Today, consumers demand the ability to serve themselves when it comes to information. You can see this in a wide range of seismic shifts, from the ongoing evolution of social media to current digital shopping trends. Municipal websites are no exceptions to this rule, although many cities, towns, and counties are slow to adopt modern technology and best practices.
However, it is crucial that you’re able to meet the expectations of your citizens when it comes to things like the ease of accessing critical information, local news, contact data, and more. The solution is to create a robust website that features modern capabilities, but that can be more challenging than many people realize.
The key is to start with the right foundation, which is the content management system (CMS) on which everything else is built. The right CMS will deliver unique capabilities and allow you to foster better communication and community engagement. How do you choose the right CMS for your municipality, though? We’ll explore some of the most critical topics below.
One of the first considerations when choosing a CMS for your municipal website is whether or not the platform you choose offers API integration built-in. Application program interfaces allow you to integrate other software with your website. This allows you to deliver a more robust yet streamlined experience for your visitors, share data more seamlessly, and achieve other critical goals without having to add to your budget or increase your in-house team. Some of the key API integrations to consider include:
Social networks like Facebook or Twitter.
Team collaboration tools like Slack or Trello.
Your website is just one channel of communication with your citizens. You must make use of a wide range of others, but you also need to ensure consistency and ease of use. The right CMS can actually offer omnichannel capabilities that allow you to bring all your various outreach methods under one digital roof. With the right CMS, you can combine the following so that you can create content just once, and publish it wherever necessary within mere seconds:
Digital road signs.
Social media channels.
Your municipal website.
Smart home devices (Alexa, etc.).
Your CMS will have an impact on site page load times. This is a critical consideration for many things. Google uses load time as a metric in ranking your page in the SERPs, for instance. However, you also need to remember that your visitors have limited time and attention and if your site loads slowly, they will leave. This goes double for mobile users. Make sure that the CMS you choose offers the ability to improve load time and overall site speed.
Making decisions about your website requires access to in-depth information about a wide range of factors. Where do most of your site visitors come from? How long do they stay? What pages do they visit most frequently? Where is the most common point for visitors to leave? Is there missing information that could be put on the site to improve user experience? These are just some of the questions you’ll need to answer, and doing so will require that you have access to robust analytics. Make sure that the CMS you choose provides accurate information displayed in an easy to read and digest format. Ideally, you’ll have access to a single dashboard through which to access the data necessary to drill down into website performance.
Ensuring that your website is secure requires a multistep approach in which role-based permissions play a significant part. Make sure that the CMS you choose allows you to set permissions for each user based on their needs and their role. You should never give access to sensitive areas of the website to someone who does not specifically require that access. Role-based permissions ensure that everyone has access to only those areas of the site (and the information the site contains) that they need and nothing more, adding another layer of security and protection.
Your municipal website cannot be static – it needs to be dynamic in order to deliver the right experience for your users. You’ll need to regularly update schedules, publish news updates and blog posts, add contact information, embed videos, and more. It’s important that the CMS you choose makes this simple and easy with a minimum of fuss and hassle. You should also consider other factors here that relate to content additions and updates, such as the following:
Can you edit content in real time?
Does the CMS offer a robust suite of editing tools and capabilities?
Does adding or updating content require advanced skills, such as Java or CSS?
What steps must you go through to add images or video?
How simple is it to add image alt tags and video text descriptions to ensure an accessible website?
This is a seemingly simple feature that is all too often missing on municipal websites. Your visitors are time-pressed and in search of specific information. Make it easier for them to find what they want with a built-in search feature. However, you also need to make sure that the search feature provided is accurate and reliable. Consider how often the CMS indexes new content, and if it is able to index content other than text, such as files and documents.
Finding the right CMS can be pretty daunting. There are many things that need to be considered along the way, and not all platforms are created equal. In addition to Drupal and WordPress, there are custom options, and even managed CMS solutions that may work for your needs. At Job Hub Group, we can help you compare your options and find the best CMS for your municipal website and its visitors. Contact us today to get started.