"You have to understand the needs of your audience and what they want from you, and then design an experience that takes them along that continuum," website design expert Layla Masri, president of Bean Creative, said last year in a presentation. "Usability is about reducing friction. It doesn't mean you have to have the shortest text, it's just that you always have to take your viewers' needs into mind."
Nextgov—Government Executive Media Group's go-to information resource for federal technology decision-makers—did exactly that in 2017 for their first website overhaul in nearly five years. They gathered insights from key readers and clients to determine their objectives. The new site debuted in November 2017, achieving these metrics:
- The average depth of visit to Nextgov grew 15%:
- Monthly unique users ballooned by 53%;
- Page views on site jumped 38%.
For the work they did and these glowing numbers, the GEMG team was awarded second place in the category of Best Product Launch/Relaunch Success in the 2018 SIPAwards. (Have you entered the 2019 SIPAwards yet? Check out the 37 categories!)
Growth continued in 2019 despite the record-breaking government shutdown, Christine Mitchell, GEMG's general manager, digital, wrote me in an email this week. "Our median monthly PVs in 2019 are 40% higher than they were in 2017 at the same time." So their recipe for website success is proving sustainable.
Let's look at some of the key features that has fueled this growth.
Mobile-First Design. In Nextgov.com, GEMG built a mobile-first site that is optimized for readers to get the latest federal technology news and for sponsors to reach influencers consuming content outside the office.
Optimal Content Placement. Nextgov now has more prominent placements for its longform pieces, such as special reports and e-books, which are highly popular among the federal technology community.
Events Portal: Their events page lists the next digital event and the next live event with easy "Register Now" buttons. There are also several archived events with "Watch Now" buttons.
On-target editorial. Nextgov's shutdown coverage focused on how the contractor community was being impacted, as federal technology has a significant amount of government contractors that were impacted. Their ongoing coverage of cloud computing has also drawn in Nextgov's readers as IT modernization continues to be a big theme. To that point, their top special report last year was Modernization Nation. They've also seen "recent pop in interest" in their artificial intelligence coverage and events, as the government starts to think about the applications where AI could be leveraged.
Lead Generation: Nextgov's site offers prominent placements for lead gen content making it easier to capture targeted, high-quality technology management leads.
Ad Performance: Ads and sponsored content on Nextgov get prominent placement but do not take away from the editorial content. The GEMG team added more high-impact placements to take ad performance even further. The "Sponsored" signs are easy to read. Scroll down a bit and you get to the sponsored ads that stretch across the page. By that time, you've seen enough breaking, original content that the sponsored does not detract.
Quality leadership. GEMG emphasized in their entry that the relaunch and improved metrics of Nextgov corresponded with the leadership of Executive Editor Frank Konkel and Managing Editor Heather Kuldell.
Content that serves reader interests. Konkel shed light on highly important topics within the industry, including Amazon Web Services' secret cloud region created for the CIA, the NSA's massive Groundbreaker IT contract, and the IRS' controversial contract with Equifax.
Give lots of headings and verticals. Cybersecurity, Emerging Tech, Artificial Intelligence, IT Modernization, CIO Briefing, Policy, Ideas, Cloud, Podcast. The audience has lots of clear choices to go for content.
Through its relaunch, Nextgov demonstrated its commitment to its audience, providing an intuitive forum for its market-leading journalism to inform the federal technology community.