New town website to (finally) launch in April

Thu, 01/31/2019 - 6:45pm

After many trials and tribulations over the past several years, the Town of New Shoreham has announced that it will be launching its newly updated website in April.

The new website will be more functional, technologically advanced and simple to use than the town’s current, antiquated website. 

Town Manager Ed Roberge told The Times that the town “began the design process in November with a staff web development team, and expect delivery and launch of the new website in April. This is a new website designed by CivicPlus.” The town’s IT Specialist, “Michele Spero, is the project manager for the effort.”

“Our efforts have been to design a website that is attractive and represents the Block Island community while being highly functional and simple,” said Roberge. “Ease of communication with the public is our first priority and we think the public will find the site layout favorable. These efforts are done with the vision of a Technology Vision Plan in mind, which is next on our list.

As the development continues, we are looking for ways to engage several public members to test this site as we do. We’re still working on that aspect of the project.”   

In 2014, the Town Council approved $18,000 for designing and building the new website, as a capital project. At that time, former Town Manager Nancy Dodge engaged CivicPlus, a Kansas-based company, to build the website. The town has been using its current, outdated website since 2007.

Spero said, “There is an annual cost for support and upgrades to the content management system, similar to the town’s other software applications, as well as for CivicPlus hosting the website on their servers, and providing essential backups and security. The fiscal year 2018 cost was $4,325.”

Roberge said there will be no costs associated with building the website at this stage. “Based on our contract with CivicPlus, communities are allowed to redesign their sites every four years,” he said. “There is no cost for the redesign effort that we are involved in today.”

“The first concept layout is expected on January 30th and we are excited for its arrival,” said Roberge. “The project team has reviewed a number of other new websites and designed ours for simplicity and functionality.”

Once the layout has been approved, design production will continue through February and March, with testing and launch scheduled in April.”

Roberge said, “The website will have complete social media functionality. As you know, Town Hall doesn’t have Facebook or Twitter, although the Police Department, Recreation Department and Fire and Rescue does, but we intend to develop pages for use.

This effort will follow the new website development. We need to develop a use and content policy, and a webmaster who will be in charge of monitoring and updating.”

“The website development team includes representatives from key departments, such as Administration, Finance, Town Clerk, Recreation, Land Use/Planning, Harbors, Police, and a number of staff will be specifically charged with maintaining web content,” said Roberge. “Our IT consultant contract will support the site from an IT management perspective, and CivicPlus will host the site. We don’t expect any additional costs to migrate from the existing site to the new.”

As for what new features the website will provide, Roberge said, “Some of the most obvious initial changes will be a calendar of events on the homepage, the ability to find content more easily, and features that enable website end users to customize their interaction with the site.”

He added, “The navigation to find information more readily should be considerably improved over the old website.”

“Technology and innovation remain high priorities,” noted Roberge. “And we will remain focused on affordable, sustainable technology solutions and related human processes that provide added value to the community, including better and more timely engagement with citizens, a better quality of life for residents, more open and effective government, and lower costs of ownership for the technology over the long term.”