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CitySmart Blog

Tuesday, November 28, 2017
Victoria Boyko, Software Development Consultant

Victoria BoykoIn the bustle of day-to-day activities, it’s easy to neglect your city’s website. As time passes, a website can grow old and stale rather quickly. However, your citizens—through both desktop and mobile devices—grow accustomed to the ease and usefulness of modern websites. To at least a modest degree, you need to meet these expectations for citizens and people interested in possibly relocating their home or business to your city as they research online.

Fortunately, there are many actions you can take to make your website more useful and modern either with your existing website or in a redesign. These five action items will clean the dust off your current website and make it a much fresher experience for people.

1. Make your website readable and accessible on mobile devices.

In the world of websites, something called “responsive design” has become common. That term means a website that adapts to a variety of device screens. Have you ever had the experience of looking at a website on your smartphone or tablet that looks like a tiny, hard-to-read, exact replica of the desktop website? That kind of website is not responsive.

Other websites seem to fit just right for your handheld device and look different than a desktop version of the website. Those are responsive websites that adapt and adjust to the size of your device.

If you are considering a redesign of your website, responsive design should be in the mix. In fact, Google now rewards responsive, mobile-friendly designs in its search results while penalizing unfriendly websites. You want your website to be found on search engines, so responsive design is a must.

2. Reexamine how you organize information on your website.

Another technical but visible aspect of your website is the “information architecture.” That simply means the way that information is organized on your website. For example, the Sophicity sitemap shows how the information is organized and architected on our website. Two common problems with websites include over-organization (where you have many, many different sections and links) or under-organization (where you haven’t really bothered to organize your information except for a few minimal categories).

Jonesboro, Georgia has an excellent information architecture that doesn’t overwhelm or underwhelm. Categories such as Home, Mayor & Council, Departments, Community, Visiting Jonesboro, and Contact Us are useful to website visitors. Plus, there are only a handful of important links underneath each category. Users expect to find information easily on modern websites without having to spend time hunting it down or trying to sift through a ton of information—and users will have an easy time on Jonesboro’s website.

3. Make it easy for people to find contact information and get to a next step.

We’ve written in the past about “calls to action” which is just a technical term for getting people to interact with your website and do something. Calls to action should be easy to spot and may include paying, signing up for something, clicking on a link, searching for a word/phrase on your website, or following you on social media. Make it easy. People shouldn’t have to struggle while trying to do something specific on your website. That includes finding contact information like a physical address for city hall, phone numbers, and email addresses of city staff.

4. Maintain credibility with an accurate, quality website.

In 2016, we wrote a post titled “6 Easy to Fix Website Mistakes That Are Making Your City Look Bad.” Those mistakes included broken links, outdated information, misspellings, and poor grammar. You may say these issues don’t matter much, thinking that “hardly anyone” checks out your website.

Would you allow garbage to pile up in wastebaskets, dirt and dust to collect on the floors, and misinformed employees to give the wrong information to people who visited you because “hardly anyone” comes to City Hall? No. That’s because you’re proud of your city and you want to provide excellent service for citizens—whether your city has 100, 1000, or 10,000 citizens.

A website is your online version of City Hall. Taking some time to make that website a welcoming, useful, and (yes) even enjoyable experience is something that will make your city look good to citizens, to people possibly wanting to move to your city, and to businesses wishing to explore cities where they may set up shop or expand.

5. Make sure search engines can find your website.

Earlier this year, we asked “If your website is in the middle of a forest, will anyone hear it?” In other words, when people search for your city on search engines, does your website come up high in the search results. There are many small but important things you can do to ensure that search engines find your website and keep you visible such as updating your website frequently with useful information or providing links to other resources that also link back to you. If you type in your city’s name into a search engine and your website doesn’t show up, look at what does show up. Citizens will likely click on those links rather than your website. Are you comfortable with that?

Applying these few tips as you plan out a website refresh or full redesign will make your website much more useful, friendly, and findable for people. Use this list as an assessment to see where you can improve.

Need some extra help with your website? Reach out to us today.