Shoreview looks forward to redesign of websites


Shoreview city council members agree that the city’s two websites need upgrading, and especially optimization for mobile devices. A screenshot of the City Hall website as viewed on a computer. Some future updates could change the drop-down menu format and other details.

A screenshot shows how an iPhone displays Shoreview’s City Hall website. Though it’s different from how a desktop computer would display the home screen, it’s also not as easy to maneuver as it could be, according to council members and city staff.

The idea that technology moves in rapid strides is something Shoreview officials agree with, particularly when it comes to the city’s online presence.

The Shoreview City Council members discussed options for an update to the city’s two websites at their Aug. 15 meeting and unanimously decided that, in the long run, having two up-to-date sites will be worth the $28,500 price tag.

According to Rebecca Olson, the City Hall and community center websites were last revamped in 2012.

Olson, who is the assistant to the city manager, said that industry standards historically suggest website modifications take place every three to four years, and she noted recently that window has shrunk by one year. 

This meant it was time for Shoreview to take a look at possible upgrades, she said.

According to both Olson and city manager Terry Schwerm, one of the most important aspects of a future upgrade will be making the websites more easily accessible via mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones.

“We’ve noticed that there’s been a lot more people who are accessing our websites, and they’re doing so mobily, but our websites are not considered responsive to mobile devices.”

What that means, Schwerm explained, is that the current sites are not optimized to best display content in a format that’s readable on mobile devices. The sites instead scale down, shrinking to fit smaller screens, in turn making the content minuscule in many places.

Schwerm said this is significant because over 50 percent of the visitors to the City Hall website access it using mobile devices, or attempt to do so.

“It’s been a steady increase since 2013,” Olson said. “You can see that both the city site and the community center site are seeing a lot more traffic.” 

According to Olson, through a survey and site analytics it was discovered that about 59 percent of Shoreview residents access the sites. 

The council’s hope is that with better formatting and organization, that number will grow.

In addition to optimizing the sites for various devices, another feature that will be looked at is the sites’ search bars, which currently use Google and provide a smattering of results from all over the Internet. 

Council member Terry Quigley said he empathizes with users’ frustrations with the websites’ search bar. 

“The search thing has always concerned me because I’ve never had good luck searching our website,” Quigley said. “You have to frame it like Shakespeare to find the answer you want.”

Olson said the search bar may be upgraded so it will provide users with more concise and accurate results. 

The website contractor, Vision Internet, will further analyze how the public is utilizing the site. 

“We know how many minutes [users] spend on a page; we know what page they leave from; we know what search terms they’re looking for; we know how many pages deep they go into our website; we know what page they start on; what page they end on,” Olson said, adding that Vision Internet will use all that data, plus additional data and community surveys to optimize the experience. 

Back in 2012, when Shoreview chose Vision Internet to build and design the city’s two sites, as part of that contract, a one-time free upgrade was included. 

Council members voted to utilize that upgrade now, and pay $27,000 for an upgrade to the city’s second site. With further modifications and upgraded software, the city’s total cost for the full revamp will add up to $28,500. The money will come from Shoreview’s cable television fund, Schwerm said. 

The new sites are planned to be up and running in March or April, Olson said. 

Shoreview isn’t the only northern Ramsey County community thinking about its websites. 

Mounds View City Council members discussed their city’s nearly decade old site last November. 

The council said the website, which was created for $3,500 in 2007, is overdue for an update. 

City Administrator Jim Ericson said budgeting for the new website would likely wait until 2017.

 

Jesse Poole can be reached at jpoole@lillienews.com or at 651-748-7815. Follow him at twitter.com/JPooleNews.

 

Rate this article: 
No votes yet
Comment Here