Prioritizing Louisiana users to create a better agriculture and forestry website

As an organization grows and becomes more complex, it’s easy for its website to overflow with content and become difficult to navigate. This can create challenges for the people who visit the site for information or to perform a task. Because this resource is often the first point of contact between an organization and its customers, it’s vital for the site to be as user-friendly as possible.

By redesigning with a focus on the needs of the people who will use it, we can provide a site that is structured, intuitive, and easy for people to understand. Doing so increases their satisfaction with the site, engagement with your organization, and trust in your services.

The Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry (LDAF) followed this guidance and now has a new website that’s exceeding expectations. Ad Hoc is proud to have supported LDAF in this effort, and we’re excited about the results they’re already seeing.

Here are a few key elements they focused on throughout the project to improve the experience for their users.

Know your audience

The people using your website must be at the center of any redesign. You want to understand what their priorities are when they visit your site and how they expect it to function to meet their needs. Surveys, interviews, and usability testing with current and potential users of the site will help pinpoint exactly what their top tasks are, where they’re running into roadblocks, and what you need to focus on for the redesign.

Your website’s analytics are another resource to study to gain insights into user behavior. Analytics can provide critical information, including:

  • What pages people are visiting the most?
  • How they’re getting to the website?
  • What search terms they’re using?

This kind of data can help you tailor your content and better meet your users’ needs.

Gauge usability

To redesign the site in a way that truly improves the user experience, you have to identify from the beginning what users are struggling with. Incorporating user testing and research can help you answer questions like:

  • Are there accessibility issues?
  • Does the website’s text require the user to understand the organization’s structure and internal jargon, or does it use terms the user already knows?
  • Does the site’s search functionality return accurate, helpful results?
  • Is the site’s navigation too complex to quickly find information?

A website doesn’t have to be complex or flashy. It does need to be easy to navigate, well-organized, and written in plain language. It should prioritize the tasks they came to complete and provide concise instructions.

Also, people should be able to quickly load and view your website using any device. If your website doesn’t function well on various devices and screen sizes or is slow to load, you’ll likely have people frustrated with the experience. This is especially important for those who are coming to your site to perform a necessary task. Make it easy for them to get in, find what they need to do, and be done.

Throughout the redesign process, rely on user testing to ensure you’re reworking the site to do what they need as efficiently as possible. Use their feedback to ensure your work stays on track and so you can correct issues if you veer off course. In conjunction with your user research and their ongoing feedback, you can refine your website to include only the necessary content that will make using your website a dependable, efficient experience for your users.

Understand the territory

To succeed, a user-focused redesign must not only address the needs of the user but also account for the realities of the organization. This means you’ll need to:

  1. Create goodwill with the organization by showing an earnest desire to grasp how their business works.
  2. Engage with organizational stakeholders at every level to understand their service delivery ecosystem, the legal requirements you’ll need to address in the redesign, and what process and technological constraints you might be up against.
  3. Continually error-check your team’s assumptions about how the customer’s organization works by validating with subject-matter experts.

Understanding both the user’s needs and the organization’s business model is crucial to the success of the project because it will inform your customer’s content strategy.

Build a winning content strategy

Delivering value and excellent customer service relies in part on the quality of content you provide and how you provide it. This requires much more than writing good web copy and thoughtful style guides, though those things matter. It also requires investing in a content strategy that “thinks beyond the page.” That means identifying your organization’s content goals and developing the plans, people, and processes to help you achieve them.

In government services, any remnant of outdated content can mean the difference between smooth compliance and costly violation. So from the beginning, Ad Hoc worked closely with LDAF to help them develop a content strategy that sought to eliminate duplicate and outdated content on their site. The result was a powerful COPE (create once, publish everywhere) content model that met their users’ needs while ensuring that service-critical content is always fresh, timely, and relevant.

LDAF’s up-front investment in content strategy helped create the conditions for its success by:

  • Optimizing content organization, layout, and labeling to match users’ views of the subject matter.
  • Informing a visual design that’s fast, attractive, and on-message for all users on all devices.
  • Designing bespoke components to assure content consistency across the site.

A process that builds success

LDAF worked closely with Ad Hoc’s research, design, development, and content strategy teams to transform its website into a place where relevant content and intuitive interactions drove great user experiences. How great? Check out these numbers from LDAF’s recent press release:

  • Tasks completed by website users went from 50% on the old website to 96% on the new website.
  • Users who were confident they found the information they needed increased from 54% on the old site to 98% on the new one.
  • The average number of attempts it took users to complete a task went from 4.7 on the older website to 1.2 on the new one.

By refocusing your website’s design on the identified needs of its users, giving your content creators the tools and templates that enable success, and letting research and content strategy light your way, you’ll make it easier for your site’s users to succeed at the tasks that matter most to them.

If you’re interested in reimagining your website and need support, please reach out. Our teams of experts would be happy to guide you through the process.