Cheney Free Press -

By JOHN McCALLUM
Editor 

Creating easier navigation of city services

So far, Cheney’s upgraded website is running smoothly

 


Most Cheney residents who are internet savvy will likely have noticed something new about the city’s website — and that is that it’s new.

Or at least revamped, something City Administrator Mark Schuller said he and Mayor Tom Trulove have wanted to do ever since soon after Schuller became administrator in July 2014.

“We both hated our website,” Schuller said in a recent interview. “We made it a goal to upgrade.”

Schuller said the goals were to make the site more user friendly, easier to navigate and also capable of allowing users to access more information about city services and governmental functions. The old site was limited in this, and often required 5–6 clicks before a visitor found the desired information.

“With two clicks, you can get what you’re looking for,” Schuller said of the new site.

The site, designed, developed and administered by CivicPlus, went live April 13. Schuller said he and others did research on features they might want by looking at other sites, such as Spokane County’s site also developed by CivicPlus.

Last spring a request for proposal was put out, with 20 companies submitting. These were whittled down to seven finalists, and a team of city officials evaluated them and chose CivicPlus.

Council approved a $29,454 — plus 10 percent contingency fee — contract with the company at its Aug. 23, 2016 meeting. CivicPlus also charges $8,494 annual hosting fee that automatically renews yearly after the first year and includes a 5 percent increase after year three.

Schuller said they relied on the expertise of CivicPlus to design the site, keeping things simple by using less text and more bullet points to highlight information. One feature that was desired was an “alert center” where users can sign up to receive notifications of events such as power outages and weather related incidents — calls that currently go to the police department’s dispatchers and can hamstring their efforts to deal with other emergencies.

The site also allows users to select to receive information about a variety of aspects of city business, ranging from meeting agendas to job and bid openings to news briefs.

“All that stuff to better connect with people,” Schuller said. “They can pick and choose to hear about what they want and what they don’t.”

The city undertook a “pretty aggressive timeline” to upgrade the site, relying on departments to review their own data, determine what was no longer useful or applicable and make the changes. Each department is responsible for updating its own pages, but while everybody can do updating, Schuller said only certain individuals have the authority to post that information to the live site.

The final option remaining is online bill paying, something Schuller said is a bit more complicated and requires a third-party to be involved.

“Our goal here is to have an auto pay option for people, as well as credit cards,” he said.

So far the city is pleased with results, and has experienced no major “kinks.” Schuller said the site is designed to be used primarily by residents and Eastern Washington University students, particularly those who are new to living on their own and don’t know what information to seek.

“We view this as an important communication tool, that’s all this is,” he added.

John McCallum can be reached at jmac@cheneyfreepress.com.

 

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