Andrew Martin February 27, 2024

Douglas County Web Design Project: Solving the Diverse Challenges Associated with a Government Website

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As Denver’s leading web design company, we’ve had the opportunity to work with a wide range of local businesses and organizations. Denver has a diverse and thriving business landscape, and working with local companies has allowed us to sink our teeth into projects that require varied and unique solutions to meet the challenges of such diverse clients.

However, the needs and goals of business websites are completely different than those required of government organizations. When Douglas County, Colorado tasked us with building their new website, it provided us with an entirely new set of challenges to address. Our web design and development team embraced these challenges head on and came up with a variety of innovative solutions to deliver the robust website solutions they needed.

The Douglas County website was a unique project. It is a government website for a massive county with dozens of different departments, offices and divisions that all have different roles in the government and different needs from the website to fulfill their obligation to citizens. In addition, Douglas County has a very diverse end user group comprised of both residents and businesses. The leaders of Douglas County wanted to work with a local Denver web design company that understood the dynamics of their county. They turned to us to create an effective solution for the complex challenges associated with building an overarching website that can address the disparate needs of all these different groups.

Douglas County Web Design Project Goals

The goals of a business website typically revolve around achieving results that can help grow the company. But a government website seeks to achieve very different goals. They’re not concerned with improving SEO results, generating and converting more leads, conveying a compelling brand story, or selling products. Instead, these websites need to be focused on providing an exceptional user experience:

  • For government staff, this involves making it easy for them to make updates to the website as needed
  • For end users (residents and businesses), this involves making it easy for them to find the information they need when they visit the website
  • In addition, there is also a need to be sensitive to the county’s fiduciary responsibility of taxpayer dollars, and ensure these funds are being used in the most efficient and economical way possible

Goals to Address the Needs of Government Staff

We were tasked with addressing a wide range of goals and challenges associated with the needs of government staff. The most important included:

  • Creating a website that reflects everything they are as a county, as related to the diverse services they provide
  • Developing imagery and messaging updates to convey a clearly defined and cohesive experience
  • Creating workflows that support their new governance model
  • Developing website content management capabilities that are easy for the Douglas County staff to navigate
  • Creating customized solutions for dozens of different departments with varying needs

Goals to Address the Needs of End Users

The challenges and goals associated with the needs of end users (county residents and businesses) were quite different. These involved:

  • Creating an exceptional website usability experience for citizens
  • Build a system that makes doing business on the website easy and convenient
  • Develop a solution that makes it easy for individuals to find what they need for citizens who don’t know which department manages the tasks they need to complete
  • Create a navigation structure that organizes the website by department for individuals who work with the government all the time and want to find what they need within a specific department’s section of the website
  • Addressing all legally mandated ADA accessibility requirements

Fiduciary Goals

It was important to provide a solution that made efficient use of taxpayer money. This required us to develop a plan that was as streamlined and efficient as possible. In addition, we needed to make sure that future website enhancements could easily be implemented in a cost-effective manner.

Solutions to Meet the Website Needs of Douglas County

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Douglas County Website addresses the needs of over 30 offices, departments and divisions

Many government websites are built off a template that creates rigidity. This isn’t ideal for a large government agency that requires unique solutions to address the varied needs of different departments and entities. We recognized right away that a customized approach was necessary to provide them with the solution they needed.

Meticulous planning was critical to the success of this web design project. One of the main challenges we worked through was getting all the different Douglas County agencies aligned during the planning process. To achieve this, we met with every department to better understand their specific goals and needs for the website. Then, we spent additional planning time creating a solution that was able to factor in the needs of each agency.

This process was critical to ensure we addressed all the diverse goals required of their new website. Without our team’s extensive experience with detailed website planning and the ability to navigate very large website projects, these disparate goals would be much harder to achieve. Our team was able to bring all these separate goals together to create a customized solution that met these varied needs more effectively and seamlessly.

