Articles

Salisbury, Mass., Turns to ‘Citizen-Centric’ Design to Overhaul Its Website

Officials said the previous iteration, made in the early-2000s, had become obsolete and needed to be replaced with something residents could easily connect with.

by The Daily News of Newburyport / May 18, 2018
Courtesy salisburyma.gov

(TNS) — SALISBURY, Mass. — The town has a new website and the town manager is singing its praises.

“We are trying to simplify the number of clicks,” Neil Harrington said. “Before, it was a little bit more confusing.”

While it may have served its purpose in the early 2000s, the town’s previous website became obsolete and Harrington’s chief aide, James Ryan, made the new site a priority after arriving on the job in September.

Ryan said he quickly turned to Google Analytics to get a better idea of just who was using the town’s website and why. Working along with the website design company, Virtual Towns & Schools, Ryan said his focus was to make the page more “citizen-centric.”

“We wanted the layout to be more resident-friendly as opposed to something which makes sense for government,” Ryan said. “The vast majority of people visiting the website are residents who are trying to seek information or pay a bill. So I wanted to try and organize the website in a way that a resident with little government experience trying to find something could find it.”

Six menu buttons — Pay a Bill; Trash & Recycling; Maps & Property Info; Permits & Inspections; Minutes & Agendas; and Subscribe to the News — now greet visitors on the new, streamlined town homepage.

“People are very busy, they need us for certain things,” Ryan said. “If they come to our website, they want to get in and get out and get on with their lives.”

Visitors to the town website can find board meeting minutes and agendas, permitting and inspection forms and instructions, as well as trash and recycling schedules — all on the homepage.

“You’ve got hydrant flushing, important sewer project information, results of the most recent election,” Harrington said. “And that will rotate all of the time. You can find out what the boards are working on and you can find out the contact information, the person’s name, address and even phone number. In many cases, it will have their email and things that they are working on.”

With Salisbury Beach the town’s greatest draw, Ryan said plenty of seasonal residents and out-of-towners were visiting the old website as well, so he created a “Beach Info” mega menu that includes links to tide charts and Salisbury Beach weather.

“We do have a lot of visitors and even though they are out-of-towners, they are still important,” Ryan said. “They bring in business and we want people to enjoy our beach.”

Links to Salisbury-related items such as the Triton Regional School District, Salisbury Public Library, the Chamber of Commerce, and the Department of Conservation and Recreation can also be found on the new website which, unlike its predecessor, is smartphone- and tablet-friendly.

“This is a hub of information, that is the idea,” Harrington said.

Emergency alert banners are also a new feature.

“Different departments can also create departmental banners if they want to,” Ryan said. “So, if property taxes are due, I can create a banner for the Treasurer’s Department which they can click on.”

The homepage’s graphics were also updated and now include updated photos of Salisbury Beach at dawn and the new seaside boardwalk.

“I think it is a nice tool for people to use,” Harrington said. “Hopefully, people will take advantage of it.”

The new site was up and running by late April, and Ryan said he is very happy with the results.

To see the website: www.salisburyma.gov

“VTS did a great job,” Ryan said. “The website is run well and it looks good. It grabs people’s attention and helps them get in and out of the website faster. It should help them answer any questions they have quickly, whether it is on the website or in getting contact information for the departments they are looking for.”

©2018 The Daily News of Newburyport (Newburyport, Mass.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.