Can 30+ microsites be merged into one site for a government organization?

Situation

In 2018, the Delaware County Board of Commissioners wanted to redesign and rebuild their website, which included 31 microsites. The microsites represented various departments and agencies closely aligned with the Board.

 

The Commissioners had come to the conclusion that the website wasn’t serving the public’s needs as well as it could be. While the general structure of the site was good, it was not very user-friendly. It also wasn’t easy for the different departments and agencies to administer their own sites.

 

In addition to the previous sites not scaling to fit the various devices that the public was using to access it, there was also too much information, and the navigation was cumbersome.

 

“We had a lot of excess information on the old site, which meant people had to go searching and click through a lot of information they didn’t need to find what they were looking for,” said Jane Hawes, Director of Communications for the Delaware County Board of Commissioners. “We really wanted to improve the user experience.”

Challenges 

The main challenge: We needed to figure out how we were going to build a government website that benefits both visitors and stakeholders, that’s easily maintainable, and that’s self-sufficient in terms of hosting. 

 

In addition, we needed to create an effective way to communicate with all of the different stakeholders, so that we could address their individual needs but still keep the sites consistent. We also needed to migrate years of archives, meeting notes, and resources for residents and businesses to the new site. And we wanted to make sure everybody involved learned how to operate the new WordPress site efficiently, guaranteeing the transition would be as smooth as possible.

Goals

As with any website redesign, we had multiple goals for the project:

 

  • Create a better user experience by getting rid of extra information
  • Better serve the public by offering the information they are seeking
  • Open the administration of the microsites to the individual offices, departments, and agencies
  • Create different design options for each of the microsites to choose from but keep them all consistent with the main site
  • Present a website that truly represents Delaware County as an economic force in the Central Ohio area

200,000+ annual visitors

31 offices, departments, and agencies

2,000+ pages migrated

Process

Communication

 

  • We gathered a list of contacts to begin our stakeholder interviews. We had multiple interviews with the same people throughout the whole process because we wanted to make sure we heard everybody. Each microsite has its own purpose and thus needs its own look, its own functionalities, its own story.
  • Once we began the actual building and testing, we created an email account for all requests and fixes to be forwarded there. We asked for feedback emails as well. As we moved past those first stages, both teams decided we needed one main point of contact on each side. That worked extremely well as we continued developing!

Analysis

 

  • As we were interviewing stakeholders, we were simultaneously conducting a complete analysis of the main site and all of the microsites. We created a full content audit, examined statistics and trends through Google Analytics, and tested what worked well and what needed to go. We presented our analysis to the Delaware County team. They then used the information to see where their site stood as a whole.
  • “Buckeye Interactive was able to do an analysis of all the information on our site,” said Hawes. “They helped us see what files our audience was not interested in. Their analytics were very helpful as we decided what information to keep on our website and what to get rid of.”

Website Build 

 

  • As soon as Delaware County accepted our proposal, our two wonderful teams began collaborating. We developed wireframes and design concepts that we worked on until they were fine-tuned. 
    • Design
      • From a design standpoint, we needed to create a system that would allow all of the microsites to be consistent but not identical. In order to do this, our design team created five different color palettes each of the stakeholders could choose from. The headers and footers stayed the same, but the theme and colors varied from site to site. 
    • Engineering
      • From an engineering standpoint, we needed to figure out how to import a modular structure in WordPress, one that could be easily repeated. Our developers created modules with short codes in them (this was before WordPress 5.0) that made the sites functionable and maintainable.

“Buckeye Interactive demonstrated that they understood our needs and goals with their straightforward yet on-target response.”

Partner Selection

 

The Delaware County Board of Commissioners had a lot of interest in its website redesign Request for Proposal, even from companies outside of Ohio. But they really wanted to work with an Ohio firm because they wanted the peace of mind of in-person meetings.

 

But that was not the only reason they selected Buckeye Interactive as their website redesign partner.

 

“We felt that Buckeye Interactive had really read our RFP and responded appropriately,” said Hawes. “Their time frame was much more realistic than any other. Buckeye Interactive demonstrated that they understood our needs and goals with their straightforward yet on-target response. And they had worked with enough other local government entities that we knew they understood the intricacies of a government site.”

 

It also helped that Buckeye Interactive did not offer a proprietary system. Instead, the team proposed an open-source solution with no license fees and no vendor exclusivity.

 

“We did not want any proprietary content management systems,” Hawes stated.  “We didn’t want to be talked into anyone administering our site for us. Also, we wanted it hosted in our own datacenter, and a lot of the proposals ignored that.”

OUTCOME

A responsive, user-friendly government website with a smooth design that’s easy to manage, navigate, and enjoy.  

 

Our two teams worked tirelessly to create our end product and meet all of our goals. We enjoyed embracing the challenges along the way! From strategy to design to development, we collaborated to create a government website that encompasses more than 30 microsites. And most importantly, the website is extremely user-friendly.

 

 Our clients are very pleased with the finished site and feel that all the goals were met. For Jane Hawes, as Director of Communications, the website gives her a way to easily provide the media with all of the information they need.

“We are being totally transparent in all that we do, and the new website has made that possible,” she said.

 

Additionally, the website helps with economic development because it tells the story of Delaware County’s growth. It helps businesses understand how the county will help them be successful if they locate their business in the county.

 

Overall, we grew immensely through this project, and it was a delightful experience! 

26% increase in visit duration

33% decrease in bounce rate

2,000+ pages migrated

I am getting feedback that the public loves the design and how clean it is, and I am hearing that people are finding it much more user-friendly and that more people are using the site. The website has been a very effective communication tool. I would work with Buckeye Interactive on future website projects based on their professionalism and the results we have been seeing.

Jane Hawes

Marketing Director, Delaware County Ohio