Solutions to Address the Needs of Douglas County Staff

We developed a variety of solutions to achieve the diverse goals and needs of the Douglas County staff. We were able to create a global website that serves over 30 offices, departments and divisions within the county. This provides a streamlined experience for both government employees and website end users. In addition, it ensured that all these offices, divisions and departments were represented on the website and had the ability to deliver the services and information they’re tasked with providing to residents and businesses.

In addition, we took several steps to provide their staff with the website management capabilities they required:

  • Denver web design project

    Each department has its own navigation architecture on their main department page

    We created a separate navigation architecture for most departments that can be accessed off their main department page. This gives Douglas County staff members greater control over how they organize information on the website.

  • We created dashboards using Analytics data to help departments determine the information that residents and businesses access most often. This data allows them to make more informed decisions on the menus and content needed on the website.
  • We designed a variety of content blocks that are simple and easy to use. This provided the Douglas County staff members who are acting as website editors with a tool that made it easy to create an engaging layout for new pages they create. In addition, these content blocks make the information on the page more digestible for users.
  • We created a robust permission system setup that breaks departments into publishers and editors. This allows subordinates in a department to make content changes which they can then submit for review/approval to their department heads.
  • We also implemented a Single Sign-On (SSO) which allows any Douglas County staff members with permissions to edit the website using their existing Microsoft Office 365 credentials for login. This consolidated the number of username/passwords staff members needed to do their job.
  • We scheduled numerous training sessions with Douglas County staff to make sure they are all comfortable with how to use the new website and all the tools we created for them on the website. We also provide ongoing post-launch support whenever they have questions.
  • We created a comprehensive website user’s guide to improve the staff user experience.

Solutions to Address the Needs of Douglas County Residents and Businesses

Most of the website goals associated with the needs of end users involved creating an exceptional user experience that made it easy for residents and businesses to find what they are looking for as quickly and efficiently as possible. To accomplish this, we devised a variety of solutions:

  • We created a separate information architecture for each department, making information related to each department easier to find:
    • We streamlined the navigation and organized it into separate sections for Douglas County residents and businesses residing in Douglas County. Within each of these subdivisions, there are several different sections which organize all the information provided to users by department.
    • We created a landing page containing all the different offices, departments and divisions managed on the website. This allows users who know the department they’re looking for to navigate to it even more quickly.
    • Many of these departments have their own separate navigation off their main department page for even better usability. Since Douglas County staff in each department have control over the structure of these submenus, they can highlight the areas that are most useful for residents and businesses.
    • This strategy provides a highly intuitive and user-friendly way for people to find the information they need.
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    Douglas County website service finder tool

    We created a service finder tool that makes it easy for residents and business owners to search the website and find the services they need quickly. For example, if you need to get a fence permit, but don’t know which department manages this task, you can search for “fence permit” and you will automatically be directed to the correct page to apply for the permit. We also added some advanced functionality to this search tool to provide an enhanced user experience:

    • The search tool we used allows us to manually create synonyms. For example, if a resident searches for “license,” we can also show them results for “renewals” and “acceptable ID’s.”
    • The search tool also includes some “smart logic” that enables it to learn what people are searching for most often and adjust the top results accordingly.
    • The search index is hosted off site which dramatically speeds up results and allows for indexing all content (pages, blogs and documents).
  • We created a section for elected officials that outlines who these officials are and provides their contact information, as well as other important information that residents may need to know. This section of the website makes it much easier for users to find information about their elected officials.

Solutions to Address Fiduciary Goals

We made a concerted effort to ensure our solutions addressed their fiduciary responsibility of taxpayer dollars.

When we started working with Douglas County, their existing website was hosted internally using Douglas County hardware that needed to be maintained and secured. Not only was this expensive, but they suffered many outages due to high traffic volume, especially during election times. To address this issue, we used a dedicated environment that is hosted in a tier 4 data center that is fault tolerant and redundant. In addition, our solution is specifically engineered to provide security and support for WordPress websites.

This solution reduces costs associated with maintenance, hosting and security, while also eliminating the issues experienced due to frequent outages. In addition, the Douglas County IT team are now able to focus on projects that provide more open access to data without having to worry about how residents and business owners will access this information. This has resulted in a significant savings of taxpayer money.

