City of Nanaimo seeks input to improve web design

The City of Nanaimo wants to improve its online presence and is looking for feedback from the community.

The City of Nanaimo wants to improve its online presence and is looking for feedback from the community.

The website is a big deal for the city – more than 30,000 unique visitors use the site each month, 80 per cent of whom are from the Nanaimo area, said Jason Birch, senior applications analyst with the city.

But the city’s website was last updated in 2007 and much has changed since then.

First of all, while less than one per cent of people were viewing the site on mobile devices in 2009, now more than a quarter of users access the site using mobile devices – a problem because the current site was not designed to be easy to access from a mobile device, he said.

Second, the city added a number of services to the site and residents can now view business licenses and building permits online, pay utility bills online, and search parks and public art, amongst other things.

But many people are unaware these services are available and the current design does not help, said Birch.

To help determine improvements that can be made, staff recently launched a survey that pops up when new visitors enter the site and held a public meeting at the Nanaimo Aquatic Centre for more in-depth discussion.

Birch said the city has received about 300 survey responses so far – he encourages people to visit the site and take the survey, as staff hope to collect at least 500 responses – and more than a dozen people showed up to the meeting.

Birch said the feedback from residents ranges from not wanting the site to change to being frustrated with it.

Some preliminary results of the online and in-person consultations show that 40 per cent of visitors are interested in reading city bylaws or policies but have trouble finding the specific information they are looking for; people struggled to find the date of the next council meeting; and the city is not doing a good enough job of linking to other agencies such as the Regional District of Nanaimo or the Nanaimo Economic Development Corporation, he said.

“We found places where the current site structure made it hard to find information,” said Birch.

Staff want to tie in more social media elements, which is difficult to retrofit into the existing website, and provide people with an online avenue to let staff know whether the site is meeting their needs or if they need further information, he said.

Birch expects the information gathering to wrap up in the next week or so and then a city committee will look at the responses and perhaps issue a request for proposals as early as next month.

He said the goal is to finish the new site by the end of the year or beginning of next year.

For more information, please go to www.nanaimo.ca.