What is aesthetically pleasing is not always functional or reliable. Anyone who has ever been duped into buying a recently cleaned-up used car has likely learned that lesson. It may appear shiny on the outside, and give off that clean, new car scent. It may even have an upgraded sound system, heated leather seats, and high-end rims, but when it comes to the vehicle’s most essential features: safety, performance, and reliability, what is hidden beneath that shiny veneer?
Building a website is much like searching for a reliable vehicle. What glitters is not always gold, and what looks at first glance like a pretty website may not offer the functionality for administrators and citizens, and the security protections you need to safeguard your citizen and civic data.
If a municipal website is an iceberg, what you see on the surface should only serve as a fragment of its complete offering. Below the surface of pages adorned with pretty colors, clickable boxes, photo galleries, and interactive menus should be more: much more. What follows is a list of the key features, functionality, and provider services you should look for in a reliable local government content management system (CMS) to ensure you are not buying a lemon.
A Single, Integrated Platform
For local governments, in an era where budgets and staff levels are shrinking while citizen expectations and their desire for digital self-service functionality are growing, technology allows municipalities to do more with less. Today’s smartest cities and counties are integrating their software stacks using a foundational enterprise-wide platform to enable the data-sharing needed to ensure local governments are serving citizens efficiently and at the highest levels possible, even when budgets and staff resources are lean. Click here for six reasons why you need a platform to run your government content management strategy.
Your municipality is likely already reliant upon specific systems and technologies to enable the efficient execution of critical administrative functions. Such software could include a human resource management system (HRMS), financial software, and project management software. Where siloed data leads to inefficiencies, workflow gaps, and data redundancies, integrations through application program interfaces (APIs) can enable you to streamline workflows, share data, and allow your staff to more efficiently service citizens.
Citizen Self-Service Functionality
Today’s citizens want to be able to self-service their needs, and they want to be able to do it from any device, any time of the day or night, which means not always during your regular business hours. A pretty website with text and photos but no forms, interactive tools, sign-ups, calendar integrations, or live video will not do enough to satisfy the generation used to finding any information at any time from the palm of their hand. Make sure your local government website is as functional as it is beautiful.
Never before has the threat of hackers and cyber extortionists posed such a widespread issue in the public sector. A pretty website not safeguarded against the latest threats will be highly susceptible to cybercriminals, which could mean the loss or ransom of your civic or citizen data. Make sure you choose a CMS provider that offers the security of cloud-based hosting, redundant servers, 24/7 emergency support, constant monitoring, and proven success protecting data.
You can be sure an organization that intends just to sell you a pretty website is not going to take the time to analyze what your citizens want and need from your administration and translate that information into actionable decisions relative to website navigation and functionality. Your solution provider should have the capability to assist with such strategic consulting services as usability testing and should bring you insights into the latest trends and technologies that can help boost your website’s performance and your citizens’digital engagement.
Accessibility cannot be achieved with a one-time fix. Websites, like the Internet itself, are dynamic, continually changing entities. Developing a successful and sustainable accessibility strategy requires a multi-faceted approach that begins with a mix of automated and manual testing, end-user feedback, fixing issues of accessibility and validating remediation efforts through continuous maintenance and monitoring. Make sure you select a partner with integrated automated accessibility remediation to ensure you are never out of compliance. Watch a webinar recording about the benefits of integrating an automated accessibility remediation solution into your local government website.
Dedicated Project and Content Management
You likely have existing content you want to be migrated to your new website. Be sure to ask your CMS provider who will be responsible for migrating existing content, and what the timeline will be for such work. A vendor that can’t offer you a dedicated project manager and content migration team is most likely just looking to provide you with a pretty website without the in-depth content your citizens want.
Flexible Training Options
If an organization sold you a pretty website and walked away without training you on how to update it moving forward, you can be sure they are no long-term strategic partner. Be sure to choose a solution provider that offers customized virtual or on-site training as well as on-demand continual education resources. You will inevitably add team members to your administration, and they will need access to helpful training resources too.
Strategic Account Management Support
No municipal website design team is an island. Make sure any solution you choose is backed by a team of experts who will work with you to continue to analyze your website’s data and help you evolve your digital offering as the needs of your community evolve.
If you are starting to worry that all you have today is a pretty website with no intuition, security, or citizen self-service functionality, click below to download our eBook to learn everything you need to know about redesigning your local government website to meet the demands of today’s citizens.