On Dec. 20, 2018, the 21st Century Integrated Digital Experience Act (“21st Century IDEA”) was signed into law. Under this law, all federal agency websites must have a “consistent appearance” and comply with specific web standards. The IDEA legislation is part of ongoing government initiatives intended to improve the lives of citizens, in general, as well as civil servants who are increasingly required to work with a limited budget and shrinking workforce.
The modernization of public-facing websites will allow agencies to improve the level of service to citizens—despite having fewer resources today and in the future. The law requires federal agencies to maintain digital versions, both online and mobile-friendly, of every in-person or paper-based government process within the agency. Within two years, any paper-based form serving the public must also be available in a digital format. In addition, each agency must maintain an accessible method of completing digital services for individuals who cannot use digital services.
IDEA’s modernization requirements include the following efforts to improve the citizen experience:
• Accessibility for individuals with disabilities: IDEA requires websites currently in development and those slated for development to be in compliance with the outlined requirements of Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Designed to improve access for all citizens, the 508 requirements address features such as font size and compatibility with assistive technologies.
• Consistent and effective appearance: Currently on .gov sites, design and content are not centralized. Content is often created by different teams or departments, each having their own style, developers and editors. Consistency of these will enhance the citizen experience, encourage citizen recognition of websites, communicate dependability and help obtain citizen trust.
• Consolidated and personalized web content: Maintaining fewer websites with richer content is preferred over having many disparate websites with bits of content. Efforts should also be taken to ensure that content gets in front of the right citizen audience.
• Searchable and discoverable information: What good is content if nobody can find it?
• Content designed around user needs, with data-driven analytics to improve website management and development: In a 2018 MIT Sloan Management Review Study, using analytics to provide insight into user behavior was shown to improve customer engagement. What’s more, there’s direct correlation between the amount of data used to understand the customer to how increasingly engaged the customer becomes. The more you know about your audience, the easier it becomes to craft messages that resonate with that audience.
• Compliance with GSA’s U.S. Web Design System standards: The adherence to web design standards established by GSA gives agencies the opportunity to design and build fast, accessible, mobile-friendly government websites backed by user research. The standards contain a robust set of UI components, templates and documentation for developers.
Now that that the 21st Century IDEA is law, it’s essential that federal agencies begin immediately planning their website modernization to accommodate the short-term, time-sensitive requirements of the legislation, while keeping in mind the longer-term impact.
All website development must now comply with the specifics of the mandate regarding accessibility, usability, scalability, and consistency, and compliance with the GSA U.S. website standards.
Modernization will not be easy. Achieving the goals outlined by the legislation is not possible with legacy CMS platforms. The most effective way for executive agencies to achieve the website modernization requirements is to utilize a modern CMS, which provides the added values of lower administrative costs and reduced reliance on IT and developers.
With so many digital applications, forms and services needing to be redesigned and upgraded, federal agencies are currently working with vendors to initiate these transformations. Brightspot offers these out-of-the box to provide federal agencies the tools to make this transition quickly and successfully. As a leader in digital CX for the private sector, powering properties for global brands we’ve developed an offering that exceeds even the highest standards.
Brightspot for Government was designed exclusively to help federal agencies meet the aggressive deadlines set forth by the legislation. The turnkey solution allows rapid modernization with no reliance on developers or IT. We work closely with our customers to understand their requirements and build those expectations into our future updates, ensuring we have real-world needs built into the system.