UPDATED APRIL 21, 2016
SANTA MONICA, Calif. (August 20, 2015) As summer winds down, residents across the country will be turning to their municipal websites for information about back-to-school and fall activities. To help local government officials assess their website’s readiness for ever-growing community usage, online government innovators at Vision Internet issued a 5-point website checklist that will guide any local agency looking to effectively inform and engage its citizens.
Vision Internet’s 5-point website checklist asks local government officials:
- Do you offer your most commonly requested services online?
- Can visitors seamlessly access your website from any mobile device?
- Would the average user describe your website as “easy to use”?
- Does your site foster citizen engagement through two-way communications?
- Does your website meet best practices for government transparency?
UPDATED: With new accessibility requirements due from the Fed in October 2016, the additional 3-point accessibility checklist can help local government officials prepare:
- Are you following accessibility best practices including developing accessibility readiness, building accessible content, giving users control and keeping your website accessible?
- Are you regularly reviewing your website analytics to discover insights to improve the experience for your website visitors?
- Do you train your content authors in the best practices of writing for the Web?
“Creating a successful website has less to do with technology and more to do with knowing how to apply that technology in a way that meets the needs of residents and visitors,” said Ashley Fruechting, Vision Internet’s director of strategic initiatives. “Successful local government websites serve, represent and delight their communities – allowing citizens to easily access the information they want, when and where they need it.”
According to Fruechting, citizen service is the core purpose of every local government website. “This means providing key services online that allow residents to conduct business with government 24/7, without the need to visit city hall. It also means providing timely and relevant content that is easy to find and act on. This includes posting financial information online in a way that is easily understandable and provides context.”
Representing the community in a positive light is another hallmark of a successful municipal website. Highlighting an area’s unique economic and cultural identity is important to residents, local businesses and visitors.
“Municipal websites often are the first touch point for businesses looking to relocate and the first impression visitors have of a local area,” said Fruechting. “So your website’s virtual handshake needs to be designed in a way that instantly impresses and leaves a lasting positive image of your community.”
Delighting the community is about making residents’ online interactions with government simple and easy. Mobile access is an important consideration when communities seek to fulfill this purpose. The Pew Research Center reports that nearly two-thirds of Americans are now smartphone owners, and for many these devices are a key entry point to the online world. The responsive web design built into advanced content management systems like VisionCMSTM provides citizens with an optimal viewing and interaction experience no matter what device they are using.
“Providing citizens with ample opportunities for two-way interaction, is another key to a successful government website,” Fruechting said. “This includes everything from online applications for local permits and activities to weighing in on important community issues. The most engaging websites are developed with a ‘user-first’ approach and prioritize what residents care about and need. Every community is different. Local leaders who take the time to learn what citizens want and make that information easily accessible can achieve tangible increases in community engagement and citizen satisfaction.”
For more information about Vision Internet’s transformative government website technology, call 888-263-8847 or visit visioninternet.com/inforequest.
About Vision Internet
Headquartered in Santa Monica, Calif., Vision Internet is a national leader in government website development with more than 600 government, non-profit and education clients in U.S. and Canadian communities with populations that range from less than 1,000 residents to more than 5 million. The company creates cost-effective solutions that increase government efficiency, transparency and interactive communications with citizens. Over nearly 20 years, the company has earned hundreds of prestigious awards for its unique websites, Vision Internet’s visionCMS™ is a powerful, easy to use content management system developed with input from hundreds of municipal clients.