The current Council (including a new Mayor) for the City of Prince George was elected in late 2014 and quickly identified “reconnecting with citizens” and “fostering civic pride” as top priorities. Within months of their election, a new website became a “must-do project” so City staff was actively pursuing the project by mid-2015. Website visitors had complained that the site was cumbersome to navigate, full of outdated (and sometimes contradictory) information, and not easily viewed on mobile devices. The website also did not show how the Prince George community is progressive, beautiful, engaged, and active.
The City launched the new website in early 2017, with almost every page completely rebuilt from scratch, including new text and photos optimized for the new website. Thanks to an all-new navigation structure, the number of web pages declined by nearly half, reducing confusion and duplication. At the same time, dynamically generated news and event content provide useful opportunities for showing new developments and integrating them with social media to provide reliable information across platforms. This was particularly useful in the summer of 2017 when Prince George emerged as BC’s primary evacuation site as more than 100 wildfires forced thousands of people from their homes in a neighbouring region. The website became the City’s central communication hub – largely because of its integration with the news module and social media - with frequent updates and notifications regarding emergency shelters, access to services, and the status of the wild fires.
The responsive, mobile-friendly website meets rigorous accessibility standards in order to reach the greatest number of website visitors, and encourages community members to engage with the City through surveys, feedback forms, searchable calendars (Community and Council), access to bylaws, a business directory, and a MyCity secure area for licence payments.
Built on the SharePoint content management platform, the website takes advantage of several modules that enhance functionality:
1) i:Create empowering staff to create/submit content with limited oversight from senior levels of management;
2) Bylaws to search documents quickly by number, keyword(s), subject, and/or adoption date;
3) News module with subscription options and integration with social media and current job postings integration;
4) Interactive City-wide calendar to foster participation in events and ensure transparency of government services;
5) A “form builder” so staff can create mobile-friendly online forms with eCommerce capabilities without requiring programming knowledge; and
6) A business directory linking directly to the City’s business licensing system, providing up-to-date and accurate listings of city businesses and services.
The City enlisted the help of eSolutionsGroup to bring their cumulative expertise gleaned through their work with local governments across Canada. This included training in writing for the web and accessibility to ensure that new content added to website conforms to City standards and best practices.