(TNS) -- NEW HAVEN -- The city on Monday had a soft launch for its new municipal website, which City Controller and Acting Information Technology Director Daryl Jones said still needs work but is already generating positive feedback.
By Internet standards, New Haven's previous website was prehistoric. Jones estimated it was at least 17 years old, with its last upgrade coming sometimes during the late 1990s. Monday's soft launch will be followed by a formal press conference likely taking place next week to introduce the press and public to the new site.
The new site cost about $85,000 to build, with additional costs still being finalized, Jones said. He added the amount is about average for building a new website like New Haven's.
"Everything has been absolutely positive," Jones said. "It's night and day from the old website."
The new website will allow residents to create portals to prioritize the website's numerous resources. The site contains more added interactive features, including numerous maps that help residents find public art, libraries, points of interest and even find their trash pick-up day. It has pages for city services such as paying taxes or parking fines.
Jones was particularly proud of the maps, which encourage more engagement for users. Jones noted one map that displays city alders by their ward and includes a photograph and contact information.
"That's interactive. You have instant contact with your alders," Jones said.
The website's front page features a message from Mayor Toni Harp welcoming visitors to the new site.
"We want our website to provide users with a panoramic view of the beautiful place we affectionately call the Elm City," Harp's message reads. "With one click from your smartphone, iPad or computer, you'll discover a landscape of important information about our departments, city services and find amazing events happening around the city. Easily navigate through the site to find what you're looking for."
Jones said the launch culminates a process started two years ago and a recent, final push to complete the site. Jones said the new website was developed primarily by Granicus, a company specializing in developing technology for government. Local company WOW! Creative Group and its founder Jackie Buster served as consultants for the new website to give what Jones said was a "New Haven feel."
"It was very important," Jones said. "Even the type of pictures (on the site) was a focus. It was the reputation of an entire city. ... You're going to see a lot more photos come up of a bunch of different neighborhoods."
The city's former website featured photos, but they were small and not as prominent as on the new site, which has a homepage with a shifting gallery of New Haven landmarks and residents linking to services, event pages and other resources. The first image in the gallery displays New Haven City Hall at dusk.
"They were key to giving us the look and feel of New Haven," Jones said. "We wanted to make sure that when people visit our website, they know it's New Haven."
Other features will roll out in the near future. The old city website won't be completely removed; Jones said it won't likely be completely phased out until several years down the road. It will continue to function as a reference for the new website.
"The goal was to make a nice website, make a really great website," Jones said. "Our goal was to make the best website and win some awards on it."
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