Redesigned city website focuses on users

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Navigation and access are at the heart of Wilson’s new website that launches today.

“We preserved the prominent search feature, but we can analyze what people are searching for and update our popular search buttons on the homepage now to ensure users are getting the information they need,” said Rebecca Agner, communications and marketing director for the city of Wilson. “If you prefer to be led to the content, we’ve created a strong navigation with chunks for residents, parts targeting businesses and sections for visitors. You also can find what you’re looking for by going department by department.”

The old website design launched in 2015 with navigation added to the site over time. The in-house site eventually had more than 2,000 pages without continuity between departments, but more than a year ago, Granicus was contracted to study and rebuild the website.

As part of the $60,700 project, a user experience audit revealed nearly half of all users access the site on a mobile device such as a cellphone or tablet. Granicus made recommendations based on all the audit results, designed the new site, migrated content to it and trained staff on the system.

“The slideshow banner is gone, but news will be on the home page and positioned so users see the most timely information,” Agner said. “We’re working to keep it relevant with what is going on, but we’ve also designed it to feature more local imagery. The calendar also is prominent, so folks know what is going on and when.”

The city’s third-party services — such as online bill pay, Police-2-Citizen and registration for parks and recreation programs — have not been changed. Agner said those pages will be re-wrapped in the coming months to match the overall look of the city’s website, but users will not have to create new accounts.

“We want to be able to provide more timely and up-to-date information for residents with more ways to access the content,” said Greenlight Community Broadband General Manager Will Aycock.

The new site has a variety of pages targeted to different users such as a “Have Fun” category focusing on local amenities, a tab called “How do I” addressing common inquiries and a complete rework of development services.

“Development services is mostly for the development community, but it covers things like permitting, inspections and the whole development review process,” Agner said. “We have companies looking for that online, so it needs to be easy to find and understand. We spent seven or eight months completely re-evaluating all that content and determining how best to present it all in one place for companies looking at moving to Wilson.”

A new feature is community maps, which is an advanced geographic information systems tool that has layers users can turn on to see garbage routes, city parks and more.

“Community maps was internally developed from the ground up by city of Wilson GIS staff using the latest Web technologies,” said GIS manager Joe Ausby. “As a result, the city can proactively add new features that will benefit the community of Wilson.”

“We’re not going to stop working on the website and one of the things we’re working on that will have to come later is a development map where folks can zoom in on different projects and see what is going on around the city,” Agner said.

As part of the project, the city will pay Granicus $11,500 every year for support, the content management system and hosting. The contract also includes a design refresh after three years.

“We know it won’t be perfect out of the gate and we’ll continue to upgrade and update it, but we feel it is organized well and consistently for a user-friendly experience that allows folks to find what they are looking for quickly,” Agner said. “And we really encourage people to look through it and tell us what they think by clicking the feedback button at the bottom of the screen.”

The new design of www.wilsonnc.org/ is set to go live at 10 a.m. today, but users might have to refresh their Web browsers to get the new site to load.