirely useful (some pages yes, but others, no). Users had to wade through multiple pages within a site to consume one piece of information, and even then, they may have to follow-up to find specific details. Much of it was outdated. Much of it was seasonal. At that moment, much of the content on our site wasn’t useful.

If you’re overhauling a government website and you haven’t thought about your content yet, get a time machine. One of the more consistent topics the Shift Indy team repeats to one another is, “We should’ve been thinking about content sooner.” And that’s not to say we ignored it by any means, or that our agencies and departments haven’t been tremendous partners in the migration process. In the beginning, we were simply too focused on digital services.

If you’re overhauling a government website, you’ll be heavily focused on digital services, too. There’s far too many third-party providers, global features, one-off customer solutions, and discussions on portals versus API’s to handle on this journey. Meanwhile, your content is sitting there patiently, waiting in queue. Content doesn’t have a contract ready for renewal. It doesn’t have a bleeding-edge solution ready to take it’s place, and it isn’t going to create excitement among your government peers or your constituents.  That’s the problem with content; it’s stable, and static and seemingly easy to address.

If you haven’t addressed your content yet, the good news is it’s manageable (though a time machine might still be nice).  This past spring, the Shift Indy team designed a content review process for every agency/department site; giving them the power to assess and approve the information they deem valuable to the community they serve. The agencies and departments we work with have been wonderful partners in this process, and the resulting content on my.indy.gov — from the way you access it, to the actual text on the page — will be far more valuable to our users.

Over the next few months, we’ll continue to publish new, refreshed content to the site. Once the full transition takes place, our new digital city hall will not only be a place where you can access government services online, but also the most relevant information. It’s information as a service, and it’s just as beneficial as any digital form, request or look-up we build.

For our government/IT followers: we intend to further document our content review process and other pieces of the Shift Indy initiative to hopefully assist with your digital transformations. If you haven’t started thinking about your content, we hope this piece has inspired you to do so. If there are specific topics/obstacles you’d like for us to document, please send them to Shift.Indy@indy.gov.

Abbey Brands
Chief Communications Officer