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Website widgets for the Vermont Department of Finance and Management.

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.


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. An updated state template was released in the Spring of 2020.

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 Agency of Digital Services (ADS), 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. ADS 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.


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 or Prequalified Marketing Vendors


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.

By example, a site map can be formatted as an outline or a diagram. Either ADS or your selected web design vendor can work with you to create the site map.


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.


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


Once ADS has finished the site buildout, your empty template is ready to be populated with your content. ADS 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 other applications that you use every day.


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, ADS will set up analytics 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 site.