Memo-10-13-2015 - Item 14

MEMO TO:           Mayor Barber and Board of Commissioners

FROM:                  Frank A. Rush, Jr., Town Manager

SUBJECT:           Demonstration – New Town Website

I have scheduled time on the October 13 meeting agenda for the Board and the public to receive a brief demonstration of the new Town website from Rhonda Ferebee, Town Clerk.  The Town unveiled the new website on September 15 in an attempt to improve the aesthetic appearance, make it easier for our customers to navigate and learn more about the Town, and make it easier for our customers to conduct business with the Town.

The Town has always prided itself on the availability of a large catalogue of information on the Town’s website, and the previous version has long included meeting agenda items, minutes, “latest news”, service information, newsletters, and much more.  The new version includes all of the same information, but it has been reformatted with a fresh, new look, and is more consistent across all pages on the site.  The old website had been in use for many years, and served the Town well, however, the appearance and function had become out of date.

The new website includes a more prominent display of the new Town logo in the top left corner (along with the “Nice Matters” tag line), and also retains the Town seal in the bottom right corner.  Although not visible now, the “blank space to the right of the new Town logo will be used for bright “hurricane” alerts as needed in the future, with a link to timely information about storms threatening or impacting Emerald Isle.  

The new website includes general information about Town government, services, and programs (that does not change frequently) organized under several “drop-down” menu bars across the top, including:  “About”, “Live”, “Visit”, “Beach & Sound”, “Departments”, and “Government”.  Various selections are available under each heading, with additional links as needed.  The monthly Board meeting agendas (and supporting information) are featured prominently in the middle left of the main page, along with weather and direction apps.  New and current entries are included along the bottom under “Latest News” (updated frequently with timely new information), “Events” (with a continually updating calendar of meetings, special events, etc.), and “Twitter” (a real-time posting of the Town’s separate Twitter account that is used for quick, simple messages to our customers).  Other commonly accessed information is available across the top right hand corner, including “Email Town Manager”, “Contact Us” (with a complete elected official and staff listing), “FAQ” (frequently asked questions about various Town services), “Employment”, a link to “Join Email List” (the Town now has more than 6,800 subscribers), and “Links” to other sites of potential interest.  

For the first time, our customers may now submit permit applications online with a fillable form that is emailed to the appropriate staff person.  For example, golf cart permit applications can be filled out online, attachments (insurance cards, etc.) can be added, and then emailed to the Town’s Administrative Assistant.  Similarly, building permit applications can be completed in the same manner and emailed to the Town Planner.  We hope to gradually have more customers using this convenient option in the future.  Although not active yet, we are also currently working to implement an easier, smoother credit card payment feature on www.emeraldisle-nc.org , and hope to make that feature available later this year.

The new website was designed by the Town’s IT service provider, VC3, Inc., and the site map was designed by Rhonda Ferebee and me earlier this summer.  Rhonda Ferebee worked closely with VC3, Inc. to transfer and reformat the information from the old site to the new site, and did an exceptional job on this project.  The total cost for VC3, Inc.’s work was approximately $6,000, and was funded in the FY 14-15 budget.  The Board should also note that the new website includes a much easier to use “content management system” to update the website, and that feature should allow for greater efficiency by Town staff and more neatly organized pages on the site.  Additionally, the Town’s old software used to update the website was grossly out of date and is no longer supported by the developer.

I look forward to sharing the new website with the Board and the public at the October 13 meeting.