Is your Website a Stud or a Dud?

October 13th, 2018

Imagine that you live in a small town in Utah. You have been thinking about expanding your house to include an additional room. So, you go online and find your town’s website. After a couple of minutes spent searching for regulations, contact information, or anything useful; you give up. The website was either too cluttered with unimportant information or so devoid of information that it was no help. We hear this story all the time – and unfortunately, it’s not just from people wanting to expand a room in a house, sometimes its business owners who are looking at places to expand.

Many cities want to have a great website, but they either lack the capacity / skill / time to create one, or they make one without the right guiding principles. The following is an easy guide to audit your website and check how well it is doing.

First, you need to understand what regulations exist if you have a website. State code is clear regarding websites and noticing. For example, UTC 10-9a-(2)-205 states that websites can be used for local public noticing needs. In addition, some code regulates the content and function of websites. UTC 63D-2-103 states that government websites can not collect personal information from users without a disclosure statement. We expect that state regulations are most likely going to increase over time.

Second, make sure that all information on the website is up-to-date and relevant. Most people use city websites for very limited purposes such as to find permit information, contact info, or local news/events. If the content on your pages is a couple years old and/or has no relevance to what people using the site would want to know today, eliminate it.

Third, make sure that all relevant information is in a quick easy-to-access format. Try to keep text limited and in legible fonts. Comic Sans is always a no-no. Also, give users the opportunity to download content if it needs to be longer in format. For example, don’t paste administrative code or the general plan directly on the website (trust me we have seen it). It would be better to just allow users to download an non-editable PDF or document.

Fourth, ensure that your website is laid out in an intuitive and easy to navigate way. There is more and more research that is finding that people read from right-to-left and then down on webpages. So, make sure that information is not sporadically thrown on the page but that information is in a specific pattern like a grid. Buttons can be your best friend and worst friend. Be careful to not overuse functions and buttons unless they serve a purpose.

Finally, use appropriate colors and graphics. We cannot stress how important this simple principle is. If a resident navigates to your website and is greeted by a neon green background with yellow text on top of the background, they will most likely leave the page and never come back. Make sure the colors are complementary. Also, be sensitive to residents that may be colorblind. When using pictures make sure that they are high quality and relevant to the purpose of the page. For example, a grainy photo looks unprofessional and a photo that has the name of another city in the background (yes, we have seen this as well) is confusing.

Although these principles are not comprehensive, they can get you started on the path to fixing your website. Also, remember that making a website does not have to be expensive or complicated.  If you are struggling with websites gives us a call – and call immediately if your website is about to break the internet (you know who you are). We have worked with many agencies in creating websites for specific projects and long-term use. Just two examples are shown here: