This weekend, the City of Virginia Beach unveiled a new and improved VBgov.com, the city’s official website.
Last overhauled in 2006, the new site features updated branding, design improvements and enhanced navigability prompted by advances in technology, an increase in mobile computing, the popular rise of social media networking and changing user needs.
“Our web team has been working on this for more than a year,” said Gwen Cowart, director of communication and information technology (ComIT) for the city. “The way that people use and access the Internet has changed significantly in the last five years, and it is important that our service delivery adapt to accommodate the evolving needs of our citizens.”
The new site design and functionality is based on direct feedback and requests from users, as well as the city’s desire to implement technology improvements for citizens. Some notable changes to VBgov.com include:
- An interactive calendar of events that can be filtered based on the user’s preferences
- A media center containing video and photo galleries. New items will be added continually.
- Mobile optimization that is compatible across all major smartphone formats
- A visually appealing design that highlights the beauty of Virginia Beach through better use of imagery
- An interactive map center featuring layering capability and an improved graphic interface
- A dynamic headlines section on the home page that features upcoming events, timely news and information, and highlights various city programs and services
- A design that is compatible with multiple browsers on multiple platforms
- An improved search with auto-suggestions as you type. Search results can be filtered by content type (web page, video, document type, news release, etc.) and date (from the past 24 hours to up to one year)
- A separate services search allows users to narrow their search to online and offline city programs and services
- Site navigation with hover functionality to get users to content more quickly and easily (fewer clicks)
- A community connect section with links to the city’s various social networking sites and real-time Twitter feed
Users will also have the ability to share site content via a wide selection of social networking platforms. Every page within VBgov contains a “share” button that includes more than 60 social media sites.
The way information is organized has changed as well. Now, visitors to the site will be able to access information according to “neighborhoods.” Each neighborhood section is organized according to user needs – Residents, Business, Visitors, Government and Services.
“We’ve tried to categorize information logically rather than simply by city department,” said city webmaster Jason Hall. “For instance, in the Residents section, there is a link called ‘Animals & Pets.’ On the old site, information about the Animal Care & Adoption Center, city dog parks and obtaining a pet license were scattered across three different departments. On the new VBgov.com, our users can still access information by department, but now they can also view all of these different animal-related services in a single location.”
“As technology and users’ needs continue to evolve, so too will VBgov.com,” Cowart said. “This is just Phase One of our rollout. We will continually be updating the site and I think citizens will notice that there will always be fresh information. During Phase Two, we’ll be implementing additional improvements, such as a new emergency site, mobile.vbgov.com, enhanced web parts and more mapping functionality.”
The new branding, user-friendly navigation and enhanced usability, integrated social platforms and user-requested features combine to make the new VBgov.com a more functional tool for citizens. As always, user feedback and suggestions are welcome and may be submitted to WebForms@vbgov.com.
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