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Commissioner's Column: NHDES Launches First Website Update in 13 Years

Date: January 04, 2021

Here at NHDES, we are always looking for ways to improve communication and increase efficiency. One of the best communication tools at our disposal is the NHDES website. On December 8, 2020, we launched our first website overhaul since 2007. The new site design focuses on consolidating information to make it easier to navigate. We also looked for new and intuitive ways to present information, which led to the development of two document libraries – one for rulemaking and the other for documents, such as fact sheets, outreach materials, reports, etc. – and other dynamic content that allows us to keep information fresh while reducing website maintenance. The site search tool is much more effective and will search both pages and documents across the site. With more than 50% of people searching the web on mobile devices these days, it was also very important to us to have a website that is mobile-friendly.

The timing clicked. We were already exploring the need to develop a new site when the Governor announced his desire for a statewide rebranding initiative that would tie all state agency websites under a similar look and allow users to more quickly identify when they were on a New Hampshire government site. NHDES was able to get on board early to help define the new look, and lead the charge with innovative web tools. As we move through 2021, more state agencies will be able to use the same platform, tools and templates.

Since it was last updated in 2007, the old website experienced a bit of “urban sprawl” – growing to an unmanageable 3,600+ pages and containing over 17,000 documents. Additionally, the navigation was designed from an internal perspective, which had the unintended consequence of reducing communication within our programs and often, multiple copies and versions of the same information would be put out by different programs. Sifting through all of this content was an agency-wide effort that resulted in cross-program and even cross-division collaboration. Staff were able to combine like content and weed out older, forgotten documents and pages.

This new website was designed with the assistance of a Department of Information Technology-contracted website development company, Silvertech. The company looked at how our various, external web audiences would be likely to navigate the site and compared that to the analytics of what pages were actually visited each month over the course of two years. What resulted is the environmental topic-based navigation that you see today. This topic-based approach will continue to encourage internal communication between programs and reduces the likelihood of duplicative content. It also creates a much more intuitive navigation.

To help with the transition between the old and new websites, we have developed a number of short tutorial videos and a brief guided tour. All of these videos can be found on the NHDES YouTube channel. For those of you who use the OneStop database, either for queries or for uploading information, that site is separate from the NHDES website and was not changed during the course of the website redesign. I hope you will take the time to explore the new site and provide feedback through our Website Satisfaction Survey. We are always looking for ways to improve our processes and communication so all constructive criticism will be reviewed and thoughtfully considered.