Web strategy overview

Work is underway to transform the provincial government’s online presence of over 150 domains, 1.9 million pages and 75,000 PDFs into a cohesive experience that better meets users’ needs.

Content from three more departments – Emergency Management Office, Municipal Affairs and Office of the Fire Marshall – has moved onto the new site and will start appearing May 15, 2019.

The updated and improved novascotia.ca focuses on:

  • explaining what government is doing and why
  • providing clearer, easier access to government programs and services
  • sharing information that individuals or businesses are looking for

About 3.5 million people viewed novascotia.ca in 2018, a 10% increase from 2017. 64% visited from search engines and 82% were looking for a specific task or topic (up from 70% in 2017). Website analytics demonstrate that the updated site is already starting to increase the access to government’s programs and services and providing information that users are looking for; areas of focus for the updated site. For example; the updated site places higher in search engine results and visits per user have increased.

Project scope

The project applies to all of government’s public-facing websites, including individual department sites and over 150 department-related domains.

Websites that are out of scope of this project include sites for legislative offices and entities that are arms-length from government such as agencies, boards or commissions (like artsns.ca, gamingns.ca and novascotia.com) and often have non-government URLs.

Department intranet and extranet sites are also excluded from this project.

Project phases and timeline

The first phase involves publishing web content. Content from three more departments – Emergency Management Office, Municipal Affairs and Office of the Fire Marshall – has moved onto the new site.

Since October 2018, content from seven departments – Business, Communications Nova Scotia, Finance and Treasury Board, Internal Services, Public Service Commission, Service Nova Scotia and Office of Workplace Mental Health – moved onto the new site. Other departments are working on finalizing their content, which will be updated and are targeted to go online in phases through 2019 and 2020.

Government will continue to work on redeveloping transactions (like forms and web applications), documents, charts, visuals and other web assets. This first ‘publishing content’ phase includes “starter” web pages for current transactions and documents. The information on these pages makes it easy for users to understand where and how they can complete a task.

We’re also developing an ongoing web maintenance program to make sure content is accurate and up-to-date moving forward.

Content and structure

We’re applying content criteria to remove outdated, inaccurate and unneeded content to make sure that only the information users need is online.

Because most users come to government’s sites looking for a specific program or service, we organized the content with their needs in mind. The updated site uses plain language that the public can easily understand. The design of the site is clean and simple, and optimized to improve access for everyone, regardless of their ability, device, situation, or location.

Following user flow testing, user research and best practices, information is being published in one place and we’re arranging the content by topics, services, programs, departments or by searching so it’s easier for users to find what they’re looking for. Users won’t have to understand government’s organizational structure to find what they’re looking for.

Retiring old sites

When a department launches on the updated site, the old site will be retired and archived offline.

URLs from the old sites will redirect to the same content on the updated site whenever possible. If a piece of content from the old site wasn’t included on the updated site, the user will be redirected to the department that owns it.


The improved site also sets a new standard for user accessibility, whether they’re using a computer, a mobile phone or assistive technology.

Many of the PDFs online aren’t accessible to users with disabilities. Web publishing requirements and standards will be reviewed and updated as part of government's accessibility plan for Nova Scotia.