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Service Profile – Website Design and Development for Local Governments

Website Design That Makes Sense Clearzoning takes a fresh look at city, village, and township websites by incorporating the expertise of city planners and experts in municipal government in to the design framework.  Government transparency, efficient delivery of services, and excellent customer service are key objectives for local governments that can be achieved with a quality website. Clearzoning combines expertise in planning, graphic design, and website design to portray important information in a way that is clear to the end users.  We use icons, photos and infographics to make website use and navigation easy. In April 2015, Clearzoning replaced an outdated, tired-looking website for Casco Township in St. Clair County, Michigan with a new website that features better organization and engaging design.  The new website  includes the following: User-friendly design Infographics that convey useful information Professional photography Numerous color maps of important information An attractive, easy-to-use calendar of events Links to important forms and data An updated township history This website was created by Clearzoning staff in less than 30 days. Casco Township Clerk Pat Allagreen led the effort on behalf of the township, staying in constant contact with Clearzoning staff.  This included in person meetings, online Go-to-Meetings, and phone calls.  This is reflective of the customer service that Clearzoning has provided to local government for over 25 years. The new website can be found at www.cascostclair.com.  ... read more

New Directions for Small Town Websites in the United States

How Can Small Town Government Websites Better Serve the Community? Most municipalities have a website presence. Some were created to meet a basic requirement, with little pre-planning or follow through, while others provide an excellent, content-rich experience that is user-friendly and up-to-date. A quick survey of several communities revealed that small town websites vary widely in terms of timeliness of information, website organization, and ability to easily convey important information. At one extreme there are websites that have not been updated in over a year, where the most recent set of minutes that can be found is from several years ago. The other extreme features robust sites that are up-to-date, where the most recent minutes and agendas are posted along with pdf versions of agenda packets. Interactive mapping and user-friendly development regulations make accessing information easy.  A calendar provides information about activities throughout the community and much more. Why does all of this matter? 87% of American adults use the internet (2014) 78.1% of people in U.S. households have a high-speed internet connection (2014) 64% of American adults now own a smartphone (2014 and up from 35% in 2011) Municipal websites can be an open portal into a transparent government.  When this happens, it builds trust and reflects quality government that is open and welcoming.  This can lead to economic development and growth in the tax base.  It can also encourage people to participate through volunteer opportunities, and it can be part of the overall quality of life in a community. Government websites – and social media tools – can be used to share a wide variety of important information including the... read more

Casco Township, St. Clair County, Michigan – New Website Design – Video #2

This is the second in a series videos featuring the new Casco Township website design. This video – found at https://youtu.be/f5kAJzqSUc4 – takes a closer look at the Maps, Codes, and Forms tab found at the top of the toolbar. There are three different icons on the Maps, Codes, and Forms page. We can start off by clicking “Maps” and link to the Maps page. There are twelve different maps that have been provided by the township’s Planning Consultants, Clearzoning, Inc. These maps include data available from a number of sources. The topography for example opens a PDF file showing USGS topographic information for the Township. Zoom in on the map for more detail. Clicking on “Codes” tab will open a page that will provide a link to the Casco Township zoning ordinance, which is also a PDF file. The “Forms” icon connects the user to a series of forms related to different departments including Building, Planning and Zoning, and Zoning Board of Appeals. The search icon on the home page is also available to search the site for keywords.  Use it as an alternative way to find Township forms or any other information on the new website. Please feel free to visit the website for Casco Township anytime – www.CascoStClair.com. Website design by... read more

Casco Township, St. Clair County, Michigan – Website Design & Video Link

The new website for Casco Township, St. Clair County, Michigan is now live Casco Township’s new website is live at www.CascoStClair.com. This website has numerous user enhancements to make it easier to navigate and get important information fast. We have created the first in a series of new videos to explain some of the features of the website design. The following provides an overview of the first video, and a link to the video follows the article. This is the first in a series of videos on the new Casco Township website. Today we’re going to take a look at the “Get to Know Us” link. This link, which is found at the bottom of the home page, third icon from the left, takes you to the “All About Casco Township” page. Here we find basic information including the township address, phone number, office hours, and general email address. We also find a link to the 2015 Casco Township News and Information page, which is a text based PDF file that summarizes activity in the township over the year 2014 and provides information for upcoming events in 2015. There are four other icons on this page the first links to Township history information. Review this page to find out how Casco got its name, the origins of Casco Township, and important early influences on the development of Casco Township. The demographics link takes you to the Casco Community Profile. Here we see a link to the SEMCOG community profile page and colorful infographics created by Clearzoning, Inc. For those looking for a more visual representation of information there are... read more

Google will Penalize Websites that are Not Mobile-Friendly Starting in April

Free Resource from Google to Check Your Site’s Mobile Friendliness Starting April 21, 2015, if your website is not mobile-device compatible (i.e., works well on smartphones), Google will punish the site’s search engine rankings.  With the growing use of the internet by users with smartphones, this action was not unexpected. Additionally, Google is going to add a mobile-friendly tag to search engine results.  It looks like the graphic to the right. A page is eligible for this tag if it does the following: Avoids software that is not common on mobile devices (e.g., Flash) Uses text that is readable without zooming Sizes content to the screen so users don’t have to scroll horizontally or zoom (i.e., the site is responsive) Places links far enough apart so they can be correctly tapped with a finger or stylus What are the best actions to take to avoid being penalized? First, test your site’s mobile-friendliness. Google has a free resource to do this. If you find problems, you will need to fix them for best performance in Google site rankings. Check out this post from Google for suggestions and common problems.... read more