We have done a lot of general writing about government websites and how to engage your citizenry and all that happiness. However, it seems that we haven't really taken it down to the level where we actually hear from some of the folks who really are using their local government website to its best advantage.
To that end, I spent some time on the phone with Janis Crawley, who is the website administrator for the city of Bowie, Texas, to get a more personal perspective on just how the City's newly launched website is engaging this community of just over 5,000 residents.
CivicPlus: What features do you most enjoy?
Janis Crawley: "The most feedback is on online bill pay and the calendar function. I actually came from the economic development side and got into this with regards to building the best website possible. There is a button for an event called "Second Monday," which is a really big deal for our residents. We really want folks to utilize our Real Estate section as well, so we're trying to get the word out on it."
CP: What are the citizens and stakeholders saying about the new site?
JC: "The city council has nothing but praise for the functionality of the website - for how we are able to get information out to the citizens in a timely mannner. For example, there is a drought going on and we are able to get information about voluntary water restrictions out to folks."
What is the one thing you want your community to take away from the website?
JC: "We want the site to act as a storefront for Bowie; the information hub for local residents and those visiting our area. We encourage user feedback and welcome suggestions. The one thing we really want is for people to use it."
CP: A website change is difficult on a good day. Do you think that the end result was worth all the "headaches"?
JC: "300-percent yes. I would recommend CivicPlus to anyone. It's exactly what I thought it would be from day one. And I speak for most of the folks who have a hands-on role in the website. There's been some resistance from some folks who don't have day-to-day contact with it, but that's changing. It's much easier to use than it looks. And I have made suggestions to CivicPlus and have gotten them implemented."
And there you have it. What we at CivicPlus do and why we do it are for the folks in Bowie and for people like Janis. If you have any questions or want to leave a comment, please do.