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Case Study

Mass.gov: Optimizing Content With Drupal 8

See how Mass.gov uses Drupal 8 and analytics to make informed decisions and serve constituents.

Project Highlights

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts embarked on a large-scale web replatform to modernize and make it easier to continuously improve the way the Commonwealth engages with and provides services to its constituents online. By improving the user experience for its constituents, and providing, as comprehensively as possible, a “single face of government”, Mass.gov® has become an essential platform in the Commonwealth’s ability to serve its constituents by delivering information and critical day-to-day social services to the Commonwealth’s 6.8 million people. 

With 15 million page views each month, the Mass.gov platform hosts over 400+ government agencies and content to support anyone who wants to move, visit, or do business in the state. All of which is fueled by the Commonwealth’s 600+ content authors, who have been able to use the platform to improve constituent satisfaction, making a noticeable positive difference on how the public sees their organization and the services they provide.

As early adopters of Drupal 8, Mass.gov and its ecosystem of web properties are the primary platforms for the delivery of government services and information in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. 

  • 3

    Mass.gov placed 3rd nationwide in a review of 400 state government websites by ITIF and was recognized for performance in page-load speed, mobile friendliness, security, and accessibility.  

     

  • 175000

    Number of residents who used the Real ID online decision tree to see if they needed an in-person application for a new driver's license (reducing calls to the Registry of Motor Vehicles).

  • 50 %

    Overall improvement in the back end performance.

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This is the beginning of the next exciting chapter for Mass.gov, which is now established as a robust public service platform. We have built a strong partnership with Mediacurrent and Last Call Media, and they have been a driving force to help bring our digital vision to life. Through Drupal and analytics, we made meaningful progress toward our mission of staying constituent-centric and being agile in adapting swiftly to serve future needs.
Chief Digital Officer and Chief Data Officer, Executive Office of Technology Services and Security Holly St. Clair

The Challenge

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts was faced with a difficult to use web experience that stood in the way of a constituent base that wanted to interact with government services through the web. The goal was set to create new primary face of Massachusetts government that was constituent-centric to enable fast, easy, and wicked awesome interactions with state services.

Prior to the migration to Drupal 8, the Commonwealth’s antiquated, proprietary content management system reflected its internal hierarchical structure instead of organizing content in a way that made sense to its visitors. That meant, for example, that a visitor looking to start a business in Massachusetts had to visit four or more separate department sites in order to get started. The Commonwealth sought to improve the user’s experience by focusing on guiding the visitor through the various services the Commonwealth provides over helping them navigate the complexities often found in a massive state organization. 

The Commonwealth’s vision for the new Mass.gov demanded a versatile, robust, enterprise content management framework. They knew from the beginning that they needed a platform that made changes easy, so they could adapt quickly and cost effectively as they discovered and responded to new stakeholder and constituent feedback during their first year of rapid prototyping and development, and beyond. Drupal was a fundamental piece in the Commonwealth’s ability to iterate quickly on feedback, test new ideas, and safely launch features to production.

group of people looking at smartphone screens

Vision

Wicked Awesome State Services

Massachusetts Digital Service (MassGovDigital) had two core philosophies that drove their decision making: focus on the constituent experience and use data to support all decisions. They envisioned a unified user experience, where tasks like preparing to renew a driver’s license matched the ease of use of shopping on a major retail website. The MassGovDigital team was challenged to apply private-sector data analytics savvy, like defining and tracking constituent “conversions.” Gaining access to analytics at their fingertips was key for site authors to make fully-informed decisions to optimize their content for readers. A high-performing site search would ensure content findability. 

Mediacurrent, Last Call Media, and the MassGovDigital teams worked together to deliver the next chapter of the state’s digital future. The end result represents a significant leap towards the goal of a new primary face of Massachusetts government that centers on constituents—enabling fast, easy, and wicked awesome interactions with state services.

