Is Your Current Municipal (Government) Website Up To Date?

Having worked with over 400 municipalities, we have noticed that more often than not, clerks did not see the need to change their local government website design, even if it was severely outdated.

They simply got used to it and were anxious about potential change.

However, if your local government website is 5-10 years old, you might be missing out on two major aspects. A “future proof” website means less work for clerks and easier access for residents.

Nowadays, municipalities who go the extra mile make it easier for residents to:

  • find all necessary information on the website
  • browse website smoothly across all devices
  • make online payments without the necessity of visiting town halls

It works both ways – a well-designed “future proof” website makes a job of municipal clerk much easier too. According to the feedback received from other municipalities we have worked with, we were able to pinpoint implemented improvements:

  • Saved dozens of hours monthly due to the fact that daily work could be done easier and faster
  • Reduced the number of complaints from residents as website became more intuitive and displayed properly on all devices
  • Reduced overall amount of calls from residents as they could easily find the majority of information on the website
  • Reduced the number of residents’ visits as they could pay online without the need to come to the Town Hall
  • Made daily work easier due to the “reminder” function of the website

What municipalities often miss at is that if residents complain about the website now that they can’t display content properly on their mobile phones, can’t pay online, etc., the number of complaints is only going to grow in the next months, making you feel uncomfortable and stressed.

Below we are going to describe main trends in municipal website design and why implementing them is crucial for any (not just big) municipalities.

TRENDS

1. “508 Compliance”

In the local governments’ industry, it’s more of a must-have feature than a trend.

Section 508 is a set of guidelines for the website design to assure every American can access information with ease (around 20% of the U.S. population have some type of disability which affects their online access). State and local governments, including municipalities, are required by law to follow the issued guidelines for their websites. Those who fail to comply can face financial penalties.

Equal access for every resident

Having access to all the relevant information for municipality residents shouldn’t be a privilege to some, but rather a right for all. This law is a way to break down barriers and create equitable access for every Internet user.

Accessible website design requires experience

A checklist of Section 508 web standards can be found here: http://webaim.org/standards/508/checklist. TownWeb builds websites in compliance with all those requirements to make sure all residents of our client municipalities can search for information without problems. It’s important to make sure that the company or individual responsible for creating municipality website has prior experience with creating accessible websites.

2.Mobile friendly websites

Residents will not be able to display website correctly (and find the information they are looking for) on their mobile devices if the website is not mobile friendly. With 77% of Americans using smartphones in 2016, this inevitably leads to frustration and sending complaints regarding issues with the website, for example, as people check the website on the road.

This is even more important considering every year more and more people tend to browse the Internet on devices like smartphones or tablets, rather than a computer. Responsive website or responsive design means that the website will be displayed correctly across all devices (we wrote an article why responsive design of municipal websites is important).

A mobile-friendly design is a standard that many website designers have already taken into consideration.

A few examples of the responsive websites we designed:

Creating an application is not cost-effective

Some web design companies advise creating an application to make it work on mobile devices. However, mobile applications are very often expensive, and this solution provides more friction as the user has to download the application first.

All it takes is to change the design of the website, so it displays well on all devices. This will not only improve how the website works, but it will make it easier for both customers and employees to access.

Want to find out more about mobile-friendly websites? Here you can pick a convenient time for a personalized website demo!

3.Online payments

The availability of online payments helps both residents and clerks. Online payments can be used for everything from bills and taxes to parking tickets, citations, and late fees. Accepting payments on your municipal website gives residents a more convenient way to make payments, even after hours. This leads to fewer phone calls, filled out forms and messages received by clerks.

This particular service has been proven to be effective and it is used broadly by many municipalities, for example, Austin Texas, Hot Springs, Santa Cruz.

We also offer integrated payment features for government websites, making it easy for clerks to accept online payments. 


4.Manage and add content in just a few clicks

Earlier, updating a website – adding a new event or agendas – meant contacting support or doing it yourself if you had the technical skills.

Now, the technology allows changing the content of the website without looking at the code at all. We surveyed our clients and created an intuitive dashboard designed for their everyday needs.

The simplified interface allows updating necessary information: news, notices or minutes without any technical knowledge. Clerks can just log in and make all the changes themselves in just 3 clicks.

If you’re a hands-on kind of person, you’ll love taking a peek at the admin side of things, where you can upload new meeting minutes or change a web page in as little as twenty seconds.

Here you pick a convenient time for a personalized website demo.

5.Website as your Virtual Assistant

It is difficult to maintain your everyday tasks in order, not to mention remembering all of those appointments and events.

What if your website could become your virtual assistant and help you with all your errands? What residents see is just the easily accessible website with all the necessary information that they might need.
What clerks have access to is a dashboard with advanced but easy-to-use functionalities that help them with everyday tasks:

  • Updating website information – We’ve already mentioned in the last paragraph that it’s possible to add news, minutes, agendas in a few clicks
  • Reminders – You’ll see a notification if agendas don’t have required minutes or all documents
  • Notifications about online payments – You’ll get a notification whenever a payment is done online by a resident
  • Meeting repository where you can store all documents in one place online
  • Fillable online forms

If you create a fillable online form for your municipal website, residents can provide all the necessary information without stepping into the town hall. It makes life easier for visitors –and organizations alike, and provide a simple-to-use solution for transferring information.

Summary

We hope that this article shed some light on advantages of implementation of the latest trends in government website design. With technology changing almost every single aspect of life, it’s harder and harder to ignore all the opportunities it brings to make clerks’ lives easier.

With new trends accelerating every year,  staying behind causes more and more downside as the time passes – changing to the “future proof” website becomes an inevitable choice.