Utah State Legislature revamps website for mobile
January 2, 2018
Visitors to the Utah State Legislature's website have long encountered a user experience different from the stark white backgrounds and simple designs of other state legislative domains.
Even as it sits far ahead of many state governments in that regard, the Legislature has elected not to settle, and it has unveiled a revamped website experience for the 2018 session, which is set to begin Jan. 22.
Jonathan Ball, who leads the office of the Legislative Fiscal Analyst, and a member of the committee overseeing the project, said the changes to the website were intended to fulfill three priorities: crafting a mobile-responsive experience, making more use of device location data and making the site as accessible to as wide of a range of people as possible.
"The whole point of this thing is to get citizens involved with the legislative process; help them find the information easily and part of that is the clean aesthetic," Ball said.
Utah Interactive, a Salt Lake City-based firm that the state government hires to develop its websites, carried out the committee's objectives.
The new website is designed to respond to all browsing devices, whether it's a computer, tablet or smartphone.
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Without a mobile adaptive design, following bills during hearings or looking up sections of state code can be difficult on a smartphone or tablet. The redesign aims to tackle this issue of usability.
"If you're on Main Street (in Salt Lake City) on your phone or even if you're in the lobby here at the Capitol, you can pull it out and find the information you're looking for, and you wouldn't have to go find a desktop or a laptop to do it easily," Ball said.
Local representatives and senators are the first thing a user sees when logging into the site. When a visitor provides their device's location data, their legislators are listed at the top. For example, the site automatically informs a visitor from Park City that their representatives are Rep. Tim Quinn, House District 54, and Sen. Kevin Van Tassell, Senate District 26.
Legislators can also be found with an interactive district map. Ball said the location services will soon expand to quickly show legislators' recent activity.
The location feature stands to be particularly useful in places like Kimball Junction, where the difference between state representatives can come down to which side of S.R. 224 a voter lives on.
The site includes big, bold fonts and buttons. A menu at the top of the page also presents options to adjust text size, as well as offering a text-only mode and a high contrast color mode.
"We want to make sure that if you're using a reader, if you're visually impaired or hearing impaired, you can get the data just as easily as somebody who isn't," Ball said.
The site's search engine has been revamped to better direct users to legislators, committees, bills and other information crucial to voters.
A calendar of events has also been added to the front page, displaying committee times, session start and end dates and other events.
Other new additions to the site include a 360-degree tour of the Utah Capitol grounds and a "Trending" section which will showcase pieces of legislation that are getting a large amount of traffic.
The 2018 session of the Utah legislature gavels in on Jan. 22. Anyone interested in following along with the session's twists and turns can view the hashtag #utpol on Twitter for live updates and discussion.