The need to enable citizens to obtain local information and resources from a mobile device is not new. The latest data from the Pew Research Center tells us that 95 percent of Americans own a cell phone, and 77 percent own a smartphone—a 35 percent increase in only six years. Data also shows that not only are more Americans owning smartphones; they are using them to access services—including services offered by their local government. According to DigitalGov, In December 2016 mobile devices accounted for 43 percent of all traffic to U.S. government websites, a trend that continued throughout 2017.
Not only are Americans using smartphones to access the Internet when out of the house, just over one in ten Americans are smartphone-only Internet users who rely on their smartphone exclusively to obtain online information. With mobile-responsiveness quickly migrating from a nice-to-have website feature to a must-have requirement, the United States Congress has officially determined that government websites must be mobile friendly.
In December 2017 Congress passed H.R. 2331. The resolution, known as the “Connected Government Act,” requires “all federal agencies that create or update a website intended for use by the public to ensure that the website is mobile friendly. A mobile friendly website is defined as a webpage easily navigated on a smartphone, tablet, or similar mobile device.”
The act defines “mobile-friendly” as a website configuration that can be easily navigated, viewed and accessed on a smartphone, tablet computer or similar mobile device.
The resolution should bring about much-need enhancements to the user experience of government websites. According to the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation, as of March 2017, 41 percent of the most popular Federal Government websites were not mobile-friendly. 18 months after President Trump signs the Connected Government Act, the Office of Management and Budget, in consultation with the General Services Administration (GSA), will submit a report to Congress that summarizes agency compliance in response to the new requirements.
Designing with a Mobile-First Approach
Local governments looking to transition to a new municipal website design must understand that ensuring a municipal website is mobile friendly is a process that must begin at the research phase. To provide an optimal experience on a mobile device, the design, and functionality of every feature, from buttons, to link placement, to forms, to search navigation bars, must be considered using a mobile-first approach.
Such considerations are part of the current trend of local government websites being redesigned to accommodate citizens’ expectations for device-agnostic, service-centric digital experiences. Today’s digitally-minded citizens no longer have the time or patience to search through department pages to find the information or resource they seek. They expect websites to be designed with an understanding of the information citizens want to find—not the information municipalities want to share.
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