Why Launching a New Website Is Only Half the Battle for Local Governments

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Connecting state and local government leaders

Launching a new or updated website does little good if local government agencies don’t trumpet their work.

Citizen engagement should start during planning and development, according to a new Vision Internet guide, and if not then, then with a launch communications strategy.

Introduction emails to staff, elected officials and residents including the site URL, new features summary and a means to provide feedback are a good place to start.

“Proactive launch communications are as essential to a website makeover as the development process itself,” said Ashley Fruechting, senior director of strategic initiatives, announcing the Santa Monica, California-based company’s Website Launch Toolkit . “This means ringing the bell like a town crier to let citizens know that key information and services are accessible online, anywhere, anytime and on any device.”

Aside from emails, San Angelo, Texas, heralded its new website with a social media campaign one week before launch on Facebook. Screenshot posts showcased the fresh look and features, URL and tagline: Informative. Interactive. Instantaneous.

Volume is key when it comes to such posts, according to Vision Internet.

Then there’s Yonkers, New York, which had its Mayor, Mike Spano, announce a rebranded website by previewing its responsive design, live video streaming and customized e-notification elements in this YouTube video .

Preparing a launch news release a week or two before the unveiling and providing local media a crash course is another good way to get the word out, according to Vision Internet.

There are a number of ways to solicit user feedback pre- and post-launch, from Monterey County, California’s homepage button leading to a 10-question survey , to Santa Clara, California’s four in-person community involvement sessions familiarizing residents with its new site and getting their opinions at the same time.

Using Google Analytics, site administrators can track what information residents, businesses and visitors are most frequently seeking in order to make further modifications. The best administrators know there’s no such thing as a “final site.”

“Websites and their content are constantly evolving, and that’s the way it should be,” said Erin Bryce, North Port, Florida community outreach manager, in a statement. “The world isn’t stagnant, and our website needs to be responsive to the changing needs of our customers.”

Dave Nyczepir is a News Editor at Government Executive's Route Fifty.

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