Meet the Delaware dev team trying to make state resources easier to find - Technical.ly Delaware

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Apr. 15, 2015 7:01 am

Meet the Delaware dev team trying to make state resources easier to find

The Government Information Center is responsible for helping state agencies use the internet to better communicate with citizens. We spoke with GIC Director Mike Mahaffie.

The responsive, flat design of Delaware's state portal is what GIC is going for with other state sites.

(Screenshot via delaware.gov)

Small municipalities like Townsend, Del., don’t necessarily have the staff to overhaul their websites. Yet, Townsend has a modern, user-friendly site that makes finding state resources easy. How?

The Government Information Center.

The office, established within the Delaware Department of State, has three major responsibilities: designing state agency websites, helping develop and design sites for smaller municipalities and encouraging state agencies to actively communicate and engage with citizens using the internet.

The office’s main function is to manage and edit the state’s main portal, Delaware.gov.

“At a higher level, we are responsible for creating and trying to implement the Common Look and Feel (CLF) for state agency websites,” GIC Director Mike Mahaffie said in an email. Originally developed in 2001, Delaware’s CLF is a statewide effort to maintain the state’s design standards and brand identity on the web.

“When a citizen is on a State of Delaware government website, they should know they’re on a State of Delaware government website and they should intuitively know how to find the information they’re looking for,” Mahaffie said.

While GIC is still bringing older state sites to the more responsive CLF 3.0. design, which began implementation in 2013, Mahaffie said Delaware.gov is always one step ahead of the game. For example, if you look at the state portal and compare it to the Department of State website, the stylistic differences are very clear.

“The portal is sort of more forward looking and always where we experiment with things,” Mahaffie said. “I like the way that works.”

Experimenting with new technologies is something the GIC has the privilege of doing. Other offices within government might not be able to say the same.

“We’re always willing to try things,” Mahaffie said. “Then we need to remember when they don’t work, we can step away from them and move to something else.” The old Delaware.gov app, for instance. Mahaffie said it was just a glorified RSS reader. He and his staff of eight found it dysfunctional, so they dropped it.

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Right now, GIC is heavily invested in moving state agency websites to responsive design for mobile — from where, according to the Pew Research Center, 63 percent of cellphone-owning adults access the internet. Considering GIC’s job is to make state agencies more accessible to the public, Mahaffie said that this makes sense.

“We need to make sure we keep state agencies up to that level so that the public can get to the state agency websites on the thing they’re most likely to check the internet on,” he said. “That’s been the big change.”

What about open data? While releasing state data sets has shifted from GIC to the Department of Technology and Information, Mahaffie said that GIC still has an interest in it. “We look for opportunities to help out, to help gently push the state forward.”

“Our job is to look for what the next thing is,” he added. “I don’t know what that is at this point, but it’s fun to keep an eye out.”

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