They have great bone structure
Bones are the structural organization of information, and lackluster organization will leave citizen visitors dazed, confused and likely frustrated.
Think like your users. Don’t use your city’s organizational chart and replicate it online. Most citizens may not know which department to click on to find what they need. Intechnic describes a good municipal website as structured based on the type of user (resident, tourist, business) or by task (pay bills, current events, get information).
You’ll also want to consider how you’ll store digital documents. Many residents will look up specific documents (such as committee meeting minutes or planning documents) online. Be prepared for how you’ll structure these documents to make it as easy as possible for users.
They are easy to navigate
Effective municipal government websites pay great attention to navigation and flow. They don’t overwhelm users with graphics or too many choices. They also have an intuitive search function and site map.
Navigation and site maps tie into the great bone structure to create a simple-to-use experience for site visitors.
They know how to serve
A good municipal website knows who uses the site and what they need or want. The most popular information should be the easiest to find. Does your town have a pesky raccoon problem? Be sure animal control contact information is easy to find. Are there cute shops in your historic downtown area? Plan to feature those prominently to the delight of business owners and potential visitors. Timely information, such as a calendar of events, should be visible and intuitive, with all relevant information and links out to additional information.
They are accessible and mobile friendly
It is important to get the essentials addressed at the onset of a city website build, and this includes mobile friendliness and accessibility. Because municipal websites must adhere to accessibility standards for those with visual impairments, your website champion will need to be well versed in how to update content on your site and how to not update content on your site. In addition, the latest research shows that 80% of Internet users own a smart phone and 47% own a tablet, such as an iPad. Virtually all millennials are using mobile (97%). This means your site needs to serve users who visit from desktop, tablets, mobile, or even their game consoles.
They start simple and add on later
VTrural.org describes an issue one town had after adding online payments to their website, only to realize it was adding tremendous work load to its clerk. When launching a municipal website, start with the basics and look into adding bells and whistles in the future.
“Be sure to carefully evaluate how additional features will impact the town offices’ organization as a whole,” Tess Gauthier of Snelling Center for Government wrote.
Government Technology describes the most successful government websites as using “simple, high-image, low-text designs” that put the user first. Again, don’t overwhelm your users with too much content.
They are user tested before launch
Focus group and user testing is critical in municipal government site launches. Getting that feedback will ensure your new website is relevant and citizens will use it to get the information they need. It could also help reveal keywords that can help with search engine optimization.
They are refreshed every 4-5 years
“Of course you need to refresh your website every four or so years,” said Mark Baumann, IT director for Independence, Missouri. It is part of the city’s ongoing effort to enhance citizen engagement and implement advanced technologies. Website technology evolves constantly, and it is important to stay on top of not only design trends, but best practices in coding.
Cube Creative Design has a wealth of experience building (and rebuilding) municipal government websites. Contact us today to get more information on what an RFP should include and timeframes for site development.