Underutilization: Use It or Lose It!
- A web site can be incredibly easy to use but of no use whatsoever.
The usefulness of a municipal web site is determined by the extent to which a municipality makes information available. If there’s nothing there, no one is going to use it…and an underutilized web site is a missed opportunity.
The best gift that you, as a municipal official, could bestow upon your constituents is open government. And the best, most cost-effective mechanism for delivering government to the people is the municipal web site.
But what if you had a municipal web site and nobody came?
Bad graphics and a listing of departments does not a web site make. Also, there is little value in having a link to “Dog Licenses” if the only information you’re going to provide is a phone number and office hours. And don’t even get us started on links which, under the guise of being informational, lead to nothing more than dry text extracted from town ordinances.
As an example, given all of the services, the documents, the recordkeeping, etc. that the typical town clerk is responsible for, do you really believe that your residents are clicking on the “Town Clerk” link because they want to read the enabling statute which created the position? Is that helpful? Beneficial? Practical?
More importantly, is that the kind and quality of information that you think your residents need and expect?
At bare minimum, a municipality should make the following information available on its web site:
- municipal news
- public meeting schedules, agendas and minutes
- budget/tax information
- how-tos for permitting and licenses
- department info, hours, phone numbers, personnel
- profiles of elected officials
- phone/e-mail directory
- detailed descriptions of municipal services/programs
- downloadable forms and applications
- frequently asked questions (FAQs)
- a search engine
- the ability to send e-mail to officials and staff
People have grown accustomed to having instant access via the Internet to all types of information. They expect that the entities they do business with will have an Internet presence and a bevy of interactive services. It’s no different when it comes to your constituents and the expectations they have of local government.
If your municipal web site is rich in content and updated regularly, not only will your residents get more value from it, but your staff and officials will as well.
If you’re not utilizing your town’s web site to support municipal operations, engage citizens and to provide services, then step aside and stop taking up space on the Information Superhighway.
Usefulness defines the degree to which site visitors regard content as being helpful, practical and beneficial; usefulness means your web site content has utility.