By Joseph Schulz
The recent redesign of the city website has improved transparency and led to a significant increase in citizen contacts, Oshkosh officials said.
The city launched its redesigned website Nov. 9. According to city IT Director Anthony Neumann, the site was designed to be easier to navigate and more responsive to mobile devices. It also incorporates more video and makes it easier for new residents to understand city policies such as parking restrictions, he said.
The previous version of the site dated to 2006.
Having a responsive and easy to use website is important because most people get their information on the internet, Neumann said.
“If you don’t have a good web presence you get left behind, and the city of Oshkosh does not want to be left behind,” he said. “We want to attract business and citizens, we want to attract anyone and everyone we can, we are event city and this helps promote that.”
Developers improved navigation by creating badge icons that bring users to the most visited areas and made it easier for residents to provide feedback, Neumann said.
“We did the analytics report and the traffic is comparable or larger than what we had with the old city website,” Neumann said. “The department contacts, the way people can actually contact all the division and department heads has increased. We used to get three to four citizen inputs a week. Now we are actually at about three or four an hour.”
Neumann said allowing citizens to contact departments and divisions without using an email has led to increased resident feedback.
“It’s simply a web form, which allows you to put in the information and hit submit.” Neumann said. “It no longer requires an email account to be set up on the device you are using, which was an issue for many citizens because they would be using a public access kiosk, or they’d be using a smart phone they didn’t set up an email on.”
Making the website more responsive on mobile devices was one of the biggest challenges of redesigning the site because it forced the developers to make two different styles for the site, Neumann said.
“Half of the people visiting our website are mobile users, so it was a good move having a mobile responsive design,” Neumann said. “Because mobile devices are constantly changing, there are constant tweaks you have to do on the mobile side.”
Neumann said the new site also implements more video than the previous version of the site.
“On all of the department pages we will be having new videos that introduce the department, what their function is and a little bit about them,” Neumann said. “Very short videos but we incorporated them on the website too, because multimedia is the way of the future right now. The more information we put out there, the more people are better informed on who to contact for what.”
Neumann said the site will be rotating the banner images on the homepage more and will also begin implementing “Welcome to Oshkosh” videos on the homepage.
“We’re going to stay on top of the content to make sure it stays fresh and to make sure it stays pertinent,” Neumann said.
City Media Communications Coordinator Emily Springstroh, who helped produce the “Welcome to Oshkosh” videos, said they are designed to focus on the city’s strategic plan.
“They’re good resources for newcomers to Oshkosh to realize what it is we all have to offer,” Springstroh said. “It’s been a really fun project for the city of Oshkosh to display things in a fun and intriguing way—a lot of people are leaning towards video for their information.”
Neumann said that the New Residents page is another new feature on the site and provides people with information about utilities, public safety and public transportation.
“One of the hot topics of people that visit, or people are moving here, is ‘What are the overnight parking restrictions?’” Neumann said. “Because, unfortunately, a way some people find out is their first ticket. This portal is a great resource, and since the day we launched it, it has remained in the top 10 pages visited.”
Springstroh said the site has increased the ease of access to information and made the city more transparent.
“People are understanding better where they need to go, it’s easy for them to find the right spot to start if they’re trying to reach someone,” Springstroh said. “Having the videos, having the links and the different contact forums and the easy to use mobile friendly website has been huge to increase transparency and help people better understand what’s going on with the city.”