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The Great UX Series: Best Content Strategy on a Government Website


As our digital world progresses, it often seems that government agency websites are “behind-the-cue-ball” and stagnant. Having a website that is accessible, easy to navigate, and designed with your user’s experience in mind is vital to operability and success.

In this three-part blog series, we ask our expert team of Content Strategists, UX Designers, and Accessibility Specialists to list the crème-de-la-crème of government websites that are getting the user experience right. These are inspiring examples to help get your agency started on the journey towards adopting and implementing a Human-Centered Design (HCD) process in your organization.

Great Content Strategy Makes it Easy for Users to Find What They Need and Understand What They Find

Content strategy informs how you communicate with the public to fulfill your mission. The practice ranges from the words you choose on a website or contact form, to the way you prioritize and structure information. Content strategy helps you manage people and workflows so that you can scale your effort and deliver great user experiences effectively.

DMV.CA.GOV wins the best content strategy on a government website according to our Content Strategy & Design Consultant, Alexis Church.

What is DMV.CA.GOV?

California DMV website screen
The DMV.CA.GOV website’s homepage. The main navigation bar is organized by user’s top tasks which include Vehicle Registration, Driver’s License & ID Cards, Vehicle Industry Services, Driver Education & Safety, Appointments, and Locations.

DMV.CA.GOV is California’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) website. Californians’ top tasks on this website are to register their vehicle, renew or apply for a driver’s license, or change their address.

What Content Strategy Principles are Present on the DMV.CA.GOV Website?

Accessing your local Department of Motor Vehicles’ (DMV) website can be a famously frustrating experience. Reading California’s DMV website is a breath of fresh air.

Use of Plain Language When we access government sites, they can feel formal and stuffy — this is not the case with DMV.CA.GOV. A few minutes spent interacting within the site and you feel like you are talking with a friend rather than deciphering daunting government jargon.

The website is intentionally written in plain language to help people efficiently accomplish their tasks and complete transactions. The website uses personal pronouns like “you” and “my” making it a more conversational experience for the reader. It contains helpful checklists and process/step lists that guide the user through transactions, putting their mind at ease and making the process easy. Sentences are short and concise, leaving less room for confusion.

Voice, Tone, and Branding Guide By reading through DMV.CA.GOV’s website – it is apparent that it has a clear voice and tone, branding guide, and style guide as noted through the consistent color schemes, use of logo and imagery, and the style of writing. Having consistent voice, tone, and style is important to build credibility with your audience. It also reflects up-to-date content.

Content strategy gives structure to websites, forms, applications, and more - so that users and customers get the information quickly and easily to complete their tasks.

The website uses active voice and answers user questions. The content is simple, and the graphics are bright illustrations rather than stiff stock photos. These elements create a joyful, fun experience, instead of the frustration that might stereotypically be associated with a DMV.

California DMV website screen
This page showcases how they word tasks into common questions a user might have and provide answers. The answers are laid out in logical steps for users to follow. It also uses personal pronouns for a more conversational, plain language experience.

Content is Organized in a Logical, Meaningful Way The website is organized by clear headings and breadcrumbs, so people can skim and scan to quickly find the information they are looking for or navigate to a different page where they can get their questions answered. 

When government websites are easy to navigate and the information is digestible, it increases the users’ trust in your agency because they can easily complete their task without burdens or roadblocks.

Key Takeaway

Having content strategy in place helps you speak with your users instead of at them. To implement a successful strategy, you must understand who your users are based on user research and analyze web metrics. Good content strategy helps people complete their tasks on your website, and ultimately increases trust and satisfaction with your agency.

Creating a great government website that serves the people effectively is no easy feat. It often requires a team of Content Strategists, UX Designers, UX Researchers, Accessibility Specialists, and Organizational Change Managers to be done correctly and in a way that will not only sustain but innovate.

There are many moving parts but, in the end, it is about getting the public the information and access to the services they need as efficiently as possible. You can begin by taking the time to address the pain points on your website and prioritizing projects. Be sure to measure your goals and celebrate small wins. Remember, user experience is not a sprint, it’s a journey!

Further Reading, "The Great UX Series"