State technology officials have jumpstarted a major overhaul of Ca.gov, California’s official website, to unify department sites and simplify access to services.
The initiative is already underway with an announcement on June 17 by Rick Klau, who took helm as California’s Chief Technology Innovation Officer in February. Klau met with tech companies in a vendor forum hosted by the California Department of Technology, saying the goal of the project is to streamline the state’s patchwork website content, design styles, management systems, and IT infrastructure.
Equally important, if not more so, Klau said the work would increase accessibility for online visitors.
“Today there are dozens [of department websites] that are in WordPress and hundreds across the state currently sharing no common infrastructure,” Klau said.
The project builds on the initial redevelopment efforts of CA.gov, when the site was relaunched in 2019 as a prototype under Alpha.ca.gov. State IT leadership hopes to reimagine how digital services are delivered, modernizing California’s digital presence and potentially reworking outdated or languishing Web applications. The Governor’s May Revise budget proposes $2.3M for a dedicated team to support the effort.
The work to house state sites under one IT umbrella is comprehensive and extends to frontend and backend infrastructure. Klau said this means taking a holistic approach and unifying not only content management systems, but also content libraries, user interfaces, design languages, tech stacks, and the digital processes connected to CA.gov.
The vision is for users, no matter who they are or what device they’re using, to have quick access to what they need. At the moment, he said too many users visiting department websites get mired in department directories, unnecessary amounts of file downloads, and other technical difficulties.
“We don’t need to force the residents to understand how the state is structured in order to get the piece of content or access to the service that they need,” Klau said. “Making our sites accessible, regardless of how they come to the content is a big area of opportunity.”
California Department of Technology seeks to break down some of the barriers that have plagued users for years, and especially those with disabilities or those limited to slower online connections and smaller mobile devices. Since he left Google to work for the state, Klau’s first projects have centered around improving usability through strategic design. This included an updated content style guide and continued work on California’s Covid-19 vaccination site Covid19.ca.gov.
With the pandemic receding, Klau and his team are returning to the work of redesigning CA.gov, where accessibility will be a cornerstone. The drive toward greater access also supports Gov. Gavin Newsom’s charge to modernize, a move most visible in funding to innovate firefighting and revamp the Department of Motor Vehicles site and services.
Reaching out to tech company representatives, Klau said the project’s large-scale and nuanced needs would likely seed procurement opportunities and in-house work performed by state digital services.
“It’s really important to think of this [project] as two complementary things, there’s the technology, the infrastructure that supports the growing family web properties throughout CA.gov, and then there’s the content and the design itself,” Klau said. “When you see that those are two separate but complimentary things, you can then see the lenses through which there are many opportunities for us to partner with a number of [vendors].”
For more information and updates on the CA.gov website and services redesign, visit News.alpha.ca.gov.