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What Should a Municipal Website Look Like?

2020-07-06

Throughout the world, most municipal governments have their own websites. Do you have a municipal website? Is it as well-designed as you’d like it to be? Does it contain the right information?

Read on to learn more about how your municipal website should look and function. You’ll also get some helpful tips on how you can design it to meet your needs.

Why Every Municipal Government Should Have a Website?

These days, a website is not optional. This is not only the case for businesses, but also for municipal governments. There are lots of reasons why every municipal government needs a website, including the following:

Keep Everyone Informed

In 2020, it’s common for most people to search for information online first. If you want to keep the folks in your municipality up to date on the latest local information, your best option is to have a website where you can post it and make it easy for them to find.

By having a well-designed website, you can let everyone know what’s going on in the area and minimize the number of people who don’t follow certain regulations or don’t know about upcoming events. There will always be some stragglers, of course, but a website will keep the number of people who aren’t informed to a minimum.

Collect Feedback

A website provides municipalities with an opportunity to collect feedback from their residents. Instead of having people calling or coming down in person to complain about something or offer a suggestion, they can submit feedback online through the municipal website.

This type of system can make it easier to sort information and allows government officials to get an idea of which issues matter most to the greatest number of people. It also gives the folks in your area a voice and helps them to feel empowered and as though they’re contributing to the community as a whole.

Stay Connected in Emergency Situations

People rely on the internet to stay connected. While you might initially think of social media sites as the only online tool people use to keep in touch, municipal websites can play an important role in fostering connection and keeping everyone informed, too.

During emergency situations, municipal leaders can use their websites to provide details in real-time. They can also make sure that everyone knows how to handle the issue in the most appropriate way possible.

By sharing emergency information on the municipal website, leaders can help people in their communities to stay calm. They can also address potential problems early on before they snowball into massive issues.

Enhance Credibility

A website is a sign of credibility. Without a website (especially a website that is well-designed and functions properly), it’s going to be hard for people in your community to take their local government leaders seriously.

Investing in a website will show those you’re in charge of leading that you care about connection and providing information. It’ll also show them that you’re aware of modern challenges and are interested in staying up to date with the latest tools and technology. All of this, in turn, can increase their level of trust in and respect for you.

How Should a Municipal Website Look?

Every municipal government website will have a slightly different layout and design of course. In general, though, there are some essential design elements that every website like this should feature, including those outlined below:

Modern Design

When you start doing research and looking into other municipal websites, you’ll likely find that a lot of them could use a makeover. Many of these websites were designed several years ago and haven’t been updated since. They might still work well, but their design could also be off-putting to community members.

An outdated design might also send a message that your municipality is out of touch and isn’t aware of the needs of its members. By creating a website with a modern design (or updating your current website and bringing the design into the year 2020), you can boost your credibility, show that you care, and make a great impression on everyone who visits it.

Social Media Links

In addition to using municipal websites to connect with their local leaders, many community members these days like being able to connect with and receive updates from their leaders via social media.

By including social media links on your municipal website, you can make sure that people are able to find and follow local accounts with ease. This allows for more opportunities for residents to connect with leaders and to connect with each other. As a result, you can help them to foster closer bonds and feel as though they’re part of a more tightly knit group.

Emergency Alerts

Every municipal website should feature a place for emergency alerts. This area of the website should be easy to see and should draw people’s attention.

Using a contrasting colour for the message can be useful, for example. The same is true for including some kind of graphic that catches people’s eye can entice them to read the message you’re featuring.

Make sure you update the emergency alerts section regularly, too. If people see that it’s never up-to-date, they’re going to be less inclined to check it, which could lead to them missing out on important information.

Online Forms

Municipal websites out to have a section to access important forms online, too. This includes things like building permits and complaint forms.

Many websites feature a place where residents can download these forms and fill them out so they can be dropped off in-person or scanned and emailed. This is a very time-consuming process, though, and a lot of people won’t bother with forms at all when they see how many steps they have to go through.

Having a place where people can fill out forms and submit them online will make life easier for everyone in your community, including your fellow government workers. Your residents will appreciate the ease of the process and will be more inclined to seek permission, rather than just asking for forgiveness later.

