At a Jan. 6 city council meeting, Issaquah’s communications coordinator Thomas Rush gave an informational presentation regarding the city’s recent website redesign.
The new website launched Dec. 5 in a transition that saw zero downtime in services, he said. The total project cost in 2019 was $24,000. The site was designed by CivicPlus, the city’s website vendor, and the project was completed by the city communications team.
“I used to tear my hair out with the old site, and this is incredibly easier to use, so I’ve been really, really pleased. I just want to say thank you — it was a great job,” said Councilmember Barbara de Michele.
Some of the major focuses in creating the new site were mobile friendly features, streamlined designs, neighborhood focuses, and enhanced news and calendar postings. The last redesign was in 2012.
In 2019, the city’s website received 1.4 million clicks and 600,000 visitors. About 49 percent of all web traffic was via mobile platforms, and 25 percent of all traffic comes from interacting with social media or e-news.The most viewed pages of the website were those related to registration, parks and recreation, the pool, traffic cameras, the current jail roster, and the farmers market.
The project was planned based on analytics, best practices, and a survey of users in March. The results of the survey showed users wanted to spend fewer clicks to find what they were looking for, desired a larger focus on news and calendar postings, and needed everything to run more mobile friendly. The city also worked with a CivicPlus consultant who spoke with all the city departments and scoped out a work plan.
The new site now has fewer pages, more seamless navigation, and a new front page. That page now has interchangeable icons. The city can rotate out what they want the main navigation buttons to link to — they can quickly put in the forefront a link to important weather emergency information, for example.
“The home page was designed to be much more prominent. A one-stop shop for a lot of the basic information you might be seeking,” Rush said.
Calendar and news updates are now more front and center on the home page and easier to access, as well as social media, which is embedded and automatically shows the city’s latest tweets, perhaps the fastest way to get city news.
The new neighborhoods page creates a desired neighborhood focus. Each sector has a slice — its own page with a bio, video, landmarks, helpful information and updates on projects and news specific to that neighborhood. Residents now can subscribe, via the Notify Me function, to updates for their neighborhood specifically, rather than the full city website.
“I think this does a great job of making these neighborhood pages a place to educate those who may be interested in our communities as well as making it a place for community members to stay engaged and informed,” Rush said.
Another priority was increasing the web footprint for specific areas of focus. For example, some city departments got a whole new site — a page of the website just for them, with its own heading logo and navigation icons. That applies to the economic development department, so they can better connect with businesses, and also the city’s weddings, venues and events page. Rush said the weddings and events team needed a better online presence to assist with bookings and information. Now users can go on virtual tours, read testimonials and view photo galleries.
Parks and Recreation already had the largest footprint of the website and in fact drew in most of the city’s web traffic at about 50 percent. Rush said they made improvements there as well.
While not every department got that treatment, all departments received major enhancements.
“Even of the departments that weren’t given massive overhauls, all of the pages were looked at and that content was refreshed,” Rush said.
The city council page, for example, now has updates for how users can interact with the group and includes personal touches so residents can feel more like they are getting to know their council members. There is also a new portal where users can look up information on upcoming meetings or past meetings.
“Hopefully this provides a better landing spot for people when they do research or are looking to see what interests them in the upcoming meetings,” Rush said.
Other new updates to the site include full ADA compliance, more security, and translation options for every page. Additionally, artwork from local photographers and artists is featured throughout. Overall, a vertical scrolling motion and “social media feel” is universally incorporated.
“It doesn’t matter how many best practices you use, but if someone turns on their computer or their phone, looks at the website and it doesn’t function correctly, it’s not useful,” Rush said.
There is still work to be done, Rush said, and there are more changes coming.
“We are proud of where the website is and what’s become from launch, but that doesn’t mean our work is done. There are multiple goals to complete in 2020 that will make the website even more useful to the public,” he said.
The city plans to eventually incorporate a new CRM (customer relationship management) software to allow users to engage with the city in a more intuitive way. Rush said it also would include the addition of a new mobile app.
The city also plans to establish online payment options for utility billing, which was another citizen request. Additionally, search functionality will continue to improve as key words and tags get added and bugs get worked out.
Council deputy president Chris Reh said he loved the mobile version.
“That was the first thing I checked out,” Reh said.
He also expressed interest in how to gauge the success of the project. Rush said they can begin to do so through viewing metrics of page click frequencies and numbers of new subscribers.