Top tasks matter. Visitors come to your website with specific goals in mind. Using a top-task methodology can be particularly useful when redesigning your homepage. But, top tasks aren’t the whole story. Our government websites also have a large range of tiny tasks that, when managed carefully, have the potential to deliver value. In The Stranger’s Long Neck, Gerry McGovern explains how, when visitors come to your website, they have a small set of top tasks they want to complete quickly and easily.
Ammie Farraj Feijoo
How important is it to show the most relevant result at the top of your search results page? Very. Searchers expect to find what they’re looking for quickly and easily—and without scrolling—when they search on government websites. If a Web page isn’t “above the fold” as one of the first listings on the first results page, the data shows that there is little chance of it ever being clicked. If it happens to fall on page 2 or beyond, it becomes a vanishingly small part of a very long tail.
As traffic to desktop .gov websites declines, how we publish our content increasingly matters. We need to meet people where they are as they seek information on the Internet. To do so, we need to adjust to the new world of mobile applications, social media, and instant answers provided by search engines. Freeing Content from Our Websites In this content sharing era, it is important to separate the content from how it appears on your site.
On June 10, 2014, the Metrics Community of Practice of the Federal Web Managers Council and DigitalGov University hosted an event to honor the memory of Joe Pagano, a former co-chair of the Web Metrics Sub-Council. This third lecture honoring Joe focused on search engine optimization (SEO). While commercial search engines do a remarkable job of helping the public find our government information, as Web professionals, it’s also our job to help the public make sense of what they find.
Bing, Google, and Yahoo have all rolled out major redesigns to their search results pages in the past year. The last time DigitalGov Search did a major redesign of their results page was in January 2012. It was long overdue for a facelift. So, our team redesigned our search results page. We’ve kept an eye on best practices in the search industry and what media websites (like NPR.org and NYTimes.com) are up to, But, we’re not simply following the leaders.
Search is easy, right? You type a term in a search box and the exact page you’re looking for appears at the top of the list of results. But search is hard and has many shades of grey. On April 10, 2014, Loren Siebert, our DigitalGov Search senior search architect, presented on: Complexities of recall and precision, Popular open source search technologies, and “Search magic” like stemming, synonyms, fuzziness, and stopwords.
Government Web pages are found mainly through search engines. Google recently redesigned its search results page and there are quite a few small, but impactful, changes in this latest redesign. Specifically, it affects how page titles are displayed. Many experts now recommend even shorter page titles. Below are a couple of articles (plus tools) to see how the change may affect your page titles: Page Title & Meta Description By Pixel Width In SERP Snippet
At DigitalGov Search, we keep an eye on on our what our government counterparts are up to, both in the U.S. and other countries. We recently came across Gov.UK’s philosophy on and approach to coding in the open. It caught our attention and we realized we should also articulate our open source strategy. Use and Contribute to Open Source Projects Since 2010, we’ve embraced and leveraged open source software to build our site search service for federal, state, and local government websites.
Slowness Hurts Web Pages Have you ever been frustrated when visiting a Web page that doesn’t load quickly? Have you ever left a slow Web page before it finished loading? You’re not alone. Several recent studies have quantified customers’ frustration with slow Web pages. Customers now expect results in the blink of an eye. This expectation means that your customers are won or lost in one second. A one second delay in loading a Web page equals 11% fewer page views, 16% decrease in customer satisfaction, and 7% loss in conversions.
We’ve redesigned our mobile search results page. It now uses a card-based design and is responsive. This design gives searchers a more consistent user experience and access to the results anytime, anywhere, and on any device. Take a sneak peek of the new responsive results page. Go to USA.gov (or your website) from any mobile phone or tablet and do a search. See the sample results page for a search on passports on USA.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the active practice of improving aspects of your website so that commercial search engines (such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo) can find and display your Web pages in the results when they’re relevant to a searcher’s query. Users generally expect to find the most relevant results at the top of the search engine’s results page. These four steps can help you achieve good SEO: