Widget Design

Website Design and Content Strategy

If you’re interested in creating a new website, the Chief Marketing Office should be your “first stop.”  Contact us about your project, and we can talk you through the options, process and timeline.

Here’s a quick summary of the web design process and some helpful examples and resources.

STEP 1: NEEDS ASSESSMENT

The first step is to reach out to the CMO’s office. We can discuss your web communication needs and determine if your site can be mapped to the standard web design template, or if your agency or department has custom needs.

We strongly encourage state agencies to use the template whenever possible, because it speeds up the development process and saves money. You should understand that the word “template” does not equal “inflexible.” In fact, the state template offers many opportunities for customization.

A new revision of the state template was released in the Spring of 2015. Some of the features included in this generation of the template include:

  • Responsive design (elements will shift depending on size of viewing device, so fully tablet and mobile friendly)
  • Updated look and feel, with options for placement of elements within a multi-column region-based structure
  • Multiple styles available for slideshows and widgets (text-based, image-based or based on a standard library of icons)
  • Optional top navigation with drop-down multi-column mega menu for secondary navigation
  • Fat footer, with standard placement for contact info and social media links, plus three columns for additional menus or widgets
  • Content tags (optional, set by site owner and appear at bottom of pages, act to aggregate content by topic)
  • Document library (sortable by all fields, including category as set by site owner)
  • Aggregated content feeds available for news, events, press releases and blogs/newsletters (any dated content)
  • Events calendar with views by list, month, week, day and year, sortable by event type and event location

A few examples of websites in the most recent template include:

The remaining steps in the process assume you have elected to use the template.

If you choose not to use the state template, you will still need to follow the state Web Look and Feel Standard. Developed by the CMO and the Department of Information and Innovation (DII), the Web Look and Feel Standard describes the minimally acceptable components that every website must include. The purpose of the standard is to aid visitors in the identification of official state websites and to promote a clear and consistent user experience across agencies, departments and programs.

BGS maintains a list of approved IT vendors who are familiar with the state web standards, template functionalities, and hosting environment. DII can also help you write your project scope to request bids, as well as review proposals with you to ensure you select the vendor that best meets your needs.

STEP 2: DISCOVERY

Next, think about who your customers are, what information they need from your website, and where they are likely to look for it. This information will help you determine what content should go on your website and how it should be organized.

For small sites, this ‘discovery process’ can be done internally and the CMO’s office can assist if needed. A great place to start is to review our Information Architecture and Content Audit Guidelines.

For larger, more complex sites, you may need the assistance of an outside vendor.  BGS maintains a list of approved IT vendors on contract you can work with, or you could consider working with one of the Marketing Master Contractors

STEP 3: SITE MAPPING & DESIGN MOCKUP

Next, you’ll sketch out a site map — essentially a blueprint of your website — to identify all the pages on your site and how they link together. There is no one set format for a site map, but it needs to show the different levels, or hierarchy, of your content. The top level will become your main navigation items, and all your additional pages will need to be grouped underneath that top level. In the state template, your website can have a maximum of four levels of content.

Some examples of how to format a site map include: as an outline, in a spreadsheet, or as a diagram. Either your internal IT team or your selected web design vendor can work with you to create the site map.

An optional part of this step is to create visual samples how each type of page will look and function. The CMO’s office can assist in the development of a set of template design mockups to show which colors you’ve chosen and which template features you’ve decided to use for each level of your website. The design mockups will serve as a guide for you to reference as you upload your content in Step 6.

STEP 4: CONTENT DEVELOPMENT

Once you have a sketch of the sections of your website, it’s time to create and cull the images, text and documents that will fill them. As you gather your content, you may realize that certain pages in your site map need to be combined, re-organized, or removed. This is also a perfect opportunity to update and refresh content that’s on your current website. 

We have created two documents that may be helpful: Information Architecture and Content Audit Guidelines and Writing for the Web: Guidelines.

STEP 5: SITE DEVELOPMENT

Next, you send your site map (and template design mockup if you have one) to DII and let them know you’re ready for buildout. DII will review your documents to ensure your site proposal matches state web standards and will provide feedback on any concerns. DII will then build a skeleton site structure for your website so the basic pages are ready for you to enter your content.

STEP 6: TRAINING & CONTENT UPLOAD

Once DII has finished the site buildout, your empty template is ready to be populated with your content. DII will set up a training session to show you how to enter and update your content. The Web Content Management System (WCMS) is a “What-You-See-Is-What-You-Get” (WYSIWYG) editor and looks similar to programs like Microsoft Office that you use every day.

STEP 7: MAINTENANCE & TRAFFIC BUILDING

But you’re not done yet. Just because you’ve built a new website doesn’t mean ‘they will come.’ You need to continually drive traffic to your site through promotion, content updates and traffic analysis. (At site launch, DII will set up a Google Analytics account for your key site administrators.) If needed, the CMO’s office can help you analyze your traffic data and develop a plan to maintain and promote your new site.

Contact Us

Heather Pelham, Chief Marketing Officer
(802) 477-2727
heather.pelham@vermont.gov

Erin Robinson, Marketing Manager
(802) 828-3208
erin.robinson@vermont.gov

1 National Life Drive
Davis Building, 6th Floor
Montpelier, VT 05620

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