Making video part of our content strategy to improve site performance and service delivery

Sam Mathius
Sep 6, 2018 · 5 min read

We recently wrote about how we’re developing dashboards to help our authors analyze page performance and make improvements. Now, we’re putting ourselves in their shoes with a separate pilot project that will rely heavily on data from those custom dashboards. In the coming weeks and months, we’re going to dive into the data to see how thoughtful, informative videos affect performance on specific Mass.gov pages.

Why video?

It’s 2018. Video is the king of content. It accounts for the majority of today’s web traffic, and video is increasingly more accessible and affordable to produce and consume. That means our constituents are becoming more accustomed to video. Some even expect it.

Aside from the expectations of our audience, various reports and studies show video can improve content in several ways, including generating more search engine traffic and increasing conversion rates. While a lot of this data comes from studies of consumer trends and websites, we think it’s worthwhile to test how video effects online service delivery in the public sector.

Video outlining key information for people taking the bar exam that will be embedded on a Mass.gov service page.

How and where we’re testing video

We want this pilot to align with the overall strategy for Mass.gov and all digital properties for the Commonwealth. That is, we want to focus on efficiently and effectively delivering services to our constituents.

The core of the Mass.gov ecosystem is what we call the service suite. It’s a group of content types that our authors can use to create services that have a consistent structure. The service suite includes Topic, Service, Service Details, and How-to pages. Whether it’s buying a saltwater fishing permit or applying for SNAP benefits, these disparate services are composed of familiar parts.

Example of how the service suite hierarchy on Mass.gov can be structured.

The center of this universe is the Service page. It’s the connecting point for the rest of the content that’s associated with a service, and it tends to be the place where constituents end up when they’re searching for information or ways to complete a task. With this in mind, we plan to host the videos for this pilot on Service pages.

Learn how we landed on the service suite and service page model: Read about information architecture testing

The pilot will include 9 videos. We’ve developed each in unison with subject matter experts (SMEs) at partner organizations across the Commonwealth. In many instances, we’re targeting common issues these experts have noticed are blocking constituents from successfully interacting with a service.

We’re aware that video is useful across all content types on Mass.gov, but this test will give us a benchmark for how video affects user behavior and page performance on one of the core elements of the service-first Mass.gov.

Standard video structure and format

While any test or experiment needs a control, this isn’t the primary reason for establishing a standard format for these videos. There are 2 more important factors: The need to establish a consistent experience on Mass.gov, and the best practices we embrace for all video content we produce.

Video about getting a saltwater fishing permit that will be embedded on a service page.

Here are the key ingredients we’re using in all of our pilot video recipes:

  • Length: Videos can be up to 2 minutes long, but shorter is always better
  • Motion graphics: Opting for motion graphics instead of live action gives us the ability to scale production, and prevents less-than-engaging talking-head videos from appearing on Mass.gov
  • Mayflower elements: We’re anchoring our creativity in our Mayflower design system to keep things consistent
  • Clickable link: We’re providing direct access to another page at the end of each video, aligning with the goal of Service pages to direct traffic to relevant information and transactions

We’re not looking to reinvent the content wheel with this pilot project. Most of the videos we’re developing match the written copy from the pages they’ll live on. Our content team has established a consistent approach to copy that focuses on readability, simplicity, and clarity. Our videos should follow that standard and give constituents another option: People consume and retain information in different ways.

Tracking performance and next steps

There are 12 indicators we’re tracking for all 9 pilot videos, from the overall dashboard score to the percent of traffic to child pages, which are pages that a visitor can access from a link on a previous page. We’re also looking at specific indicators for some videos. For example, we’ll see if we can increase how many SNAP application and recertification decisions happen earlier in the application process. Our SNAP video focuses on which documents applicants have to provide, a point their SMEs identified as a focus for improvement. Our hope is to encourage clients to know which verification documents they need to provide along with their initial paperwork to make the process smoother. Anecdotal evidence will also be key here, and we’ll continue working with the SMEs for each service to see if they’ve noticed any trends from constituent feedback or call centers.

Percentage data for traffic and action rate to child pages as displayed in the Mass.gov analytics dashboards in the CMS.

We know video is an important element of a content strategy. We just need to figure out how it fits into Mass.gov’s content strategy, and this is the first step in that effort. Over the next month or so, we’ll look at the data and see what it’s telling us about the videos, as well as about these services on the whole. We’ll be sure to share the results from the pilot, and let you know what the next steps are for bringing engaging, useful, and meaningful videos to Mass.gov.


Massachusetts Digital Service

Part of the Executive Office of Technology Services and Security (EOTSS), our mission is to use the best technology, design, and data to make every interaction with Massachusetts government simpler, faster, more meaningful, and wicked awesome.

Sam Mathius

Written by

Content strategy, film/video, social media, digital marketing, football, cooking/eating too much, traveling too little. Not necessarily in that order.

Massachusetts Digital Service

Part of the Executive Office of Technology Services and Security (EOTSS), our mission is to use the best technology, design, and data to make every interaction with Massachusetts government simpler, faster, more meaningful, and wicked awesome.

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