Accessible Contact Information

One of the most important things that every municipal website ought to have is a clearly labelled contact page. Often, when someone is visiting this type of website, it’s because they want to know how they can get in touch with a local leader.

If they can’t find accurate contact information (and find it easily), they’re going to be very frustrated. They might even come down to the local municipal office in person to air their grievances.

To avoid this, and to streamline communication between local officials and the community, it pays to include a contact page in your website design plans.

Information on Local Events

If you want to improve the turnout for local events, your municipal website design plans ought to include a place to provide people with information about them. People should be able to easily get the details on upcoming community gatherings so they can put them on their calendars end make plans to attend.

Sharing information about local events can also increase tourism in your area, too. If you’re looking to attract new people and put your community on the map, start talking up your biggest events so people know about and can get excited about them.

Residential Resources

When you’re designing your municipal website, be sure to include a section for residential resources, too. This includes things like local tax information, trash and recycling pickup schedules, and building and zoning permit information.

If people can easily find the details they need when they move to the area, they’re going to feel more positively about it, the community as a whole, and their local leaders. This will save work for your municipality, too, as you’ll have to issue fewer fines and warnings for people who aren’t following rules.

Local Business Resources

Include resources for local business owners, too. For example, on your website, you should feature details about taxes, permits, and business licences.

If you make it easy for local entrepreneurs to know what they need to do to start a business, they’ll be more inclined to move forward with their plans. This, in turn, will lead to more businesses in your area and can boost your local economy in a significant way.

Content-Focused Layout

When choosing the layout for your municipal website, make sure that it is content-focused. The more content your website features, the more time people are likely to spend on it and the more inclined they’ll be to check it out on a regular basis.

Include a blog that you update regularly, for example, and a place for videos that can keep community members informed and engaged. Make sure the website can support this kind of content, too. You don’t want to have to worry about it crashing every time someone tries to watch a video, right?

Bold Colours

Your municipal website doesn’t have to be drab just because it contains important, official information. Remember, colours and fonts are about more than just aesthetics.

Using bright colours and bold fonts can catch people’s eyes. It can increase the likelihood that they’ll want to engage with the website on a regular basis, which can keep them informed about the latest goings-on.

The right colours and fonts can make your municipality more enticing, too, and cause people to feel more inclined to come and visit (or even think about moving here themselves after they see all that it has to offer).

No Stock Photos

When designing any kind of website, it’s best to steer clear of stock photos. Most people can spot stock photos from a mile away. They’re impersonal, and they don’t make a great impression.

Instead of adding stock photos to your website, use pictures of people from your community. Share photos from local events or local landmarks, for example. Use photos people can recognize and will be excited about seeing when they visit your site.

This makes a much better impression, and it makes your municipal website feel more personalized and like a reflection of your community.

How Much Should a Municipal Website Cost?

To get a high-quality, well-functioning municipal website, it’s best to work with a web developer or development team. This will require an upfront investment, but it’ll pay off later on, as you’ll be able to provide the people in your municipality with a better experience and ensure they stay informed.

Prices for website design and development can vary quite a bit depending on how you want your website to look and who you want to hire to work on it for you.

Keep in mind that municipal websites can often be more expensive than other types of websites because they have very high traffic demands. There’s the potential for tens of thousands (if not more) people to visit this site every day, and it needs to be able to accommodate all these visitors with ease.

There are other factors that can influence the cost of your website, including the following:

  • Desired website features (application integration, login portals, forms, etc.)
  • Hosting and security needs
  • Licencing requirements
  • Content creation (videos, blog posts, etc.)

You’ll also need to factor in the cost of technical support and maintenance, too. If you want to be able to get in touch with your designer or developer in the future if you want to change something on your website or fix it if it breaks, you may need to pay extra or pay a retainer to ensure you will have access to them in the future.

Create Your Municipal Website Today

These days, every municipal government ought to have a website. It’s not enough just to have a website, though. You also ought to take steps to verify that it’s well-designed and provides visitors with relevant information.

If you’re getting ready to design or redesign your municipal website, be sure to keep the tips outlined above in mind. For more advice, check out some of the other website design and development resources on our site as well.