Solutions to Address ADA Requirements

ADA solutions for Douglas County government web design project

ADA compliance report for Douglas County website

Government websites are constantly undergoing numerous updates. Therefore, it’s critical to have a strong process in place to ensure all ADA requirements are addressed whenever these updates are made. To accomplish this, we used a service called UserWay, which provides robust ADA compliance capabilities, including:

  • WCAG 2.1 AA conformance
  • Real-time accessibility monitoring and reports
  • Full suite of 100+ AI-powered accessibility functions
  • Custom remediation expertise from visually impaired testers
  • Litigation protection up to $1 million

UserWay has a robust process to ensure ADA compliance. This includes:

  • Automated scan of the website to identify any violations that are present and what needs to be done to correct them
  • AI-powered widget that automatically corrects all violations
  • Custom, manual remediations that aren’t addressed through the AI compliance script
  • Real-world testing by accessibility experts with disabilities
  • Ongoing monitoring and updates

Douglas County has a lot of team members adding content to the website, editing existing content and making updates to images. Therefore, we also provided comprehensive training for each department’s team members tasked with managing the website so that they understand how to make updates in a way that will meet all ADA requirements. The initial training allowed all team members to get up to speed, and then we provided numerous follow-up meetings with each department to provide additional support.

We also meet quarterly with each department to review ADA compliance reports with them and coach their team members on how to address any new compliance issues that developed since their last quarterly review meeting. It’s critical to have these regular reports and go through them with their team to make sure ADA requirements are being addressed for all the updates they make.

Our Innovative Solutions Addressed the Critical Needs of Douglas County

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Dedicated section for elected officials for a better user experience

Measuring the success of government website projects is a little different than measuring the success of a new business website. Many of the traditional metrics used to gauge the success of a business website aren’t relevant to a government website.

The visitors who come to the Douglas County website are mostly predetermined. If you need information provided on their county website, or if you need to perform a task managed on the website, you will visit the site. If not, you won’t have a need to use their website.

Therefore, most of the information we can use to gauge the success of this project is anecdotal in nature. However, we have gotten very strong feedback from Douglas County staff regarding the process. Here’s what a few of their team members had to say:

“This was my third public sector website development experience, and by far the best. Webolutions’ overall knowledge in the space is unmatched. Communication was exemplary throughout the project. Webolutions’ system brought an extremely diverse and differently focused group of agencies and individuals onto the same page. Everyone felt their voices were heard. This fostered positive engagement throughout.”

~R. Gentry, IT/Communications Administrator, Douglas County

“This was truly an inclusive, whole team experience. Webolutions team members made sure we understood each step of the process and helped bring every step together. Confidence and understanding were continuously reinforced through relevant, proactive communications and prompt responses to ad hoc inquiries.”

~N. Quintana, Project Manager, Douglas County

Perhaps the most definitive feedback regarding the success of this project is the follow-up work we’ve received from Dougals County. Since the launch of their main website, they have asked us to build four additional websites for government programs that aren’t managed on the main website. Three of these are already live, and the fourth is in development.

View the main Douglas County, CO website.

Webolutions Can Build an Effective Website to Address the Specific Needs of Your Government Agency

Our team’s experience working on the Douglas County website provides us with the framework and experience to navigate the unique and varied challenges associated with complex government websites. Our meticulous planning and solution-oriented approach to website design and development will set your project up for success and ensure your agency receives the robust functionality to address all your needs.

Webolutions has been Denver’s leading web design company since 1994. We’ve developed a unique Websites Right Methodology™ that incorporates the experience, knowledge and lessons learned from building thousands of websites over 30 years. This fully integrated, strategic approach to website design and development creates a better client experience and results in a superior website that is designed to provide innovative solutions for the specific goals and challenges associated with your project.

The customization provided by our Websites Right Methodology™ is ideally suited to address the needs of government websites. It will free you from the constraints associated with traditional government website templates and provide you with greater control over the final product. This will allow you to more effectively address the needs of your staff and your end users.

Contact us today to schedule a free consultation. Webolutions is a Denver web design company serving clients nationwide.

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