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 following:
- Prepare and warn of weather-related events or storms
- Share dates, times, and places of public meetings
- Invite comment on public policies, ordinances, and development proposals
- Recognize accomplishments of community members or local businesses
- Share information on properties or buildings available for sale or development
It is also important that local government website design be responsive to mobile devices and tablets. With over 60 % of American adults now owning a smartphone, more government websites will be seen through these portable devices. Also, Google is now penalizing sites that are not mobile friendly through lower page ranking.
The new Casco Township, Michigan website provides a responsive design that works well on a desktop, tablet or mobile device. It includes up-to-date minutes, a useful calendar, numerous digital maps, helpful infographics, links to application forms, and much more. Grand Blanc Township, Michigan has an interactive Zoning Map and Zoning Ordinance. These are all excellent features that encourage interaction and engagement.
If you have questions about website design or social media for municipalities, please contact us using the button below.