Secretary Clinton often talks about using “21st Century Statecraft” at the State Department. For us in the website office, this equates to using new tools to get information to the American people. Having a Secretary who understands the power of such innovative tools has definitely helped us move forward. We have four new innovative CMS sites and an app including a new state.gov, m.state.gov, My State Department and our Smart Traveler app.
Why We Did It
State.gov is an electronic library with hundreds of thousands of documents dating back to 1995. Since making all state.gov content mobile friendly would require a wholesale redesign, and since large reports and PDFs are unsuitable for tiny screens and since mobile’s simplified navigation won’t play well with current content architecture, a mobile site was needed to hold separate content in a mobile structure (also in app form).
What We Did
Our first foray was m.state.gov, accessible via any hand-held device. The contract developer for the state.gov CMS built m.state.gov and made it so that content editors (government FTE’s) can publish content once and have it update on state.gov, m.state.gov, and My State Department. Next came our first iPhone app — Smart Traveler. Travel.state.gov took over the reigns so most of the content contained in the app came from their information and the contract developer from state.gov built the app. And finally My State Department was developed and allowed people to customize state.gov to stay up-to-date on their favorite State topics.
How It Worked
Usage stats, Forsee Results (pop-up survey) feedback, and search stats for state.gov helped us identify which content to include. And since initial launch, we have expanded some categories and added new features. For Smart Traveler, Forsee Results asked state.gov visitors which platform they would prefer (iOS, Android, or BB).
What We Learned
Since Smart Traveler was State’s first official iPhone app, we learned that there was a lot of internal processes for approval that had to be established. Legal office had to approve Apple’s ToS and much of the 1.5 years it took to get the app from conception to iTunes, was spent on internal processes and approvals.
We’re exploring Drupal and the use of API’s, with the thought of choosing one of our stand-alone sites or a smaller section of state.gov for a first guinea pig. Our hope is to eventually build a new state.gov site from the ground up that would be mobile friendly from the start.