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Power to the People
Power to the People

How onboarding to ODX changed the way the Department of Agriculture plans and communicates to constituents

The Ohio Department of Agriculture updated its citizen-facing website, agri.ohio.gov, launching in early June as the agency entered one of its busiest times of the year. Constituents visiting the modernized site enjoy an updated look and feel as well as streamlined, intuitive navigation to regulatory, compliance, health, and other critical agency information. Visitors to the site are served timely news and current events enabled by the technology that powers the new site.  

ODA partnered with the Ohio Digital Experience (ODX) last October to design and re-platform the site, citing the need for a refresh, and perhaps more importantly, the need to reduce the agency’s reliance on its own IT resources for updates. Director David Daniels has made IT hardware and software upgrades a priority for the entire agency, so a new website that freed up IT staff was an easy decision to make. “We’ve been able to allow our experts to focus on their areas of expertise,” Director Daniels said. “Our IT folks can design and implement new applications and software and our communicators have a new tool to share our message with the Ohioans.”

ODA’s Chief Communications Officer, Mark Bruce, wanted to put the ability to publish content in the hands of the Communications Team. This is particularly important for a regulatory agency where the website needs to be an effective tool for sharing real-time news and information, including crisis communications when necessary.

ODX’s simple-to-use Content Authoring Tool allows content authors to push content directly to the website in near real-time, from a computer or mobile device. The Communications Team leveraged these new, mobile-friendly tools to post content live from the State Fair, the biggest event of their year, allowing them greater flexibility to produce more relevant content without waiting for IT to work the ticket and publish. The ability to post on location, in near real-time, provides tremendous value, especially during the busy summer season as event news is plentiful and schedule changes can happen at any time. 

Visitors to ODA’s new site will also notice the intuitive navigation to regulatory and compliance information. In the past, information on the website was presented according to the agency’s organizational structure, making it difficult for those outside the agency to find the information they needed. The project team for the new site made it a point to understand the constituents’ points of view – based on how they perceive the agency and its offerings. For example, the new website consolidates a host of resource pages from the different agency divisions into one “Starting a Food Business?” link which guides the constituent through a specific user journey based on the type of business that constituent wants to operate. Interactive designs like this improve the overall user experience and drive more constituents to the site.

“It’s important for us as communications specialists to remember that someone without deep technical knowledge [in a subject area] needs to be able to find this information,” Bruce stated, “and the information needs to be presented, so the user can absorb it at his or her own pace.”

Bruce expressed that he is pleased with how the new platform’s tools and capabilities are being used by the agency. Since going live with the site, the communications team’s reliance on its IT counterparts for website updates has been almost completely eliminated, freeing up developer resources to focus on technology projects and to drive forward the agency’s strategic technology initiatives. “We’ve put the power in the hands of our content people – and they are using it to make the changes as they are needed and this is what we hoped would happen.”

For questions related to onboarding to OH|ID and ODX, please contact Derek Bridges at derek.j.bridges@das.ohio.gov or Elizabeth Robinson at Elizabeth.robinson@das.ohio.gov. For general inquiries, please contact the ODX mailbox at ohio.digital.experience@das.ohio.gov.