Time to hit refresh on City of Nanaimo’s website

NANAIMO – The city is changing its website to improve the view on mobile devices and make it easier to find information.

Cellphone users will soon get a better view of the City of Nanaimo’s website, thanks to a $90,000 refresh.

The city budgeted $90,000 for a website redesign, which will not only change the look of the site, but also make it more accessible for mobile users and easier for the public to navigate.

The city’s website was launched in 2008, the same year the iPhone came to Canada, according to Jason Birch, the city’s manager of information technology, who said before then mobile web browsers were extremely unsophisticated so the mobile-optimized version of the website was extremely basic.

Since then new design techniques have allowed webpages to be tailored specifically for each device and the city has seen considerable uptake in mobile phone users accessing its website. Thirty-six per cent of devices used to view the site each month are cellphones, while 15 per cent are tablets – and they’re not getting a good experience, said Birch, who adds they have to zoom in and pan around.

Changes have been in the works for more than a year and will see content formatted so people can access it based on the size of their screen, he said. The website will also be restructured after public feedback showed people were having trouble finding information.

“Those are our two main goals – to make a better experience for people on all sizes of device and to make it easier for them to find content,” he said.

Philip Cooper, the city’s communications manager, said the website is a repository that always gets referred to so making sure it works well and that it’s easy to search are important.

The project has been in the works for more than a year with $26,333 budgeted in 2014. Another  $63,667 has been set aside for work this year. A request for proposal will be issued in four to six weeks for a graphic designer.

The website can be accessed at www.nanaimo.ca.