DC.gov has been recognized by Juggle as one of the top city government sites on the web. Below you'll find an interview with Joy McCrady, Manager of the Web Maintenance Team for the Government of the DIstrict of Columbia.
- DC.gov is a top-notch web portal; what has been your role in its development?
I am the DC.Gov Web Portal Manager. I manage DC.Gov web standards, day-to-day web content workflow, webpage development and maintenance operations for the award-winning District of Columbia web portal, DC.Gov; which includes 120+ websites, over 200,000 pages of content, and over 200 online applications. My primary focus for 2009/2010 is to replace the District's Web Content Management System, information architecture, and content strategy to improve user experience, reduce maintenance costs and development time, and utilize 21st century web technologies to disseminate news, information and services for the residents of the District of Columbia. Many teams contribute to the success of the portal—they develop content, provide data and develop web applications and forms for the public.
- Can you provide some of the history of DC's web portal?
- DC.Gov launched in 1999 with 20 pages of content; DC.Gov now has over 200,000 pages of content, 120+ websites, over 300 online forms and surveys and over 200 online applications.
- Templates were created so every agency had the same look and feel, applications were developed over the last 10 years to automate government transactions so residents could be online instead of in line.
- DC.Gov won many awards for its uniform design and online applications including Best of the Web in 2003 and 2005; Internet Best in Class in 2005, and Municipal Web Portal Excellence Award (E-Governance Institute) in 2009.
- The home page went through various redesigns in 1999, 2000, 2003, 2007 and a new version will launch August 2010.
- What are the overarching objectives of DC's current e-government initiatives?
Our agency’s mission is to leverage the power of technology to improve service delivery, drive innovation and bridge the digital divide to build a world-class city. In addition to maximizing integration, improving cost efficiency and government operations, we operate under three main tenets for IT interactions with constituents:
- Users must be routed to a central point of entry so they can find what they need quickly and easily,
- Users must be assured that their requests will be filled, and
- Users must have a positive experience when dealing with the government.
- From a marketing standpoint, what are some of the strategies that you have utilized to draw attention to the information and services provided by DC.gov, both on- and off-line?
Agencies promote their services individually through various forms of media. They use traditional outlets like television, newspaper, radio, flyers and brochures, signage in Metrocars and on Metrobuses. Many also use social networks and email campaigns to not only push information to constituents, but to pull information and feedback from customers to improve service.
- How has citizen feedback influenced the development of DC's e-government services?
There are various entry points for residents to provide feedback to District agencies. Whether it is through email correspondence, calls taken through the District’s main 311 Call Center, suggestions broadcast on social networks or through face-to-face suggestions made at physical service center locations throughout the city, agency directors and program managers take this information and prioritize what types of online services will benefit residents.
For example, it isn’t just about providing services online, it’s also about providing access to the people. The Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs provides building and construction permits for the District. Many homeowners doing simple repairs within their home, may need a building permit. DCRA set up a Permit Center at its government building location, but also set up a kiosk in the District’s Home Depot so that homeowners could apply and print out a postcard permit right at the Home Depot as they purchased supplies for their construction effort.
- In developing DC.gov, what were the biggest hurdles that needed to be overcome?
As with any project, time, money and resources has always been a factor in developing DC.Gov. Most of the portal components were built out through 2005 and moved into a large maintenance and operations effort. It wasn’t until we were able to get executive buy-in to make a massive overhaul that we were able to begin redesign efforts. The hurdle still continues to be splitting up many operational teams’ time to also work on the project efforts.
- What interactive features do you offer for the younger citizens of DC? What kind of feedback have you gotten on these features?
- Kids Site: We have a site directly for “kids.” It includes online games and history that center around city trivia, famous figures and famous locations. The site can be found at: http://kids.dc.gov/kids_main_content.html
- DC Youth Advisory Council: The DC Youth Advisory Council, which was created by District youth and officials in order for young people throughout the District to have an official ongoing voice in the policies, programs and actions within the city, has an online presence on the DC.Gov portal. They use a variety of online tools from emailing to social networks to help influence change in legislation and policies that impact youth, and for developing more youth and adult partnerships.
- SummerJobs: The Summer Youth Employment Program provides thousands of District youth, ages 14 to 21, with an opportunity to gain practical experience and be compensated. The subportal http://summerjobs.dc.gov allows youth to learn how to gain employment for the summer.
- You've developed a tracking resource for information on things like agency performance and budgets -- why is a resource like this important, and how do you plan on building upon it in the future?
TrackDC is a rich, interactive site where visitors can track the performance of District government agencies and connect directly to each agency to ask questions and express views and concerns. It empowers citizens to look closely into every aspect of our government’s performance, including agency performance plans; missions and service offerings; agency Key Performance Indicators; agency Performance Accountability Reports; agency quality assurance results; and additional metrics for monitoring agency performance against goals.
- What is the most-used feature or service on the site?
The most popular features for the entire web portal are:
- Online service request center, which allows residents to submit requests online for a variety of city services like bulk trash collection or graffiti removal; (http://311.dc.gov)
- DMV online applications, such as paying a parking ticket, driver’s license renewal, etc; (http://dmv.dc.gov)
- Applying for government jobs (https://erecruit.dc.gov), and
- DC Public School information at http://dcps.dc.gov
- Where do you see e-government heading in the next 2-3 years? Are there any exciting new features or services currently in the works for DC's web portal?
E-government will be utilizing mobile technology for everything in 2-3 years. We will be launching our beta mobile site in August 2010, but have some mobile apps, such as “Where’s My Bus,” which shows the wait times for the District’s Circulator bus.
E-government will also continue to be more transparent and provide raw data such as our http://data.dc.gov and http://track.dc.gov to support the Open Government initiative. Residents will have a stronger voice in what they really need to make government more convenient for them. In this time of budget deficits, it will be necessary to focus on projects that directly impact and help residents rather than ‘bells and whistles’ projects that only benefit the minority.
- What else that you would like to tell us about DC.gov?
We have begun to launch redesigned versions of agency websites and will be launching the new DC.Gov home page by the beginning of August and a mobile site shortly after that. Look out for the new version.