Walton County, FL Partners with CivicPlus for Redesigned Civic Website
Walton County, Florida, has a lot to be proud of. Located in the Florida Panhandle, its northern region has a pastoral charm unlike anywhere else in the state of Florida, while its southern region provides visitors and residents with a beach destination uncluttered by hotels and high rise condos. Walton County even draws members of the High Pointers Club looking to visit Britton Hill, the highest natural point in the state of Florida, and the lowest state highpoint in the nation with a summit elevation of only 345 feet. Walton County offers the best of Florida to its 62,000 full-time residents, from its rural north to is bay side beaches, and its residents show their appreciation in return by being active and engaged members of the community.
“The good thing about being a small county is that you hear from everyone,” said Louis Svehla, Walton Board of County Commissioners Public Information Manager.
“Our county has a radically different north and south end. Our challenge is that these two regions have different needs, and so our goal is to listen to those needs.”
For Walton County, having a website that can effectively serve as a citizen engagement tool and information source, is a key to helping the community meet that goal.
A History of Evolution
During his tenure as the Public Information Manager for the Walton Board of County Commissioners, Svehla has worked with CivicPlus® on two website redesigns for Walton County, and on the implementation of CivicPlus’ CivicHR® Applicant Tracking Software. The website redesign projects have been part of the county, and CivicPlus’ commitment to ensuring the County’s web presence evolves as the community and its needs evolve.
The goal of the first redesign, when the County initially transitioned to CivicPlus from its previous vendor, was to enhance the website’s branding to ensure it reflected everything that is unique about Walton County.
“I worked with the CivicPlus design staff through the first redesign hand-in-hand,” said Svehla. “We had an idea of what we wanted to do. We had a great relationship with our designer and worked to create a website that represented more of who we are, since we are so diverse.”
When the County set out to create the next evolution of its civic website, the focus was on functionality.
“Our goal was to try to keep the visual appeal of representing who and what we are, but give more functionality to the end users and ensure they have easier access to the information they want and need the most with fewer clicks to get there.”
The Flexibility of CivicEngage’s Aurora Platform
Walton County’s latest website redesign migrated the website to CivicPlus’ CivicEngage® Aurora platform, the latest iteration of its content management system (CMS). The Aurora platform is designed to give counties like Walton more flexibility and control over content updates with even easier-to-use tools to make such edits. A feature that has made updates easier for Walton County, according to Svehla, is the platform’s live edit feature.
“Updating is much easier now with live edit,” said Svehla. “It’s much more intuitive and helps me train people in other departments to make website edits so more members of the county team can help update content.”
Expediting Residents’ Access to Content
An important focus of the latest redesign for Svehla and the county was to meet their goal of helping citizens access the content they want and need the most more quickly and easily. Part of the redesign content strategy focused on consolidating pages that were heavy with content and adding tabs for easy navigation to more related information. Svehla and his team took the goal of quick access to important information one step further by enhancing the quick access buttons that appear directly on the Walton County homepage.
“We paid attention to our web metrics and focused on the content sections and modules our end users were using the most over a three or four-year time period to make sure they were accessible and appeared above the fold,” said Svehla. “Now, when you hit our homepage, those buttons allow you to access the pages and sections used the most. It gives our users the ability to have quick access to news, calendars, and our beach flag system. Making that update has been very important to us, and the new website design allowed us to make that happen.”
Another change the county made to help expedite residents’ access to information was to make the website’s search box more noticeable and visually appealing.
“Enhancing the ability to search the website has helped our users a lot,” said Svehla. “We received a lot of positive feedback from residents on the new search feature, as well as the fact that we put the information they wanted to see the most right on the front page above the fold.”
A Stable, Secure Platform
According to Svehla, with CivicPlus, website security has never been a concern for Walton County.
“We’ve never had an issue,” said Svehla. “Downtime has not been an issue either. Any downtime we experienced has been expected because of maintenance.”
A unique administrative need for Walton County is the ability to accept lottery entries for the County’s beach driving permits. There are designated areas at the County’s beaches were residents have the privilege to drive their vehicles on the beach. The County holds an annual lottery for residents hoping to obtain a seasonal permit. As part of the County’s latest website redesign, Svehla and his team have streamlined the submission process.
“We used the From Center feature to design an online submission form to allow more people to enter the lottery online, rather than using our previous paper-based system.”
A Single Solution Provider
Walton County also recently implemented CivicPlus’s CivicHR solution for applicant tracking. Prior to implementing CivicHR, the County’s HR processes lacked an online tracking component.
“We didn’t have an easy way to get applications online and track them,” said Svehla. The launch of CivicHR gave us the ability to allow our residents, or anyone pursuing jobs in our County, to find them more easily, thanks to the system’s ability to mirror job postings on Indeed. That was huge for us. It allowed us to receive more applications from more people.”
Another benefit to Walton County of the CivicHR system is its ability for applicants to create a profile and apply for multiple positions without filling out duplicative information.
“Before, if we have three jobs posted and someone wanted to apply to all three, they had to fill out complete applications for all three jobs,” said Svehla. “Now, they can create one account and apply to all three jobs in fewer steps. That’s been a game changer.”
For Walton County, the ability to leverage technology to help the administrative staff be more efficient, is essential.
“We’re a small county, and our employees do a lot of double duty,” said Svehla. “An integrated system allows us to cross-train people so that if one staff member is out of the office, other team members can fill-in. The ability to have everything in one system really helps.”
A Positive ROI
According to Svehla, both the CivicHR and CivicEngage systems provide Walton County with valuable functionality, at a valuable price.
“For CivicHR, from a value proposition perspective, when we consider what that solution costs versus what we’re getting back, it’s much more palatable for us to do it this way than if we were to get a separate outside system. I love it. It’s easy to use and training has been great.”
And for the County’s CivicEngage website?
“What we have is certainly of high value. What we have and what we get for what we pay is a good value.”
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