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A Publication Featuring The Information Services Technology of Maine State Government
|Volume IV, Issue 8||August 2001|
By Kelly Hokkanen
In the continuing effort to provide the best possible State of Maine Web portal (www.state.me.us), InforME made visual, navigation and accessibility improvements in early July. These changes also reflect the National Information Consortium (NIC, New England Interactive's parent company) design guidelines for the Next Generation Portal, which are based on extensive user testing of state government portals throughout the country.
Visual Changes: The large photo of the capitol was replaced with smaller images that represent a variety of beautiful Maine scenes. These images change each time the page is refreshed adding interest for repeat visitors. In order to eliminate confusion and build trust in the sites content, the header, "the Official Website of the State of Maine" was added. Attention grabbing icons intended to help users find favorite sites such as "Maine Weather", "Kids Page", "Governor's Office" and "Send a Postcard" were also added.
Navigation Enhancements: Based on site visitor feedback, "Featured sites" was expanded to include "Most Visited", "What's New", and seasonal links in drop-down menus. All of these menus will be updated based on site statistics, new site launches and time of the year. Several online services are highlighted on the front page enabling users to quickly scan the list and access what they need.
The search feature moved to the top, to make it more visible and easier to locate. In addition, the "Ask a Librarian" search tool was added, leading to the Maine State Library reference desk form. Since the agency index page is frequently visited, a link to it in the header was added. Thus the index appears on the front page for the first time. This dramatically reduces the number of "clicks" required to reach an agency Website. The link to "help" was moved into the page header where it will appear on every page making it easier to locate without scrolling. Because previously there was no option for contacting the webmaster from the front page, "Contact webmaster" was added to the footer.
Before the redesign, users may have missed the main navigation links that were located in the footer of secondary pages. Often the footer could not be seen without scrolling, so users had to click the browser "back" button to return to the main page in order to visit other sections of the portal. To eliminate this tedious process, these navigation links were moved to the top of the secondary pages, allowing users to more easily access all areas of the portal.
Accessibility Improvements: In response to federal section 508 guidelines for Website accessibility (http://www.webaim.org/standards/508/checklist) and Maine's new accessibility standards (http://www.maine.gov/policybd/JULY%2019/accesscommstand.htm) several changes were made to make our site friendly for all. The "featured sites" rotating GIF image was removed, because it was not accessible to screen readers, and was difficult both for users and for site maintenance. A text-based site map was added for additional accessible navigation. Text based site maps are easier for screen readers and for those who browse with images turned off.
All changes were reviewed and approved by Governor King, the InforME Board, and the Chief Information Officer, Harry Lanphear. They will be thoroughly reevaluated in the coming months with respect to site structure, organization and categorization of information.
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