How do you streamline a website that’s outdated and redundant as the result of merging with another site? How can you use the site to raise awareness about what your government agency does for its stakeholders while working within resource constraints?
The mission of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) is to help entrepreneurs start, manage and grow their small businesses. Part of this mission is to ensure small business owners have quick access to accurate information and helpful resources on SBA.gov, which is managed by SBA’s Office of Communications and Public Liaison (OCPL).
ENC Strategy, as part of the eStars team, created an SBA Digital Universe Content and Outreach Strategic Plan — based on user research including small business owner focus group studies, usability studies and website user surveys — that serves as the roadmap for the website and its online properties such as Twitter, Facebook and the online SBA Community. ENC then executed this plan by improving the overall user experience on SBA.gov through a series of website redesigns and content upgrades that made it easier for small business owners and other stakeholders to access information. ENC also developed and deployed topical and audience-specific digital outreach campaigns that helped explain what SBA does to help small businesses succeed.
ENC has numerous key wins for SBA.gov and has:
- Become a vital liaison to SBA program offices and facilitated collaborative working relationships between those offices and the OCPL web team in order to ensure SBA.gov has up-to-date, accurate content and tools that speak to the needs of stakeholders
- Created a governance structure that set up a Web Review Board and a process through which agency stakeholders request web projects in order to help field and prioritize competing requests for resources and home page real estate
- Reached entrepreneurs nationally with social media outreach campaigns on key SBA strategic initiatives and seasonally important topics – our social media campaigns increase traffic to targeted SBA.gov content by 15 percent on average and boost the viral reach – or potential online audience – of SBA.gov’s social media activities by an average of 500,000 users per campaign
- Engaged specific audience segments such as veterans, women and seniors through targeted campaigns, blog content, landing pages and online learning tool promotions
- Improved customer service by conducting a complete overhaul of SBA.gov’s information architecture and page designs, as well as by editing all major content on the site to be more accessible and in plain language — ForeSee scores for navigation have increased about 10% to 77 since 2011, one of the highest among dot-govs
- Moderated and engaged entrepreneurs directly through the SBA Community, directing users to resources and answering questions, as well as contributing weekly blog content on hot topics in small business circles — Community membership has tripled
- Provided weekly strategic consulting services to the SBA web director in order to help frame key agency initiatives in terms of the website and to keep the site’s roadmap for the future in alignment with Administration guidance
- Produced a series of whiteboard videos about the most popular SBA loan programs and similar topics, as determined by web analytics, to enhance the SBA’s online Learning Center with quality content — the videos also became the agency’s most-watched on YouTube
- Directed more monthly traffic to SBA.gov than the agency has ever seen because of social media outreach, a sustained content creation effort and improved user experience — the site’s traffic has doubled to more than 2 million monthly
- Helped design a full suite of new tools for SBA.gov that directly addresses focus group research responses from small business owners who say they come to the website to do things — so now they can build a business plan, find events, determine size standards for government contracting and more
All of these achievements resulted from ENC’s implementation of a proven five-step process:
- Step 1: Conduct audience research and segment user groups: ENC undertook a brand research project to learn what SBA.gov’s users really expect and want from the site. This information is used to inform everything we do – design, content, site architecture – and as a result, users have become more satisfied with their experience.
- Step 2: Define the content and outreach strategy: We delivered a comprehensive strategy to the SBA that created a roadmap for the site and set two key goals for everything we do — position SBA.gov as a resource entrepreneurs can’t live without and use the site to provide transparent agency performance information.
- Step 3: Enhance the user experience: Our team inventoried all content on SBA.gov and used our proprietary grading methodology to assess content and information architecture site-wide to make sure both were aligned with the strategy. Then, we eliminated redundant content, introduced plain language into jargon-rich content, streamlined navigation and created a clear set of guidelines for how SBA.gov content is promoted, written and categorized. Finally, we enhanced the visual identity of the site with a new homepage and interior page templates that we tested during online usability studies.
- Step 4: Conduct segmented outreach: ENC’s social media strategists developed online creative campaigns for each target audience group and engaged users through the SBA Community and blogs. We also produced multimedia content such as Learning Center videos in an easily understandable whiteboard format.
- Step 5: Continuously measure and improve: Our team provides real-time web analytics, campaign measurement and other social media metrics reporting regularly to the SBA, and we help define the scope and test items for A/B testing and online usability studies each month. SBA.gov also uses ForeSee’s session replay functionality to link user satisfaction ratings with visual information about users’ experience flow on the site. By constantly analyzing such data, our team is able to keep the trend toward higher traffic and improved satisfaction moving upward by being agile and responsive to user needs.
ENC is uniquely qualified to provide these results to government agencies because our strategists understand that the right approach to government agencies’ outreach needs is a holistic one that includes all of the agency’s digital properties. We have the skill sets in-house to conduct and interpret user research, design the site, architect a better way to present the information, create compliant and engaging content and conduct outreach to segmented audiences using channels and tactics that work best for them. We bring additional value by being a reliable and trusted member of the team who can work directly with internal agency stakeholders to alleviate competing requests for the web team’s limited resources and attention. And because ENC’s team members are consultative, as opposed to merely executing orders, we help agency web teams through issues with governance and assist with creating a roadmap for the future that encompasses the right technological, strategic, content-based and outreach-focused improvements to keep user satisfaction and engagement at an all-time high.
Despite many barriers government agencies face in creating dot-gov content and outreach programs, we innovate new, efficient ways to gather user research and deliver content, such as through the use of tools that are compatible with multiple devices or a step-by-step video series that exceeds user expectations for how government shares content and services.