Oakland County, Mich., has launched a new version of its Web portal designed specifically for smartphone touchscreen navigation.

The Mobile Touch site, www.oakgov.com, displays two rows of eight categories, which were chosen based on a county survey to identify citizens’ most sought-after information. Categories include directory, services, news, parks, socialize, podcasts, videos and local. From a menu, users can alternate between the touch-based navigation, a text-only version, or the full website.

Oakland County officials believe their government website is one of the first designed for touchscreen devices.

“It’s unique in terms of approach,” said Phil Bertolini, deputy county executive and CIO. Oakland County was recently ranked one of the most digitally advanced counties in the nation on the Center for Digital Government’s 2010 Digital Counties Survey.

Oakland County’s website works on all current platforms and will automatically adapt to any future smartphone devices, he said. Most public- and private-sector organizations struggle with the task of making thousands of content pages on their standard websites both available and readable on a mobile device because there are so many models, he said.

Software called BrowserHawk detects which type of device and screen size is being used — including whether it’s a touchscreen or not — and adjusts the site accordingly. The software updates itself regularly to identify new devices or platforms.

The site took about 200 hours to create and was developed by two employees in the county’s e-government services department, which handles the county’s Web-enabled tools.

Jim Taylor, chief of e-government services for Oakland County, said that although mobile phone apps “are all the rage” among the public sector, they decided instead to pursue a versatile mobile site rather than an app. The county website makes information accessible across a uniform smartphone platform, making future maintenance and development easier, said Taylor. He also has plans to expand services to Internet TV, a device identification his team has been encouraging the BrowserHawk developers to add.

“Internet TV is really in its infancy, but we really want to be able to provide content and interaction where people might want it,” he said. I see the day coming when you are watching a county water park advertisement or video on your Internet TV, you click on your remote and order your water park passes to be picked up at the park. Nice and convenient,” he said.

Lauren Katims Nadeau  |  Contributing Writer