City of Denver Says Their Website Processes are Now “Light Years Ahead” from 2015

Before 2015, the City and County of Denver ( had a website that had grown unchecked to more than 12,000 pages and lacked a data-first approach.

The most popular services—like paying a parking ticket, registering to vote, or reaching the police department—required layers of search and clicks from the old homepage.

The city of Denver website in 2014.

The same inefficiencies applied with the back-end experience for the agency—and the processes required to keep the site up-to-date on a regular basis.

The old process:

The City of Denver team had over 300 content authors across 55+ different agencies.

It was hard to keep track of who was authoring what most of the time.

“The old process was like the wild west,” said Chelsea Warren, Communications Coordinator at the City of Denver. “People would update content, click save, and it would be live on the site with no spot check.”

“The intention before was to give robust functionality and freedom in page design layout to our web authors by allowing them to set up their own layouts using flexible column controls. That way they could fit the content to the page better and create visual, engaging content.”

“But most of our authors are not design or web professionals. And being web authors is usually not their primary job (more like their second or third job). So, the freedom we gave them ended up being way too complex and difficult to manage. Our time was being wasted on frequent retraining and cleaning up of bad design & confusing navigation.”

The City of Denver team found they were spending too much time troubleshooting new bugs that would be created, while customizing elements that needed to be upgraded.

“It was time for an upgrade”

It became clear that they needed to modernize the site, refresh the content experience in the front-end, and upgrade the content management system in the back-end to make it easier for everyone across the 50 agencies to work together and maintain the site.

The team analyzed the content—page by page—and completed a SWOT analysis. With analytics, they chose to remove and/or merge content based on the natural journey users took. Every page got a restructure.

After the analysis, the team came together and consolidated 12,000 pages—into 4,400 pages. They found that service-oriented content (like adopting a pet) was always the top reason people would visit the site. So, they prioritized listing 12 of the top services for residents above the fold on the homepage.

This eventually resulted in a complete website overhaul. Along the way, they decreased the number of authors from 300 to 100. And Adobe Experience Manager (AEM) helped streamline the entire project from planning, design, content, to technical bugs.

Results from 2015 until today

“It’s a lifesaver honestly,” said Karen Pellegrin, Senior Web Administrator at the City of Denver. “It manages so much of our design, user experience, navigation, authors, and any issues or bugs. AEM really is saving our life.”

Compared to the “Wild West” before, Warren said it greatly improved the process for their team. “Now we’re able to control how authors update content and have them stage it for review with either us or their teams to ensure clarity.”

Since the redesign, the website saw 28% more visitors with 970,000 visits per month. The number of service tickets to help with web ticket updates dropped dramatically—from 3 every day, to about 10 a week for content-related fixes.

The project has received numerous awards including the Center for Digital Government’s 2017 Government Experience, 2015 Best of the Web Awards, and Adobe Government Creativity Awards (AGCA) in 2018.

“Where we are now, we’re light years away from when we started,” Pellegrin said.

Lessons learned and advice for fellow government creatives

1. Delegate more

People want to be involved early on to help. Identify flagship authors and get them invested in the process early.

2. Don’t go custom

Adding custom elements upfront is tempting when planning your ideal website, and most think that it’ll give you creative freedom. But according to the City of Denver team, it does the opposite.

“While our custom components were great at the time, as the platform evolved out-of-the-box components provided the same, and sometimes better, functionality,” said Chad Menard, Senior Web Administrator at the City of Denver. “Meanwhile it was a struggle to get our custom components implemented in upgrades and they ended up causing more problems in the long run.”

What’s next?

Karen Pellegrin and Chad Menard at Adobe MAX in 2018.

Gathering data is much easier than before 2015. Patterns are being tracked. Website changes and investments are being guided by citizen behavior.

“In the future we want to integrate AI features such as a 311 chatbot to field common questions, and a more robust search capability that can integrate with home assistant technologies,” Menard shared.

The team is also looking at a redesign of starting in 2020. Learn more about the team.