When your customers are your community at large, your website projects will have a very different set of critical touchstones to hit. Your website will quite literally be judged by a different yardstick than that of a business who serves only a certain (and often selective) clientele.
The Audience for Government Websites
The most immediate difference will be your user base. Instead of appealing strongly but narrowly to, say, SUV driving women over 50 who also skydive across the world, your project will be for people of all ages and backgrounds who generally are united by location alone. In the traditional advertising and marketing world, this answer is both the kiss of death and also the starting point on the journey for many businesses! We as professionals are conditioned to — for all other kinds of organizations — walk you through the process of finding out who really is using your services. But when you are serving entire cities, towns, and states — that all goes out the window.
It is of the utmost importance then that we consider your entire audience starting from the very beginning of the project. The job of most government websites, from city to national, is to give their citizens fast access to the important information about all of the events, services, and policies that the agency offers. Here is just a sampling of things that can be done from the website of my own city:
- Get trash and recycling schedules for my address, including special E-waste and Bulk Pickup events
- View the building codes, apply for a building permit, and view current project permits
- Start, stop, and pay for city utility services such as Water
- Apply for business permits and view business codes/regulations of all types, including sales tax
- See schedules for both city parks (including pools) and special events that the city holds
High performing websites are on order here, and you want someone with a deep experience creating the custom features that will make a government agency website a success. Can you imagine how many hours are saved every year by having the building permit application online? How about paying for utilities through the web – the delinquency rate probably fell sharply once folks could pay their bill instantly and without stamps.
Accessibility: The New Bar of Success
When you exist to serve the community as a whole, it becomes vitally important that you can get your message out to as many people as possible regardless of circumstance.
Can your website be displayed in large type so that all will be able to read it easily? For readers who use screen readers to speak the text out loud to them, will their software be able to parse each page correctly and fill out forms without errors?
What about areas with poor internet connection and/or areas where a high portion of users will be on mobile devices? Your website needs to be able to load quickly and work across as many devices as possible. This can be a moving target when third party services are involved (such as a payment portal service, mapping service, etc) but we assess the project at the start and work forward strategically. Accessibility for the greatest feasible number of people is the target we want to hit.
As Rich a Featureset As Possible
Even small towns know this: a website that can do a lot of things is money well spent. The economic impacts are so far above the immediate benefits of the services that such a website can provide. Consider these questions posed about the services on a website for a town of just 5,000 people:
- How much can we improve utility bill payment collection with online account payment? Can we use this to reduce traffic for clerks at the city offices?
- What’s the economic impact of getting an events calendar online in an easily parsable format that can be picked up by state and other news agencies to promote the events in town? Can we entice more tourists to visit?
- Can we increase business relocation and decrease commercial vacancy with a business real estate database for rentals?
- Does the public know about the rich cultural offerings in town? Linked on the main navigation are all the major museums, theaters, and art institutions.
We want to create a hub for growth, communication, promotion, and expression for the goals of your agency. Put the tools in the hands of the people and watch it take root.
Ready to move on your project or have questions? We have answers! Contact us through the website or leave a message at 928.415.1575 and we’ll start the next phase together.