January 10, 2012 By Sarah Rich
The city of Los Angeles wants to make the first major update to its website in 14 years — but it’s asking users what they think of the new site before making it official.
The city launched a beta version of LAcity.org in November and asked users to provide feedback on what they like and dislike about the new design. Los Angeles is planning a formal relaunch of the site, but is first researching how the site should look to best serve the city.
The site, originally launched in 1995, hasn’t changed significantly since 1998, when it was transformed into a services-oriented website, according to the city.
Since last September, the city has explored different outreach options to find out what users want on the site, said Mark Wolf, the executive officer of the Los Angeles Information Technology Agency. The city had targeted the official relaunch for February, but challenges may delay the new site’s debut.
Over the last few months, city officials have spoken with focus groups, conducted online surveys, and last December, contracted a usability expert for $100,000 from Human Factors International — the same firm that helped the state of California relaunch its CA.gov Web portal in 2010, Wolf said.
One major change users will see in the beta version is a right-side column that dynamically reconfigures a list of city services based on their popularity, said Madeline Paguio, Los Angeles’ Web services manager. The rankings are based on statistics from the city’s call center. Every seven days, the services column will be updated to prominently display the most requested services.
“If for example, there are high winds and then are a lot of calls about trees that are down, we might see that as one of the top requested services,” Paguio said.
Wolf said the city wants to focus on four areas of improvement for the site: content organization, technology/tools, visual impact and highlighted information. The last category includes information from different city departments that would be displayed prominently on the site.
Smaller-scale goals for the site’s redesign include requiring fewer clicks to reach needed online services and pushing the most relevant content higher up on the website.
Wolf said one major challenge that needs to be addressed before the site’s official relaunch is simplifying how online city services are accessed through the site. Los Angeles’ Citywide Services Directory lists more than 1,700 services for residents and businesses, and it acts as the information base for the city’s 311 services.
The city already revamped access to the top 300 services so the information is more user-friendly. But it discovered that more of the online services need to be streamlined. Until those services have been “cleaned up,” the site won’t officially relaunch, according to L.A. officials.
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