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Garden City to revamp and update its website

Posted in The Garden City Telegram

By ANGIE HAFLICH ahaflich@gctelegram.com Apr 23, 2016

The City of Garden City’s website soon will have a new look.

Vision Internet of El Segundo, Calif., over the next few months, will be completely revamping the city’s website. While it isn't clear what the final product will look like, it is expected to be completely different and much more user-friendly than the city's current site.

City Communications Specialist Ashley Freburg described the city’s current website as being similar to a “massive filing cabinet.”

“But unless you’re the one who put the information there, you don’t know where it is,” Freburg said.

Last fall, she said, a request for qualifications was sent out to about 15 vendors. After a review by a committee made up of staff members from each of the city’s departments, five vendors were chosen to provide online demonstrations.

“We selected Vision Internet as our favorite because of the services they provide and the functionality that they have,” Freburg said.

On Tuesday, Adam Isern, regional sales manager for Vision, explained the process of re-designing the website and gave city commissioners a taste of what some of the new site’s most prominent features might be.

Isern said in designing a new website, it’s important that the home page, the first page that appears when someone visits a website, is simple to use and allows users easy access to the information they are looking for.

“We want to help continue to really push the envelope, think about new ideas, think about innovative ways people are using technology for road closures, for historical places, for rumors and facts — those are just a few examples,” he said.

Part of the way Vision Internet determines what topics or information are most important to users of Garden City’s site will be done in two ways.

To start with, Vision will conduct research on the city’s current website to determine the areas of the site that users are going to the most through the use of heat maps, computer code that tracks website traffic for two to four weeks.

Heat maps track web traffic based on mouse movements, as well as those areas that people tend to ignore altogether.

Through the use of analytics, Vision will be able to determine what topics or interior pages — the pages behind the home page — people visit most.

“That’s pretty key in this process, understanding where they’re going to most often throughout the site,” he said.

The information gathered, Isern said, then will be used to design the new website.

Commissioner Dan Fankhauser asked if it would be possible to make the website match across all platforms — desktops, tablets and smart phones — saying he often gets frustrated at smart phone versions of websites he uses because they look nothing like the website he uses on his desktop computer.

Isern said Vision designs its websites to contain prominent features across all platforms. He also explained that certain elements of both the desktop and smart phone/tablet versions of the website will be easily changeable, at no additional charge.

“There’s a lot of control and flexibility,” Isern said.

Freburg said because the website is a content management system, designated staff can make changes related to topics within a department with a simple movement of the mouse.

She said the city’s current website is hosted by Civic Plus of Manhattan for an annual fee of $6,815.

The cost of using Vision Internet will be $38,050 in year one and $9,000 per year from then on.

Freburg said the initial cost covers the website re-design, and the annual fee covers software and other services, including maintenance, on-call support, monthly training and other support services.

“With the restructuring of our IT department, there was some savings in the fact that we didn’t hire a new IT director,” Freburg said. “That would allow us to cover that expense.”

Isern said training for city staff will be conducted online, but Vision Internet  also can provide on-site training if necessary.

Freburg said another unique feature of the website will be the ability to view certain portions of city meetings by topic by clicking on the city agenda packet online.

“Not only will people be able to watch the meetings live, but there will also be a feature where say I’m looking at the minutes and I want to see the part of the meeting where the wrestlers were recognized for wrestling week — I can click on that agenda item and it will go right to that part in the video,” she said.

Freburg said she will present a contract from Vision Internet to commissioners at a future meeting.

Mayor Janet Doll said with the changes proposed by Isern, she could see the city’s website becoming the “go-to” place for people to visit to find information.

“I could see a real uptick in the use of the city’s website,” Doll said.

Isern estimated it will take six to eight months to get the website ready for the public.

The city will retain its current website address, www.garden-city.org.

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