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Digital Expert's Panel: Customer Service Was Woven into the Fabric of the City (Part 2 of 2)

by Kimberly Samuelson
Post Date:09/19/2017

In the second part of our series, we are again joined by the City of Westland’s CIO, Daniel Bourdeau, who shares his approach to content creation and what the future holds for the city’s website.

You mentioned that the innovation and technology department produces all of the web content? How did that occur?

When we first started with Vision, the department was responsible for their content, and my department would create the page templates. What we found was with that many artists there were too many different brushstrokes. Some much better than others. For the sake of consistency in tone and aesthetics throughout the site, we decided to refocus and roll all the content creation into my organization. The departments were really good at creating content, but it’s word heavy. What we learned by studying analytics is that dynamic content, such as video, icons, infographics and photos is most easily consumed. Our site is still very word heavy. As we approach our redesign, one of the goals is to keep the content contemporary and easy to consume.

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There are two reasons why content creation roles up under me. The first is, a large part of my staff consists of millennials, who have a natural affinity for producing digital content that can easily be consumed on a device. My staff is unique in that they have an eye for design. Millennials don’t waste time with applications that don’t work well; they just move on. The second piece is because we work with data architecture, we understand how to organize the hierarchy of information, which presents a cleaner flow to the site.

I wanted to add that while technology department is the steward of the website. It’s the mayor who sets the tone, voice and priorities for what is on the site and we align the content accordingly. There’s a great deal of trust between his office and mine. Because of that trust, built up over time we can enjoy a bit of autonomy. Generally speaking, this means the mayor doesn’t need to spend time combing the site himself. He can trust us to get it done.

Are other LOB (line-of-business) systems integrated into the website?

Integration is critical.  For example, integrating our GIS platform with the site. You’ll see fully interactive maps as you navigate around the site. For example, we’ve provided our residents the ability to register their garage sale and promote some of the items. Additionally, we provide interactive snowplow maps during the winter.

On the business side, our ERP fully integrates into the site. If you need to make a tax payment or a utility payment, there are a number of ways to get to that hosted platform from our website.

How do you handle change management in the city?

We are very iterative in our process. Since we’ve consolidated the content design and production, when a department has the need to update or create content, they submit a technology work order. About 60-70% of our projects are distinctive, and 30-40% are full-on projects. Depending on the complexity of the request, that work order can kick off a project workflow, which gets assigned to my group. For example, recently, Parks and Rec requested a new suite of pages. This type of request is more of a project which required a plan, rather than a one-off.

Can you please share your approach to mobility?

Most of our traffic comes from a mobile (64%) platform. We know that the way that content is consumed is much different on a small piece of glass than a desktop. We’re hyper-aware of this because it says a lot about how resident’s business gets done. If someone has five minutes, instead of wasting time, they’ll use their phone to pay their water bill or apply for a permit to build a deck.

You have a redesign coming up, can you share with us some of what you are planning?

We are going to completely, completely change the way our homepage works. The contemporary design where you’ll be greeted by the full-page search bar and a limited menu. We want you to be able to find exactly the content you are looking for rather than navigating a menu system.

There are two factors at work. One, the way that people are consuming information. The trend is, “I want to search for information—get it—and move on.” Two, nearly three-quarters of content is being consumed on a phone. Having to navigate menu systems isn’t ergonomic or efficient. We want to have a search bar that delivers the content with one click of the search icon.

We put a good deal of thought and testing into choosing the search bar homepage. We test drove other  Vision sites for days, we even put them in the hands of the mayor, gave him a use-case scenario and had him drive through a timed test. The search bar sites, hands down, are faster than the classical menu-driven sites.

Thanks, Daniel! Looking down the barrel at your next redesign? If so, check out this blog post about why a research-driven approach is best.

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