Analytics Dashboards: Deep Data for Drupal Content Authors

Since quality content is driven by Mass.gov’s hundreds of authors, a key component to making content better for constituents was helping authors understand where they can improve. It’s now possible for hundreds of content authors to get their hands on actionable optimization data as part of the Drupal authoring experience, with no separate Google Analytics logins required.

Mediacurrent helped to create Analytics Dashboards that aggregate data from several sources— Google Analytics, SiteImprove, a Formstack form to capture user feedback (embedded on every page), and an API from the Drupal site that provides structural information— into an S3 Amazon storage system. ETL processes happen across these tools, priming the data to be consumed in different ways. Superset, an open source data visualization platform, functions as a top layer to surface data in a way that’s usable to authors.

Baked in to the Drupal editorial experience, the dashboard displays scores for page health, readability, findability, and action rate. The Mass.gov development and data analytics team receive regular analytics reporting at the page level. Plus, targeted recommendations for content improvements give editors the right tools to optimize underperforming content. 

A custom web endpoint ETL (extract transform load) pulls all the analytics data together— goals, submissions to form stack (for example, surveys asking for feedback to improve the website), Google Analytics information, and the descendant tree from Drupal.

Real ID decision tree

Solution

Real ID, Real Answers

In light of changing federal security standards surrounding the Real ID driver’s license/ID, the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) was expecting a much higher than usual demand for license renewals, increasing the volume of calls and requests to RMV’s and call centers. Massachusetts citizens needed clear information to guide their decision between a Real ID or standard license. 

To solve these challenges, Mediacurrent partnered with the Commonwealth to design a tool to give residents a head start on applying or renewing a driver’s license before arriving to an RMV service center. With a decision tree that plainly answers the question, “Do I need a REAL ID?” constituents could get a better understanding of what to expect quickly and easily without having to call or wait at an RMV. 

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Data-Informed Content Optimization

In this presentation, see how we're working toward a more data-savvy digital government— and wicked awesome content.

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Development

Huge Performance Gains

State employees need to be able to publish content quickly, and constituents need fast access to the information that’s being published, without disruptions while they’re visiting the site. These two needs can be considered opposing forces, since site speed and stability suffers as content freshness (the length of time an editor waits to see the effect of their changes) increases. 

One of the most critical ways to enable fast, easy, and wicked awesome interactions with state services was through careful attention to the site’s performance under its consistently heavy traffic load. This focus resulted in a 50% overall improvement in the back end performance, and a 30% overall improvement in the front end performance all while maintaining content freshness.

person scrolling through a smartphone screen

Connecting Data and the Constituent Journey 

A “conversion” occurs when a visitor to Mass.gov successfully completes the right activity. Whether it be consuming the correct information, or accessing an outbound link to a service, tracking and measuring these visitor behaviors shows how effectively the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is aiding the constituents’ information gathering journey.

2 people pointing to component blocks on a page

Improving the Drupal Authoring Experience

If you can improve the authors’ ability to create and improve content, then the constituents will be better enabled for fast, easy, and wicked awesome interactions with state services. Improving the authoring experience meant a better interface for communicating data about each piece of content. This data was a mix of content scoring and direct feedback from constituents. For example, a site visitor submits the feedback form (available on any page) and says whether they found the page to be helpful. The raw data goes into the calculation of their "grades.”

The raw feedback comments also become visible in a tab in the editor interface, where the editor can focus in on what is or isn't working well about the page. Surfacing this data, along with making the interfaces more intuitive and the content easier to add and manage, enabled authors to rapidly improve their content in a more targeted way.

According to ForeSee results, the release of the reimagined authoring experience directly correlated with a never before seen increase in customer satisfaction.

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Final Thoughts

Mediacurrent and Last Call Media are the leading digital agencies working to transform Mass.gov’s digital platform and strengthen government-constituent interaction. This partnership provided technical architecture leadership to develop and support the new digital platform, by working closely with the MassGovDigital internal team and several other vendors.

Over the past 12-months, by relying on constituent feedback and analytics and a commitment to collaboration and flexibility, the teams have been able to improve constituent satisfaction with Mass.gov month over month.

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