After more than a year of work, Bethany Beach’s new Web site is winding down the dates to its anticipated “go live” date of Jan. 4, 2008. Members of the town’s Communications Committee met on Nov. 6 to continue work on determining content and policies for the overhauled site, dealing with subjects as far ranging as links for local businesses and recommendations for fishing information.
Committee members had a core decision to make Tuesday, as to whether or not the town will use its new Web site to simply provide all available information to the town’s residents and visitors or whether it will focus more narrowly on what the town has to offer within its incorporated limits.
Town Manager Cliff Graviet told committee members that the decision had previously been made regarding the town’s existing Web site to never promote outside businesses over those within Bethany Beach, resulting in a more limited scope for the information on the site.
Committee members were in consensus on Nov. 6 that the policy should remain in place, keeping information limited in some cases, such as options for renting a bicycle or eating dinner, while smaller comprehensive lists with no competitive issues, such as area hospitals and movie theaters, would move outside town limits.
Other area businesses and commercial informational sources would be provided to visitors and residents through links to the Bethany-Fenwick Area Chamber of Commerce and regional tourism offices.
The committee on Tuesday also reviewed in-depth lists of potential Web site pages in the areas of Activities, Government, Visitors, Community Groups and Business, trimming some extraneous areas and filling out others with appropriate information.
All of the information is set to go to the town’s Web site consultants on Nov. 16. A finished draft site will be submitted to the town on Dec. 3, with training of town staff on how to maintain the site to take place between Dec. 10 and 13.
Usability testing from community volunteers will also be taking place in the coming weeks, with those testers sitting down for 30 to 60 minutes to complete prepared lists of tasks on the draft site, with an observer taking notes on how quickly and easily they do so. Volunteers are still being accepted for usability testing, and public input will be taken on an ongoing basis.
It was public input that was another key topic regarding the Web site on Nov. 6, with Graviet asking committee members how they felt about the “Report a Concern” feature that is a main focus of the new site.
Graviet said the feature, available to the town on a six-month trial basis, would allow citizens to report problems or request services from the town electronically, through a form that would automatically direct correspondence to the correct department.
The system would also add the request to a tracking system and then allow town staff to respond directly to the citizen, who could then reference a tracking number to check back in on the status of their request or complaint.
A complaint about a pothole on town streets would go directly to Public Works, for example, with the ability for that department to note a planned date for repair and the user to then check back for that response at a later time.
The system would require the user to register with an e-mail address and would not be accessible to anonymous users.
Graviet asked committee members for their input as to the appropriate verbiage for the function, which would seek to blend both reporting of complaints and simple requests for service. The standard alternative for “Report a Concern” is “Make a Request,” but neither was entirely satisfactory to committee members.
Planning Commissioner Kathleen Mink, in attendance at the Tuesday meeting, asked whether town committees would have a chance to add personalization for their appropriate areas of the new Web site, to offer specific information, for example.
Graviet asked for committees to prepare a list of placeholder pages soon if they wanted to do such customization, to limit future additional costs for the town.
Vice-Mayor Tony McClenny on Tuesday also repeated an offer for the town to use any content available on his personal Web site at www.bethany-beach.net.
That information, as well as the rest of the content for the site, should begin taking shape over the next few weeks as the final development of the new town Web site takes place in preparation for the Jan. 4 live date.