Is your LE website mobile-friendly?

Citizens want access to government services anywhere, any time and on any device


By Martin Lind

There is no doubt that both the present and the future of government is digital. From streaming city council meetings to paying taxes online, the modern citizen treats government websites like a virtual city hall. But unlike city hall, they expect it to be accessible from wherever they are.

Today’s website visitor is taking the next logical step in the digital transformation: to a mobile-first world. Nearly four out of five Americans  own a smartphone, according to the Pew Research Center. A recent survey found smartphone users in the U.S. use their phones to access the internet at home more than or as much as a computer.

If your digital journey to mobile is not yet complete, it’s not too late. (Photo/PoliceOne)
If your digital journey to mobile is not yet complete, it’s not too late. (Photo/PoliceOne)

“Customers” – residents, businesses and visitors – expect to be able to find information and access government services anywhere, any time and on any device. Making local government websites mobile friendly is no longer just a “nice-to-have” feature. If you’re not already providing mobile-optimized content, you’re behind not just the private sector, which has been serving up responsive or customized mobile webpages for years by default, but also many of your public sector peers.

If your digital journey to mobile is not yet complete, it’s not too late.

Today is Mobile Friendly. Tomorrow is Mobile First.

While desktop and laptop computers still generate most visits to government websites, mobile is quickly closing the gap.

The 2018 Granicus Benchmark Report found that desktop/laptops composed 55% of local government website visits, compared to 45% for mobile devices. Within the next few years, mobile visits are expected to take the top spot. With a nearly even split today, it’s important you already have mobile infrastructure in place on your website – perhaps specific pages that are optimized for small screens. But your agency needs to work toward the rapidly approaching day when mobile is the default means of accessing the Internet. This means designing your website primarily around mobile navigation and then finding ways to also make it desktop friendly.

Tasks Performed on Mobile Differ from Desktop

The device a website visitor uses to access a government website is likely influenced by the information or services they’re seeking.

For example, the most-common task on city websites for both desktop and mobile users was looking up parks and recreation information, according to our research. But searching for parks and rec information was twice as likely to be performed on a mobile device (32%) versus a desktop computer (15%). Desktops were most popular for more time-intensive tasks like looking up planning documents or applying for building permits.

The trend also showed up when we looked at county government: people were more likely to use a desktop computer to pay property taxes, while looking up jail information was more commonly performed on a mobile device.

Why does this matter? As your website transitions to mobile, the most-visited pages on mobile should be addressed first and given the most attention. While the examples above come from our research, it’s best to examine your own website analytics to find out which pages are getting the most mobile traffic and concentrate your efforts there.

Delivering Service-Centric Websites is a Must

While embracing mobile, you should not lose sight of the overarching need to design a service-centric website that delivers on your organization’s mission. That means your site shouldn’t be designed around the needs of people in your agency, but on the needs of your website visitors. Create a user experience study that leverages both qualitative and quantitative research to find out what your citizens want from your site and then deliver on that.

No Excuses

Like their private-sector counterparts, government websites need to work for everyone. With customers rapidly shifting to mobile devices for most, if not all, of their digital needs and content management systems that offer out-of-the-box support for mobile-friendly websites, there’s simply no excuse for not delivering a great user experience.

The mobile-first era is at our doorstep. The most successful government organizations will be those that embrace it. Is your organization ready? If not, now is the time to get started – catch up before you get left behind.


About the author
Martin Lind is vice president of business development for Granicus, which offers cloud-based solutions for communications, meeting and agenda management, and digital services to more than 4,000 public sector organizations.

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