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Chattanooga to Spend Nearly $1M on Updated City Website

The city’s website hasn’t seen an update since 2012 and officials believe that might be why more than half of visitors to the website leave before clicking another button. Brazil-based CI&T will lead the overhaul.

An aerial view of Chattanooga, Tenn.
An aerial view of Chattanooga, Tenn.
(TNS) — With a bounce rate of 57.6%, more than half of the visitors to the city of Chattanooga website leave before clicking another button.

It's a number that may suggest residents aren't able to easily find information online about city services — something city officials said they are hoping to change. hasn't been updated since 2012.

On Tuesday, the Chattanooga City Council approved a $998,400 contract with software development company CI&T, headquartered in Brazil, to upgrade the city's website over the next year. CI&T was one of six businesses that responded to a request for proposals in June.

"I heard a lot of complaints about it during the campaign," Chattanooga Mayor Tim Kelly, who was elected in 2021, said of the website in an interview Thursday. "I was pretty frustrated with it myself. In some ways, it's kind of a metaphor for city government generally in that it had just kind of become this untended garden, this tangled mess. It needed to be redone, and I think we have a real opportunity to make it something pretty extraordinary."

Currently, the city's website is organized based on individual departments rather than services. It's also not user-friendly for people accessing it on mobile devices, officials said, which accounted for 53% of the city's traffic in March.

"There are a lot of city benefits that people don't know about or understand how to use or maybe don't even know exist," Kelly said. "I've sat down and listened to 311 operators answer calls, and people don't understand recycling or don't know when it happens or what will be picked up. It can be a better source of information."

The new website will be translated into Spanish, and the city will also draw on feedback from residents as it irons out how to deploy new functionality on the site.

"We have a lot of really smart people in Chattanooga that work in the digital space, and what my challenge to the community would be is to think out to the margins, including now sort of the evolution of ChatGPT," he said, referring to the AI chatbot that launched in November. "It starts with thinking outside the proverbial box."

On the back end, the city will also have the capacity to enhance the tools it offers on the website. That could include, for example, a personalized calendar where people can submit and save upcoming events or a search function for finding affordable housing.

Officials have said the redesign could also include an opt-in alert system for events like road closures or changes to the city's garbage collection schedule. They also intend to add easier payment options for city bills or parking tickets, news feeds and live streams from city events, and a platform for people to offer feedback on projects.

Kelly added the redesign could also serve as an opportunity to double down on the city's commitment to open data, which is accessible through, and to his vision for uniting the city with his One Chattanooga initiative.

"We have a tremendous amount of data on city operations, but it's not used," Kelly said. "We take the accountability piece of the One Chattanooga plan very seriously, and, hopefully, it can also be a tool for that as well."

Kirsten Yates, Kelly's director of communications and digital strategy, said in an interview that city officials spoke with representatives of the city of Boston, which underwent its own website redesign several years ago, as they were going through this process.

In 2016, Boston also spent about a million dollars on its website, she said, which prominently displays links to information about functions like recycling, street cleaning and the city's tow lot.

Some proposals Chattanooga officials received for the redesign involved a simple one-to-one conversion to something more aesthetically pleasing or the creation of a simple WordPress site, Yates said, but the mayor's office wanted to take a more comprehensive approach.

"We're making this investment now to do it right so that we can adapt and grow and we don't have to go through this 100% overhaul in another 10 years," she said.

In Chattanooga, the yearlong development process will involve user testing, translation and development. CI&T will also conduct an audit of the hundreds of pages of content that already exist on the city website. The company, Yates added, was the only applicant to incorporate resident focus groups and user testing into every single step.

"It's not trivial," Kelly said about the project. "The site in and of itself is, hopefully, going to be really useful and radically more so, but there's also this cognitive dissonance when we talk about Chattanooga as the Gig City and being a smart city.

"The curtain and the drapes have to match," he continued. "We've got to be able to walk the walk as well as talk the talk, and currently that's not really the case."

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