AWS Government, Education, & Nonprofits Blog

Building a Website that Brings the Outdoors, Indoors

Recreation.gov is your gateway to discover America’s Outdoors and more. From trip planning to information sharing to reservations, the webpage is the one-stop shop to plan your American adventure. As a digital portal to 3,500 federal areas and over 100,000 facilities and activities, the webpage needs the right technology to bring the outdoors to your computer screen.

Booz Allen Hamilton designed a new Recreation.gov website that launched in the fall of 2018 that runs completely on AWS. The website personalizes the user experience through data analytics and recommendation engines, while keeping all data secure.

As they looked to build this government solution, they assessed, validated, and confirmed the architecture to create a newly redesigned website from beginning to end. Speaking from their experience and lessons learned, Booz Allen shares their tips for building a government website that raises the bar for its users.

Read on for five tips for building your government website:

  1. Invest in prototyping – Booz Allen built three different prototypes and worked with a strategic innovation group. They believe a government website should be no different from a commercial website. The customer should be served what they need, without delay or downtime. To continuously innovate on behalf of the user and improve the service, they architected modularly building their architecture with new services, such as Amazon DynamoDB for their main database and Amazon Elastic Container Service for Kubernetes (Amazon EKS).
  2. Use open source technologies – To stay innovative, access to the latest technologies is important. AWS is a language and operating system-agnostic platform. You choose the development platform or programming model that makes the most sense for your mission. You can choose which services you use (one or several) and choose how you use them. This flexibility allows you to focus on innovation, not infrastructure. AWS also collaborates with a robust partner community to give customers access to solutions from both big technology providers and small startups through the AWS Partner Network and the AWS Marketplace. “The ease of integration with other tools through the AWS Marketplace is vital not only for integrating software, but also for finding cost-efficient options,” said Haluk Saker, Booz Allen Hamilton. “It makes procurement extremely easy.”
  3. Consider cost – Cost was a major factor in the building of the website. The AWS Marketplace was one way to bring cost-effective options to the project with a click of the mouse.
  4. Build in security – Security and privacy should be considered from start to finish in a website build, especially when dealing with websites that contain personal identifiable information (PII). AWS puts strong safeguards in place to help protect customer privacy. “Security is not a limiting factor. AWS makes sure we are secure. With FedRAMP-moderate security baselines we have to meet, we have the freedom on how we meet those standards,” said Haluk Saker, Booz Allen Hamilton.
  5. Have good engineers – Having good engineers is critical to the project. You could have the best technology in the world, but it is the engineers that bring the technology to life. Invest in your people.

Whether you are looking to build your own website or planning your next adventure, take some of the advice from Booz Allen and visit Recreation.gov.

Want to learn more? Join us at the AWS Public Sector Summit in Washington, DC on June 11-12.