City manager plans to revamp dated website
Published: Thursday, February 21, 2013
Updated: Thursday, February 21, 2013 23:02
Douglas Elliott, Oxford city manager, is considering ways to reorganize the city’s website, cityofoxford.org. He has tentative plans to reorganize it by this fall and to make it more user-friendly.
The current design of the website is ten years old and features information from many departments, archived city council agendas and a citizen support page for community members to submit questions.
“I have always felt that the main purpose [of the website] is for people to find the information they need [and] to get the answers to their questions,” Elliott said.
Since its launch in 2003, various pages, information and online services have been added to the website, according to Elliott. In 2006, the Citizens Support Center Service was added to the website to provide a forum for citizens to submit questions and request services. In 2008, the Oxford on Demand Service was added to stream city council and other government meetings online. The service connects archived video to the meeting agenda for viewers to jump to specific parts of the meeting.
“If you can’t go you can watch,” Mark Morris, a Miami University public administration professor, said. “It increases the transparency component of citizens who want to be interested.”
In 2011, the city manager’s office conducted a survey via Survey Monkey and asked participants for feedback on the website. 43 people participated in the survey and submitted mixed responses. When asked “how would you rate the City’s website overall?” 15 people said “good” and 13 said “mediocre.” In the comments section of the survey, numerous people reported they like the volume of information but would like the website to be easier to navigate. Elliott said he is taking preliminary steps to improve the website.
“I want to do a better job of reorganizing and we will probably set up a committee in the not too distant future and work on that through the spring and summer,” Elliott said after the city council meeting Feb 19. “It’s basically about continuing to put all the information on there. Making it more user-friendly and organizing it a little better.”
Elliott said he would like to feature tabs for businesses, citizens, visitors and Miami University students on the future website.
According to website analytics provided by Elliott, an average of 388 users visited the website per day between Jan. 1 and Feb. 20, 2013. The average users spent a little over two minutes on the website per visit.
According to Morris, websites are an important tool for citizens and local governments.
“We have gotten to the point where we expect websites to be useful, informative and to be there,” Morris said. “Government at the local level, because of a lot of different reasons, have been slow. But they recognize now that they simply have to be there. It isn’t just some throw away thing you have on the side that you ignore, it is an expectation of their citizenry.”
City Councilmember Kate Rousmaniere said she has heard the website is confusing. She said she would like to see more upcoming events and city information posted on the homepage.
“I don’t go to the website that much because I have bookmarked the things that I need,” Rousmaniere said. “I think that it needs to be updated.”