Learning from the redesign of its public-facing website, the Los Angeles Department of Public Social Services (DPSS) is looking to revamp its intranet.
Even though the staff-facing websites are “probably the least innovative websites you’ll ever see in your life”, DPSS wants an intranet with a user-centric design, rather than the current “scattering of applications everywhere “, said Michael. Sylvester, director of information for the DPSS.
Currently, DPSS organizations cannot create personas to communicate what they do and how they do it to other parts of the department. With the new version, which Sylvester says will start rolling out in October and be fully operational by the end of the year, business units will be able to create their own pages.
“Our IT organization can actually have its own page and let the department know what kind of things it offers, what the standards are,” Sylvester said.
In addition, DPSS integrates a centralized request portal in the intranet so that all administrative requests, whether they relate to furniture, information technology or public services, all go through a single portal.
Additionally, external and internal sites will use a single analytics platform, making it easier for DPSS to pull reports, Sylvester said. Previously, the team took a patchwork approach to analytics and spent a lot of time deduplicating information. Now they can see which pages are underused and determine if they need to be refined or moved further down the service chain.
DPSS is partnering with Adobe on the project. It used Adobe Experience Manager Sites, Adobe Analytics, and Adobe Asset Manager when replacing its public website in June 2020. This effort condensed more than 600 web pages to less than 200, improved usage monitoring, and simplified navigation.
“We had complaints about where things were on the website, and sometimes the response to that was to put more stuff on the website, and that’s not exactly what we wanted to do,” Sylvester said. Additionally, the website’s design didn’t translate well to mobile devices, forcing users to scroll from side to side to figure out where to click, he said.
Another problem was that the website was “strewn” with names of programs, which most people weren’t familiar with. Now the site has a user-centered design and search function that includes a common and simple language. For example, someone might search for “food and nutrition” instead of CalFresh, the California name for the supplemental nutritional assistance program, or “health care” instead of Medi-Cal, which provides health services.
“It puts it in terms that the user, the consumer, can understand and gives them a good starting point so they don’t try to find our organizational structure on the website,” Sylvester said.
The new site also puts information in a dozen languages to better serve the county’s diverse population of 10 million.
Over the past two years, DPSS has further refined the outdoor site. For example, it has a large policy library built into the website, Sylvester said. “We used to render some of the policy on the website,” he said. We eliminated that…so we can use the policy site as a single, maintained area for all policies, and that becomes a repository for the website,” he said. This avoids having to restore the data and keep the two versions in sync.
The pandemic gave the team an opportunity to learn how to better promote DPSS services. He used flip-up screens and rotating advertising components to inform people of food giveaways, vaccination clinics and services available over the phone.
While the redesign of the publicly accessible website has made DPSS more efficient during the pandemic, the redesign of the intranet will ensure that the department can support remote work in the future by making it easier for social workers and other members of DPSS’s 14,000 employees to what they need to work wherever they are.
“It’s like planting a tree: once you have the roots, the branches and everything will grow from that,” Sylvester said of the two websites’ efforts. “Once you [have] a solid foundation, all good things come from it.
Stephanie Kanowitz is a freelance writer based in Northern Virginia.