Six Ways to Make it Easier for Residents to Find Your Digital Resources

Written by CivicPlus

Optimize your municipal website to serve as the foundation of your resident communication strategy.

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Your municipal website is the face of your local government’s digital presence in the community. When residents have a question or need but aren’t sure whom to contact or what department handles the issue, they rely on your municipal website as a home base. Keeping this central hub of information as clean and clear as possible ensures users can access information quickly, which will keep users coming back to engage in the future.

Below, we dive into some areas you can focus on when it comes to getting the most out of the vital, central community resource that is your municipal website.

Identify Your Highest Action Items

A website should offer an easy place for residents to find—right from the homepage— the most common types of transactions that they typically search for; like paying a bill, finding recreation activities, or reading agendas. If you’re a CivicPlus® website customer, take advantage of the CivicPlus municipal website statistics available to you through Google Analytics. Access our four-part webinar training series to learn how you can use this powerful tool to identify and give visibility to your residents’ essential resources. A data-driven approach powered by in-depth analytics, allows you to amplify the right messaging and target specific areas of needed improvement. It also helps you identify gaps in your knowledge base.

Focus on Your Navigation

Your website navigation is the backbone of your central online resource. If it is clean, organized, and consistent, it’s much more likely that a user will be able to locate the help or service they’re trying to pinpoint. Conversely, when navigation is cluttered and overcrowded, and conventions and organization vary from page to page and department to department, residents might get frustrated and leave the site; never finding the service or resource they need.

Work with your core team of site administrators to identify a clear structure for all departments to follow so that there is familiarity and consistency across all pages. The more deliberate and consistent you are with how you build out your content, the easier it will be for users to find information. Consistency is critical, from uniformly formatting contact information to how you tier out your menus. Consider the following actions as a good starting point for navigation improvement:

  • Take an inventory of all pages. Identify and remove out-of-date content. Don’t get overwhelmed by a mountain of pages. Break this process down by site section or by department and set a goal to review one per week, or whatever is feasible.
  • Draft a new sitemap. Just like you would make or diagram plans before a building project, reworking navigation can be less intimidating if you create a working draft of what your ideal, most user-friendly navigation would look like.
  • Utilize analytics. Your website statistics can provide clear insights into what your residents are most interested in and what you need to prioritize and highlight in terms of page visibility within your navigation.
  • Rename unclear pages. If a page title is not intuitive, meaning an average user can’t tell what the main thesis of a page is from the title, it needs to be rewritten and clarified.
  • Alphabetize menus. An easy way to make menus more searchable and easier to scan is to alphabetize page titles at the menu level. Sometimes other hierarchical orders are utilized and this is fine as long as it’s implemented consistently, site-wide.

Get the Most out of Search Functionality

Many residents rely on a simple Google search or a site search using the primary search bar on any CivicPlus website to find a particular piece of contact information, online form, or specific agenda from their local government. To help ensure you are getting the most out of site search, practice the following:

  • Name pages intuitively
  • Ensure all pages are built out with page descriptions
  • Utilize keywords during page creation
  • Implement consistent naming conventions across departments, pages, documents, and resources, so users aren’t facing barriers such as unclear, non-descript, or arbitrary file names

Take Advantage of Chatbot Automation

CivicPlus offers customer service automation in the form of a chatbot. CivicPlus Chatbot is designed to convincingly simulate how a human behaves during a customer service interaction. The tool is powered by artificial intelligence (AI) to deliver exceptional customer experiences to residents looking to self-serve their needs online. Gain insightful analytics that provide more detail into the strengths and weaknesses of your content. CivicPlus Chatbot also enhances your existing site search by crawling your CivicPlus website and any linked databases. Provide helpful and personalized customer service interactions to your residents, while saving your local government time and money.

Prioritize Your Content Based on Residents’ Top Searched Items

Don’t be afraid to give residents only the information they need without any fluff. Residents are most interested in finding what they need as quickly as possible; key information tends to get lost when there is an excess of content. For example, a department’s mission statement might be necessary to internal staff, but it’s not what’s most important to a user looking for a resource on a department page. Instead, build a hierarchy of information on every content page, placing the most critical and actionable items at the top of the page where users are most likely to see and access them.

Accessibility

Ensure you’re making your content equally available to all residents, including those living with disabilities that may affect their ability to access information with the same one-stop efficiency as any other resident. Screen readers are one example of technology that you need to account for, so that residents living with visual impairments can access your information and services in a single interaction. Building on that example, someone using a screen reader might navigate and consume everything from individual documents, meeting agendas and minutes, flyers, images, page content, sitemap and menus, recreation offerings, any third-party tools you’re utilizing, and more, so you need to evaluate and consider these aspects to ensure equal access.

Your entire site administrators should follow the same best practices that ensure content follows all necessary compliance standards. If you’re still not confident, employ tools like AudioEye, a CivicPlus partner providing an intelligent digital tool that can save you time and identify accessibility issues. Learn more about what you can do to ensure your local government website is accessible.

In Conclusion

Your municipal website serves as a crucial central hub of information for residents and businesses living within the community and visitors coming in to experience it for a limited time. Ensuring information is easy to find across your digital solutions is vital in providing positive civic experiences for residents going about routine interactions and engagements with their local governing body. The time people save by efficiently accessing the resources they need on a well-organized website will contribute significantly towards increased engagement and satisfied residents, ready to do more business with their local government in the future.