DEMA Launches New Website Focused on Usability

DEMA Launches New Website Focused on Usability

The Arizona Department of Emergency and Military Affairs (DEMA) launched a new website in late March. The new site was designed to be accessible, to work with mobile devices and to be easily navigated.

PHOENIX--As the saying goes, “you never get a second chance to make a first impression.” More often than not, the first chance a government organization gets to introduce itself to the public is with its website.

Up until this month, the Arizona Department of Emergency and Military Affairs (DEMA) website—circa the mid-2000s—served as a lesson in how not to design a public-facing website.

For starters, explains DEMA webmaster Vincent Salgado, the old website wasn’t a website so much as a compilation of separate sites pieced together by hyperlinks. It was situation made worse by the fact that each site looked and felt different. These were just a couple of the challenges facing the cross-functional team assembled to manage the website development and content migration processes.

“Most Arizonans will only ever learn about and interact with DEMA through its website,” said Salgado, “which is why it was so important that we gave people the best user experience possible. We can and will continue to improve the site’s usability. That said, I think the current version of the site is a big improvement over the old site.”

DEMA quietly launched the new in late March after about 12 months of design, development and troubleshooting.

Anyone familiar with the old DEMA website will first notice the homepage has a modern look and feel, a simplified navigation and a user-friendly interface. After years of DEMA information being spread across multiple URLs, Salgado wanted to create a site that prioritized the needs of internal and external users.

“Our main goal for the redevelopment was to deliver a website that was usable, useful and accessible,” said Salgado. “Our old website was unattractive and managed by one person. The new site is not only more attractive but it is also more secure and allows our employees to update and add content to the website themselves.”

The website update was part of a larger push to tell the Whole Community about the military and emergency management services provided by and achievements of DEMA’s uniformed and civilian personnel. In order to make that kind of information more easily accessible, the website was responsive designed, meaning it can be viewed and navigated on a smartphone or tablet.

The majority of the site’s information is organized under tabs for the Arizona Army National Guard (AZNG), the Arizona Air National Guard, the Division of Emergency Management and Joint Task Force Arizona. An additional Careers tab was created to make it easier for users to find State of Arizona and National Guard job listings—two popular destinations on the old site. The Resources tab includes links to the AZNG Public Affairs Office, the DEMA Public Information Office and News web pages.

Drupal is an open-source content management system (CMS), which is an important selling point. Salgado explains that because Drupal isn’t owned by a single company it is free to use—you don’t need to buy and then renew a license--and its users are allowed to modify the product.

For these and other reasons—scalability, security and usability—Drupal has become the unofficial industry standard for government websites, and the favorite platform of the State of Arizona. The Arizona Strategic Enterprise Technology (ASET) Office, a subdivision of the Arizona Department of Administration, is responsible for statewide information technology planning, coordination and initiatives. They write the policies, standards and procedures for state websites; among them.

DEMA is one of many State of Arizona agencies to adopt the CMS, and was one of if not the first to launch a Drupal site when debuted in 2013. The Emergency Kit Cook-Off is an emergency preparedness campaign inspired by the contents and constraints of an emergency supplies kit.

DEMA also administers, which was built using Drupal and released in 2014. The Arizona Emergency Information Network (AzEIN) is the state’s official source for emergency updates, preparedness and hazard information, and related resources. is updated 24/7/365 by the Public Information Office with emergency information provided by its federal, state, tribal and local partners.