AustinTexas.gov: Award Winning Site Increases Accessibility and Expands Audience

As citizens continue to move away from desktops to mobile technologies, it becomes increasingly important for developers to consider how their site design will appear not only on desktops and laptops, but tablets, smartphones, and other mobile devices. Additionally, investing significant resources in website design may be seen as investing in obsolete technology, with so many people obtaining information from alternative sources.   Chris Dorobek of the DorobekINSIDER spoke with Chris Florance, Web Content Manager for the City of Austin, Texas, regarding their award-winning website, AustinTexas.gov, and the value it brings to their citizens. As Florance noted, the site highlights city services and other resources available to citizens, including a GIS enabled mapping resource, In My Neighborhood, which highlights the locations of key government resources. With today’s increasingly mobile and social media oriented communications, Florance addressed the continued utility of a comprehensive website. He told Dorobek, “Social media, whether I’m accessing it on my desktop or from one of my mobile devices, it remains a way that I connect with information on the web.” He expanded on this, explaining that one of the greatest benefits to social media is the connection to robust content on the web.   While planning out the site redesign they kept this fact in mind, ensuring that content was both accessible and sharable from multiple devices. Florance explained that the site is easily viewable from both iPhone and Android devices, and on tablets like the iPad, the website displays beautifully. Content is also easily shared via Facebook and twitter, and the site prominently features links to connect with the City of Austin on additional social media platforms.   In the planning phase, the city considered multiple platforms for building the website; they were invested in utilizing an open source solution. They finally settled on using Drupal, and are very happy with how it has turned out. Florance noted that utilizing an open source solution was also a considerable cost saver. Their considerations in building AustinTexas.gov have paid off - having launched at the beginning of this year, the site has won several awards, including recognition by the Texas Association of Municipal Information Officers for ease of navigation and clean design. Check out Austin Go 2.0 for the latest Gov 2.0 initiatives launching in Austin - if this is what they mean by Keep Austin Weird, maybe we should all be a little "weirder". Stay tuned for Part II on the DorobekINSIDER
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