Website Overhaul Makes Middleborough, Mass., More Accessible

Conversations about revamping the town’s outdated website had been in the making for several years. The new site has a range of updates features and functionality, and is now fully in compliance with the American with Disabilities Act.

by Jon Haglof, The Standard-Times / March 21, 2019
Courtesy Middleborough, Mass.

(TNS) — The all-new went live just last week, and Tara Pirraglia, IT Director for Middleborough's Information Technology Department, along with her collaborators from a wide range of town departments, hope the town's new online hub is another small step in the direction of making life a little bit easier for town employees and residents.

The effort to redesign and replace the old website was four years in the making, says Pirraglia, and required the input and cooperation of every town department represented on the site. Ultimately, it was a difficult, time-consuming project, but also a successful town-wide exercise in team work and collaboration.

"The process was very challenging," Pirraglia said Monday afternoon, not yet a full week into the life of the new site. "It was a collaborative effort. Every department is a stakeholder and every department played a part in getting it done."

There was little argument that the former site was long in need of an update, and in 2017, the Board of Selectmen signed a contract with CivicPlus to take the project from the planning phase to the action phase.

"What was in place was no longer serving the needs of residents," said Pirraglia. "It wasn't ADA compliant and it just wasn't what you'd expect from a town website."

CivicPlus and the town's IT department combined to design a site that is easy to use and something that town employees can engage in the midst of a busy day and quickly access the needed information, forms and more — with minimal hassle, confusion and the dead-ends often associated with outdated online applications.

"The primary focus was a site that is user-friendly for both the folks who work for the town and residents," Pirraglia said. "The search capabilities of the new website are outstanding. Everything is searchable, by keywords, or by using department names."

It's a familiar format, with a local backdrop. And anyone who's done a Google search will now just what to do upon arrival of the new homepage.

Three options are offered at the top of the page: "Government," which links to nearly 50 town departments, boards, committees and commissions, "Services" and "Community." And just below that is the search field, where one can access any of the above menu items found under Government, Services and Community in a more direct fashion.

The idea is "once you're there, you search for what you are looking for and then you will see a list in the results page," Pirraglia said.

The new site has a range of update features and functionality, and Pirraglia pointed to a few.

The new is now fully in compliance with the American with Disabilities Act.

"This is extremely important, because every person who visits the Town's website should have equal access to digital content," she said.

The site has a responsive web design, "which means that it can be viewed on a variety of different-sized screens." In April, the town's new Mobile App will be deployed. It is free to citizens with no ads and will be available in both the Android and Apple app stores.

The "Agenda Center" is designed to streamline the meeting agendas, minutes, meeting materials and media into one central location for all public bodies. And another new feature is the NotifyMe app, a notification subscription that allows citizens to sign up to receive email and text alerts for news and events.

"This feature is designed to increase the community's awareness and involvement. The NotifyMe feature works with several of the modules including the Agenda Center, Calendar, NewsFlash and the Alert Center, to name a few."

The new Park Department web page features a new Park and Recreation module called CivicRec, and with it, residents can register for Park Department programs, like the Summer Day Program and athletic programs.

And of course, there is a link to every town department, whether they have a site housed within or an independently developed site. For example, the Middleborough Fire Dept. links to a basic landing page that is part of, while the Middleborough Police Dept. links to a unique site maintained by an outside contractor retained by that dept.

Pirraglia noted a few key contributors to the project, including Cable Access Administrator Karen Foye, Town Clerk Allison Ferreira, Assistant to the Town Manager Andrew Sukeforth and Executive Assistant to the Board of Selectmen Colleen Lieb, but reemphasized that the project was a town-wide effort.

"It's brand new, we haven't even been live for a week," Pirraglia said, noting that the reaction to the new site has been positive — not that there haven't been a few complaints. "Change can be difficult, but in the long run we think this will be a much better experience for people who rely on the town website. And so far the reception has been positive and most of the feedback I have heard has been good. We're really excited about it."

©2019 The Standard-Times, New Bedford, Mass. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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