October 2, 2013 By Scott Amundson
When the City of Costa Mesa, Calif., embarked upon a redesign of its website, they wanted more transparency and greater ease of use for citizens.
The city started the redesign by sending out an RFP, selecting the winning vendor, planning the new site and then building it. The entire process took about one year. They paid $45,000 for site development, and hired three temporary workers for one month to help migrate information to the new site.
Vision Internet, a government website provider based in Santa Monica, Calif., was awarded the contract.
"The city of Costa Mesa came to us with the need to find a better way to communicate with their residents," said Ashley Fruechting, director of Strategic Initiatives at Vision Internet. "That came largely through having more robust tools to share information."
The redesign was no small task. "Our challenge in working with them on the project was to set up the navigation of the site in a way that would provide easy access to all of the pages and all of the information in the site, but also ensure that the content management system was being set up in a way that was going to make day-to-day updates and changes simple for the staff," said Fruechting. "We were thinking about it from a navigation perspective and from a technology perspective."
The most significant challenge for the city was migrating information from an antiquated website with customized coding to the new site. Thousands of pages, documents and images needed to be migrated.
The city’s old site was cobbled together in-house over many years by one IT staff person, according to William Lobdell, communications director for Costa Mesa, who headed up the website redesign project on the city side. "It was extremely difficult to navigate," said Lobdell. "Any updates had to be made through the single IT person. They wanted a modern website that would be extremely easy to navigate and provide Costa Mesa stakeholders with the maximum amount of public information."
Costa Mesa officials had three priorities in the redesign. "Easy navigation, a simple content management system so the work could be decentralized, and a transparency section to allow the public to see the public’s business being conducted," said Lobdell.
The look and feel of the new website was also important. "We wanted to convey the professionalism of the city and reinforce their brand with the graphics," Fruechting said, adding that new tools were incorporated into the site, like responsive design, which makes it possible for the site to detect the screen resolution of the device being used and deliver an optimal version of the site for that device.
Lobdell had representatives from each city department involved in the redesign, alongside IT staff. The city also trained staff throughout the city to use the content management system, so they could keep their content areas up to date.
Like any good website, though, it remains a work in progress. Lobdell continues to build out the transparency section, recently adding workers' compensation claims information. But for now, he's confident that the site serves the community well. "We’ve won national awards for our website transparency," he added.
All over the country, community leaders are looking to boost economic development through various initiatives. One key element in many of those initiatives is the use of information technology. When local governments build IT infrastructure, create e-government applications, assist high-tech startups or otherwise focus on technology, they create conditions that draw businesses to their communities and help retain skilled workers. This paper discusses and provides examples of these various ways local government can use technology to ultimately make a community more attractive to businesses, visitors and residents.