When it comes to any large-scale corporate project, the key to success is to spend quality time planning, and preparing. Building a new website can feel like a massive undertaking, and it will certainly require the time and attention of a variety of departments and resources across your administration. However, with a well-thought-out plan you can ensure your website stays on time, and on-budget, and helps you to meet your civic engagement goals. Consider these six easy steps that will help you prepare to implement a new local government website.
Hold Discovery Sessions with Key Internal Stakeholders
Regardless of who in your administration is primarily responsible for leading your new website development initiative, the implementation process will require the involvement of a variety of departments and key stakeholders. Start by making a list of who the decision makers are in your organization that will need to provide input not only on content, messaging, and functionality, but on website goals, needs, and desires. Gather your key stakeholders together for at least a half day discovery session in which you decide, as a team, the goals of your website. You cannot successfully implement a strategy without knowing what you are trying to accomplish. Having buy-in on overarching goals from all essential parties, in advance, will lead to better planning, and more organized execution.
Understand Your Community’s “Brand”
You may not realize it, but your community is a brand. Your new civic website should be a digital representation of what makes your community unique. Consider the personality and vibe of you community. Ask your key stakeholders to describe the intangible features that make your community an incomparable place to live, work, and visit. When planning the look and feel of your website, make sure that the design reflects your community’s unique brand.
Gather Important Data
Before you make any decisions about the content, layout, or navigation of your new website, understand the areas of your existing website that are most valued, and heavily utilized by your citizens today. Gather data from your existing website administrator on top pages viewed and top search terms. When planning the layout and architecture of your new website, make sure that your citizens can easily find and access the content that is most valuable to them.
In addition to gathering quantitative data from your existing website, you may also want to gather qualitative citizen data by conducting citizen surveys or usability tests. Your new civic website should enable two-way dialogue between your administration and your citizens, and should foster civic engagement. During your planning process, make sure you are building an engagement tool that will truly meet the needs of your citizens.
Identify Impacted Third Parties
Your current website likely links to services performed by a variety of third party software solutions. Ideally, your new website solution partner will offer convenient third-party integrations through API connections.Consider ePayment integrations, and media services that you will want to connect to your new website's functionality. Make a list of all current third parties and provide it to your new website solution partner. Collaborate together on how to ensure your new website offers the same integrated functionality without citizen or administrator disruption.
Develop a Launch Strategy
Don’t be fooled into thinking that you can’t plan your launch strategy until your new website is ready to go live. Rather, understanding your launch strategy goals at the onset of your planning process is a key factor in developing a successful timeline and execution roadmap. Decide on a launch date for your website. Consider if the launch date should align with key community milestones, like your bicentennial, or grand opening of a municipal office. Decide how and when to communicate the launch of the new website to citizens and to the media, and plan how you will train staff to answer citizen inquiries.
Seek Outside Counsel
You are no doubt an expert when it comes to your community and understanding your citizens. Don’t put the pressure on yourself to also become a website design and development expert as well. Make sure you are partnering with a website solution partner that can offer you guidance not only on website design and development functionality best practices, but on how you can meet your civic engagement goals. The ideal partner will have experience building local government websites, and understanding the unique communication challenges faced by municipalities.
Choose a partner that you can rely on to help you lead your discovery sessions with your key stakeholders. Make sure they have a documented process for training, a fully accessible 24/7 customer service support center, knowledge on The American Disability Act's (ADA) website compliance requirements, and the most aggressive security services available to protect against cyberattacks. By collaborating with a local government website expert, you will be best positioned to execute your plan at the highest level, with the greatest results.
To start preparing for your website project, download our free website redesign planning toolkit by clicking the link below.