Check out the new PA.gov - Technical.ly Philly

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Jun. 17, 2016 9:15 am

Check out the new PA.gov

The state's digital director explains the changes.

Pennsylvania's State Capitol, in Harrisburg.

(Photo by Flickr user Kumar Appaiah, used under a Creative Commons license)

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s website, PA.gov, got its first major redesign since 2013, and here’s what they changed.

The pilot for the new site, which went live today, features a cleaner, wider look. At first glance, there’s a certain startup air to it.

However, the main aspect of the overhaul is not based on looks but on functionality.

The revamping of the site started in January 2016, and incorporates information stemming from a recent major shift on the state government’s open data policies.

Krystal Bonner, digital director for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, said the previous version of the portal led to 60 percent of people not finding what they were looking for.

“Solving that problem was the No. 1 goal that we had in mind,” Bonner said. “The No. 1 thing we want to get out of this new website is helping people connect with government services.”

Bonner, 25, is a Penn grad from Thornbury, Pa., who served as Deputy Digital Director during Gov. Tom Wolf’s campaign. She said she’d love people who visit the site to feel their government is responding to a need they have.

The site takes a cue from social media sites and includes a “Trending topics” section right on the landing page. The most popular results for services and websites are arranged according to search engine hits. Bonner said this allows users to access specific content without even having to type what they need.

PA.gov's Philly-specific landing page. (Screenshot)

PA.gov’s Philly-specific landing page. (Screenshot)

The pilot also takes on the popular concept of location-based customization: there are different background images and trending topics according to each user’s location. I logged in and saw a picture of the Philly skyline. (For those of you outside PA, you’ll get a picture of Harrisburg.)

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Wolf had this to say about the new site:

“As governor, my customers are the citizens of Pennsylvania and creating an accessible government that works for them has always been one of the top priorities,” he said in a statement. “I am proud to launch a new PA.gov that has been built from user feedback and utilizes data and design in order to best serve the citizens of the commonwealth.”

Right on the top of the pilot site there’s a line that reads: “We’d love your feedback on our new look.” By clicking on the link, users can provide feedback on what they see. The survey will help the administration gather the feedback they need to roll out more improvements currently on the sketch pad. We’ll be on the lookout.

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