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Meeting the Standards of the 21st Century Integrated Digital Experience Act

Meeting the Standards of the 21st Century Integrated Digital Experience Act

Have you tried to find something on your city, state, or even federal website recently? I was trying to find city building codes to answer a simple question, but got lost quickly.

Government websites fill a critical need for citizens in the 21st Century. They allow consumers to easily pay a bill, view local events, or even check when to take out the trash. Citizens expect government websites to help them through good customer experience.

Private businesses have always recognized how important customer experience is — happy customers mean more revenue. However, government websites have never needed to focus on increasing sales. To add insult to injury, many government sites feel like web pages published in the early 2000s: brochure-ware that pushes information rather than engaging visitors.

For government websites, improving customer experience has never been much of a priority.

Until recently.

In 2018, the US Congress passed the 21st Century Integrated Digital Experience Act (IDEA) into law. The IDEA aims to improve customer experience across government websites to streamline how citizens access government services online.

The IDEA has eight requirements, all of which the customer experience world has recognized for a long time. They include consistent website appearances, cell phone functionality, and making sure that each website meets its security and accessibility requirements.

An IDEA for Government site search

In this blog post, we are going to focus on one requirement of the IDEA, that:

“[Government websites] contain a search function that allows users to easily search content intended for public use.”

When citizens have a search function on a website, they are more likely to self-serve and find answers to their own questions. Self-service also improves trust in government organizations, while also reducing the burden from support tickets.

Research from McKinsey shows that self-service is a growing expectation of citizens too. Citizens become increasingly frustrated when they have to speak to multiple people to answer questions. Self-service enables citizens to find the information they need themselves, without help.

In this post, we will explain how search can help government websites increase self-service, delight their citizens, and improve trust in government.

Dynamic filters help users navigate through search results on a government website.

Why is search important for government websites?

Even without the IDEA, smart site search is still necessary for government websites. Users have grown accustomed to highly-advanced web search, and expect the same functionality across websites of all sizes.

Self-service through site search is incredibly useful for government websites. When users self-serve the answers they need, they don’t need to call your support team. So your staff has more time to focus on more complex inquiries, while reducing call volumes.

The IRS conducted an audit of its services in 2015 to measure taxpayer effectiveness. After investigating their operational expenses from customer interactions, they found that every phone interaction cost $42.33, compared to only $0.22 per digital interaction.

Moving toward digital-first strategies allowed the IRS to save money. Embracing self-service allowed the IRS to decrease service time, while also reducing costs to taxpayers.

Additional research from PwC demonstrates how citizens perceive and trust the government in the digital age. Their research has shown a correlation between citizen trust, and how citizens can effectively engage with government services online. Conversely, when citizens have poor experiences with governments, trust declines.

When users can search and then find the information they need themselves, it powers better interactions between government and its citizens, increasing public trust, and decreasing expenses.

Examples of improved government site search

Launched in 2009, is a site managed by the US General Services Administration (GSA) to provide openly available government datasets. A massive catalog is available to the general public to research and download for analysis. In addition to interviewing customers to develop general usability requirements and improving overall site design, the team at implemented keyword search with features such as filters to whittle down the results by categories, tags, formats, groups, and more.

Read the complete case study.


The Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS) was first established in 1980 as an Australian Government statutory agency. The Institute is Australia’s leading research body into family wellbeing, producing independent, necessary research for policymakers and the wider community.

One of the challenges for an organization that has been operating for over 30 years is that multiple pieces of research can be generated for a single topic. AIFS was finding that their users were getting results that were not relevant or timely, often with the most recent content being hidden from search results.

After moving to, content can now be boosted if it aligns with predetermined criteria. For example, publications that have been published in the same year are now lifted above other results.

Read the complete case study.

Watch: Delivering Innovative Digital Experiences for Government

What’s next?

The IDEA came into law on Dec. 20, 2018, to improve citizen experiences across government websites. But, if you are still looking to meet all the requirements of the IDEA, it’s never too late. is an affordable solution that allows the government at all levels to meet the needs of its stakeholders through search. Search unlocks real opportunities across government websites to enable self-service and increase engagement.

If you still need to install a search function to meet the IDEA or want new ideas for how to improve government site search, can help. To learn more about and how we help governments, you can book a demo with a search specialist or simply signup for a 14-day free trial.

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