Have you ever tried to design a website for your city internally with a limited staff? If so, you will know that it is difficult because of minimal programming knowledge, lack of time and resources, and small budgets that lead to limited functionality. Your staff struggles to manage and edit essential community content, and you are left without a useful operations tool you had hoped would streamline less efficient tasks.
So what do you do? Many people have found success by using professional web design firms. However, there are a few things you should know before you hire and implement a professional city web design to ensure maximum functionality and satisfaction. In this post we hope to inform you with what you need to know to make sure you select a web development solution for your city that will allow you to successfully communicate with your community and staff, as well as elegantly display your city’s infrastructure, businesses, and recreational sites.
In looking for a city government website design firm that addresses your operational needs as well as professionally portrays your city, you should be looking for these things:
- Management. Make sure your content management system (Gov CMS) is robust enough so non-technical resources can easily manage your website’s content. If it cannot, you will have trouble adding day to day content such as pictures, operations info, news updates, and city emergency notifications to your website.
- Functionality. Ensure your solution has a way to create and online management of city council agenda and meeting minutes, permits, contact information, community notifications, and other important city information. It is important that this is easily accessible for effective communication with members of the community, thus allowing for a more interactive city council meetings and ultimately a more transparent government.
- Usability. An effective city website design should pay particular attention to usability and navigation. Visitors to your site are generally not there to look around, but are looking for something in particular. A web design that pays particular attention to navigation and user experience will better serve your audience and promote future use.
- Social. If there is one thing today’s online world does very well it is social interaction. Whether it is social media, contact forms, comments to content, etc., use this opportunity to reach out to your community and gain valuable insight that is otherwise very difficult to get. Social is no longer just Facebook, Google+, Twitter, etc., it is everywhere.
- A Technology Partner. With technology changing at a out of control pace, you need a partner who is entrenched in this world daily. Five Technology will work directly with you and your staff to provide a online solution for today as well as tomorrow that can be used as an effective communication tool, as well as increase productivity both internally and for the public.
A recent Star Tribune article by Mary Jane Smetanka discussed the recent surge in cities updating their website designs. Smetanka stated, “They all share a philosophy: that the user, not the city, is the priority. While the old websites were organized the way cities are — by department– that’s being scrapped for sites that reflect what residents want to know.” This is true, websites should be designed for easy navigation for the users that are going to access it most. However, and Smetanka did touch on this a bit, the internal or operations side of the website that promotes staff efficiency is a major concern that needs to be addressed.
There are a lot of innovative features available that will increase productivity, convenience, and ‘paperless’ efforts. Five’s custom agenda app, which is run through our city CMS, promotes this effort by reducing the cost and preparation time for meetings by eliminating the need to create, print, staple, and distribute agenda and meeting packets that will eventually just be thrown away. It allows for interactive features that can be accessed via computer, tablet, and mobile phone to encourage more interactive meetings. Council members have ability to add minutes, motions, and notes to the agenda from any device during the meeting. Web casts of the meetings and external links can also be embedded into the agenda. Most importantly, all this meeting data is easily searchable (not just a PDF) and a great opportunity to get the community to the site and involved in your daily activities.
In review, let’s touch on a few important essentials as well as additional features that a government web design should provide you:
- A custom and innovative user interface and city web design that is easy to navigate and will elegantly display your community.
- Gov CMS or City CMS with easy content management tools for your city staff.
- A custom online agenda app that allows for paperless city council meetings, with several interactive features that can be accessed from smart phones and tablets.
- A simple yet secure document management system for easy public access as well as organized, convenient internal use.
- 3rd party tool integration such as Google Apps and WordPress Blog to promote community interaction.
- Increase government transparency, reduce paper usage, and reduce preparation “busy work”.
- Provide database driven content that is searchable, importable, and exportable to several formats.
- Incorporate eCommerce for city government capabilities including e-payment for permits, outstanding bills, etc.
So, now that you have some insight into what to look for in a city web design, have read about a few new and innovative features that can enhance the productivity and user experience, you are ready to begin the process. Contact Five Technology today to get started. Remember, it is not just the outward appearance that matters, but also the internal tools and features of the website that can assist your city staff and ultimately reduce costs. Five Technology is the trusted partner in technology that you have been looking for, and can provide or assist you with all of your city government web design needs at a reasonable cost.