Bethany Beach Town Council Member and Communications Committee Chairman Tracy Mulligan gave those in attendance at the council’s Oct. 19 meeting a sneak peek into the future face of the town on the Internet, unveiling the current draft of the new town Web site, which is currently on schedule to go live Jan. 4.
As it stood on Oct. 19, the draft site reflects contemporary Web site design standards, with subcategories including “Government,” “Services,” “Activities” and “Visitors” arrayed across the top of the main page, and “How Do I?” “Jobs,” “Business,” “Community,” “Report a Concern,” and “Media Gallery” shown along the left side.
The draft also provides indications of new features for the site, including weather, a direct link to a traffic camera, a site search, news feeds (RSS) and easy sign-up for the town’s e-newsletter.
Central on the main page is information on town news and events, which previously had been buried two or three layers into the town Web site — likely to be considered a major improvement. And there is a calendar listing just below the news and events area, which was likewise sometimes hard to find on the previous site.
While those areas as of Oct. 19 were filled with placeholder text in Latin, as the site is completed, they will be filled with real town news and events, along with the government information, forms, business information, events listings and visitor information designed to help residents, property owners and visitors alike, whether they’re down the street or across the country.
The draft site is displayed the Bethany Beach’s town colors of ocean blue and a pale buttery yellow, highlighting two images of the town’s beach and boardwalk and floral plantings adjacent to a canal-side home. Mulligan emphasized that either or both images could change as the site is finalized, but the design sensibilities may indicate the hand of local artist Jennifer Carter, who has participated in the site redevelopment process along with a number of other volunteers.
Town officials said citizen participation has been significant and will expand.
“The town manager has utilized volunteers with expertise in various areas to obtain input or review documents,” Mulligan said. “The volunteers’ background includes two who started Internet service provider companies, several involved with hands-on development or purchasing of Web sites and local artist Jennifer Carter. So far, 14 people have provided the manager with detailed input.”
In addition, the Communications Committee as a whole reviewed the Web site design, navigation and schedule in a public committee meeting.
Usability testing through December will expand volunteer participation to wider numbers of people reviewing the site, Mulligan said. Citizens are being asked to develop or provide content in certain areas of the site, as well as input on the overall site design and function.
A number of deadlines over the next few weeks will nudge the site toward completion. On Nov. 2, the town is scheduled to approve design of page layout, with approval of all content on Nov 16. Contractor Civic Plus is to provide a completed Web site on Dec 3.
Citizen usability testing will take place Dec. 4-9.
The contractor will train town staff Dec 10-13. Revisions will be done based on input during training, Mulligan said, using the actual site or by the contractor. Tools and training provided by the contractor will provide town staff with the capability to more easily maintain, update and change the Web site, he noted.
The contract for the Web site design includes ongoing support to town staff. “Other clients have given the town very favorable comments on their experiences with contractor Civic Plus,” Mulligan noted. “They have done more than 300 municipal Web sites nationwide.”
Assuming that the work is completed on schedule, on Jan. 4, 2008, the redeveloped Web site will go live for all to see and use.
Mulligan noted early this week that anyone is welcome to provide input in any of three areas:
(1) To test drive (or usability test) the Web site in the period from Dec. 4 to 9.
(2) To participate during the next two weeks in developing certain content with a member of the town’s Communications Committee. Topic areas include “About Us,” activities, visitors, business, or community organizations.
(3) To just give an opinion of this current draft of the home-page or anything else about the Web site.
To provide input, volunteers should contact the Town Manager’s Office at firstname.lastname@example.org or (302) 537-3771, or contact Tracy Mulligan, Communications Committee chairman, at email@example.com or (240) 687-3841.