Originally posted on LinkedIn here.
Little has changed in government websites over the past five years. Sure there are a few more services and a shift towards mobile friendliness, but that is about it. That is about to change and if you do not prepare for it, the affects may not be as desired.
There are many components that will drive these changes but I believe there are four that are extremely important. Let’s take a look at each.
HTML 5 and Structured Data
For those that are not in technology, HTML (Hypertext Markup Language) is what is used by web browsers to display information on websites. HTML 5 is relatively new and adoption is still taking place. One of the most promising changes in HTML 5 is the move to structured data. This will make the information on websites easier to understood and consume by other sites or services.
This will impact government websites because structured data is easier to consume both by individuals but more importantly, other websites and services. This means that niche sites and aggregators will be able to easily pull information from your website (and many more), thus giving it more data to analyze and possibly provide a better user experience.
According to the Pew Research center, mobile internet access in the US has surpassed that of desktop access. That highlights the importance of being mobile friendly but it also adds another element. The majority of those devices can provide location data and that data will be extremely important when providing government services.
Consumers are used to getting data specific to their location and if government cannot step up to that challenge, they will consume that data elsewhere. Unfortunately, I do not see a one stop shop government website anywhere in the near future. So for now we will have to rely on other services to make sure information is easy to find and available on other sites that are more suitable for location based information.
This is a topic that is still being heavily discussed but is moving forward. As standards become better defined and government agencies start to provide this data, we will see a big shift in where data is consumed.
It seems like a new application or company pops up every day trying to take this data and make sense of it in a way that is valuable to consumers. This trend will not stop anytime soon and that means that once you make your data open, you may have a middle man between you and the consumer.
Websites and providers are getting extremely good at finding creative ways to identify their visitors. Through algorithms and our own free will, some companies know us better than we know ourselves. There are obvious concerns but I am going to approach it as a cautious optimistic. This data will allow organizations to better serve us.
I still believe we are a long way away from a universal online identify but government website providers will also get much better at identifying visitors. This context will allow governments to tailor experiences to users in a way unlike ever before. Letting individuals know that a bill is due, that they need to renew their driver’s license and that there are some upcoming events that may be of interest to them, is just many of the benefits the contextual web will bring.
These are the four big ones and you can begin to see how each of them may impact your organization. Just like anything else, there are both pros and cons to these advancements. What will be really important is how you respond and prepare for the changes that are coming… and they are coming.
I hope you are as excited about the possibilities as you are concerned about the repercussions. Governments will lose some control but citizens will see many benefits. In return, it will create a stronger relationship with the civic tech community and we will see continued innovation that should free up resources.