Toward the southern end of Montgomery County, Ohio, the city of West Carrollton, population 13,000, launched on Feb. 9 its new digital city presence in a state of beta — or continuous improvement. This concept is typically heard of as one stage in the software release cycle, when a product is introduced to users for usability or "beta" testing. But in this case, the beta users are West Carrollton citizens and employees.
Perhaps most unique about the city's Web revamp is that the process to overhaul the portal began at the beginning of the year, and West Carrollton will launch its new website live in two weeks, just 60 days since the process began — a timeline that exemplifies the agility of small town America.
Erika Mattingly, public relations coordinator for the city, is excited about the changes, what the new site will bring to residents and the simplicity of back-end management.
“There were at least six different people working on our website [and] so many layers of information,” Mattingly said, adding that with just 120 full-time employees, finding ways to maximize staff time and reduce overall complexity became a priority.
West Carrolton’s new website is powered by ProudCity, noted as a Five to Watch company on the 2016 GovTech100 list. The technology is built on Wordpress, a popular open source content management system that is used by more than 25.9 percent of all global websites. It uses the new "Calypso" codebase release by Automattic in November 2015.
Normal website migrations and relaunches take months of planning and staff commitment. The West Carrollton website revamp was a collaborative, public-private process filled with agile development sprints and weekly team calls. This process allowed West Carrollton to start with the end in mind and enhance the site through regular iterations.
Remaining in beta mode for two weeks will allow West Carrollton to collect valuable feedback through online citizen surveys and Google Analytics. Crowdsourcing feedback during the beta process will allow West Carrollton to understand not just citizens' sentiment toward the new site, but also their behavior, ultimately helping to improve the site before its final rollout.
Online service delivery is getting a lot less complex, and the remaining barriers to government innovation online are falling away. What previously required a significant volume of physical infrastructure has been replaced by virtual infrastructure. Perhaps we are seeing the next tipping point of Web innovation, because what used to require significant development time and resources can now be pushed online in a 10-step wizard.
The future is here, and it is a lot simpler.
You can test drive West Carrollton’s beta site here. The live site will launch toward the end of February.