GOVTalks: Summer 2016 Recap

July 18, 2016

GOVTalks: Summer 2016 was one of the more exciting GOVTalks our team has experienced — with a last-minute change of venue, planning new logistics, and communicating the change to everyone in a timely manner, it definitely made it a GOVTalks to remember. But in the end, it was another informative workshop and one of the most heavily-attended events we’ve ever put on.

Seventy-one people showed up to hear talks on our GeorgiaGov content management platform, and ideas for editing and creating useful content.

Fifth Year Using Drupal

GeorgiaGov Interactive Director, Nikhil Deshpande, started things off by showing us how far we’ve come in the past five years since the migration to Drupal. We’ve successfully implemented major initiatives such as responsive design, accessibility, and the latest performance enhancements — all while growing our platform by almost 50 percent.

Hosting in the cloud has given us a 99.98% uptime — with most of the downtime due to upgrades and code releases — and the elastic nature of cloud hosting helps us prepare for expected (and unexpected) spikes in traffic.

In the end, Nikhil said, it’s all about the user, and we should continue to focus on them by putting our attention toward having good, usable content and creating a mobile strategy for our users. That’s what we’ve been aiming to do with the enhancements to our platform.

Presentation Slides
Nikhil Deshpande — Fifth Year Using Drupal


GeorgiaGov Platform: Where We've Been, Where We Are, Where We're Going

Director of Product, Kendra Skeene, went into more detail about those enhancements and showed us how they benefit both the user and the agency. Some innovations, such as accessibility and performance improvements, benefit users the most, while other future enhancements such as improvements to the Location content type and flexibility with layout and themes are more agency focused.

Performance is key right now, with so many people accessing sites from their mobile phones. Just simple improvements to the platform, such as aggregating CSS and JavaScripts and optimizing images, decreased the page size by 500 KB. These changes saved users 5,760 hours in bandwidth, resulting in a savings of $82,980 a year!

Finally, Kendra gave us a sneak peek at new enhancements coming down the road:

  • Custom color palettes for new themes;
  • More flexibility in background images;
  • Multi-column layout options for site pages and blog posts;
  • Infographic support;
  • New homepage blocks that will give agencies more flexibility in their layout and design;
  • Enhancements to the Location content type that will allow users to filter locations by a wider variety of options, and searching by city, county or ZIP code.

Presentation Slides
Kendra Skeene — GeorgiaGov Platform: Where We've Been, Where We Are, Where We're Going


Let Someone Else Deal: Eliminating IT Bottlenecks with Managed Digital Cloud

Dan Katz, Technical Director for Acquia’s Public Sector, showed us why using the cloud is so advantageous and how its elasticity and security provide a trusted, stable environment for web hosting. The cloud, really, is just another set of servers, but hosting in the cloud means someone else handles the care and maintenance of the servers. That gives you time to concentrate on your users.

Acquia has proven that it can react to a spike in traffic; it hosts The Grammy Awards website, and on Grammy night, it was able to spin up enough servers to handle 460 million hits, then resize down to a more reasonable number when the spike in traffic receded.

Presentation Slides
Dan Katz — Let Someone Else Deal: Eliminating IT Bottlenecks with Managed Digital Cloud


It's Time to Get Serious About Your Content

Account Manager, Peter Lee, told us that agencies were suffering from a glut of content; much of that content is outdated or not looked at by users. By performing a content audit and making difficult decisions on what content should stay and what should go, agencies can help users find the important information more quickly.

Peter also gave some examples of content that users just don’t care about: Welcome messages, mission statements, org charts, and an information architecture based on bureaucracy. What really matters are the top tasks that users come to a website for; you can find out what those tasks are through tools such as Google Analytics and Crazy Egg, analyzing call center data, and talking to users about why they come to the website.

Presentation Slides
Peter Lee — It's Time to Get Serious About Your Content


Infographics: The What, Why and How

UI Designer, Rachel Hart, told us about infographics: what they are, why we should be using them, and how you can create them and integrate them into your web presence to increase citizen engagement and comprehension. Infographics are important because they can reach a broader audience, crossing multiple learning styles and languages.They are another way to convey information.

Rachel discussed a case study in which a blog post on adoption got 74 page views at its peak and 3 likes on Facebook; using similar information in an infographic resulted in a peak 215 page views and a whopping 430 likes. When using social media, going visual is definitely the way to go.

Rachel laid out the process for creating an infographic, which starts with content, not the visual elements. Don’t have a graphic artist on staff? She suggested several tools for non-Illustrator types, such as, Venngage,, and, and reminded us that you can always put in a ticket to work on an infographic with her.

Presentation Slides
Rachel Hart — Infographics: The What, Why and How


Did you miss this GOVTalks? Don’t worry; we have videos of all the presentations up on YouTube so you can watch them all. Be sure to catch the next GOVTalks toward the end of the year!

Photo Gallery


Peter Lee

About the Author

Peter Lee is the account manager for GeorgiaGov Interactive. He works with state agencies using the GeorgiaGov platform, helping them define their needs and building solutions to meet those needs.

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