By Peter Flengeris

It’s no secret that Saskatchewan is experiencing unprecedented growth.  Record exports, high employment rates, and ongoing population increases are just a few of the factors propelling the provincial economy forward at a brisk pace.  With a greater number of people moving to or choosing to stay in Saskatchewan to live, work and play, the time was right to transform the provincial government’s website into a more interactive and user friendly marketing platform.

“After conducting a thorough review and gathering user feedback on our old website, it became quickly evident that there was room for improvement and that we needed to create something new and fresh,” says Kelly Fournel, Digital Channel Manager, Executive Council. “Our goal was to provide a convenient place for residents to access resources, information and services, while telling Saskatchewan’s story and conveying the sense of optimism and range of opportunities in our province today.”

To accomplish this, a fundamental shift from the framework of gov.sk.ca was required.  The new design prioritizes residents’ needs over government structure, which is why the content is organized into the categories of live, work, play and government.  Each of these main categories contains “content bundles” where information is conveniently organized for easier access, such as “Education, Learning and Child Care” and “Working, Jobs and Pensions”.  According to Fournel, this approach has been well received.

“It was a high priority for our team to organize content based on user needs and expectations,” says Kelly.  “When we conducted research on the new navigation framework before we launched the site, we had 89 per cent of users rate it as easy or moderately easy to use – this was a huge improvement over the old site, in which only 11 per cent of respondents were satisfied with the functionality.”

Another challenge for Kelly and her team is dealing with the sheer volume of content on the old site, which included over 400,000 pages.  While Saskatchewan.ca is live, it is approximately 40 per cent complete and contains about 10 per cent of the total future website content.

“We’re working with our ministries, boards, commissions and agencies to educate everyone on user experience, writing for the web, and generally taking a more disciplined approach to “less is more” when it comes to online content.”

Taking a phased approach to the website launch meant that Kelly and her team started by including the top 25 pieces of content accessed by residents on a regular basis, such as the Highway Hotline, updating/applying for a health card, and flu information among others.

This allowed her group get moving on the launch, gather feedback, and make adjustments on the next phase of development, which is currently underway.

“Saskatchewan.ca is about making it easier for residents to interact with us, giving them what they want and need online, anywhere, anytime and on any device.  That’s why ongoing evaluation is the most critical component in measuring our success.  We proactively gather feedback through a variety of online channels, including social media, to ensure that we are providing the best possible experience for our citizens, businesses, newcomers and visitors.”

In 2014, Kelly and her team plan to continue to evolving the new website, with more content and online programs and services.  Check out Saskatchewan.ca today and visit regularly as new additions are made.