CityOfFargo.com has been recognized by Juggle as one of the top city government websites in the state of North Dakota. Below you'll find an interview with Karena Carlson, Communications Manager for the City of Fargo.
- CityOfFargo.com is a top-notch web portal; what has been your role in its development? Can you summarize the history of Fargo's web portal?
The City of Fargo Web site has been in existence since 1998, though it has changed dramatically since then. The first site was a basic service site giving residents access to information about our diverse variety of boards, committees, departments and services. The site has undergone at least 3 major renovations since 1998, each of which allowed us to increase user friendliness and expand online services and ADA accessibility. The most recent facelift was launched this past spring and our residents have let us know they are pleased with the improvements. A team of City employees from a variety of departments formed a work group to determine what needed to be added or updated on the Web site. This process took the better portion of a year.
- What are the overarching objectives of Fargo's current e-government initiatives? Where do you see e-government heading in the next 2-3 years? Are there any exciting new features or services currently in the works for Fargo's web portal?
The City of Fargo sets high standards for our new Web site in relation to ADA accessibility. To meet those standards we have partnered with the State of North Dakota to run regular accessibility scans using Compliance Sheriff Software. The scans alert us to incorrect formatting, text, images and other issues that could cause difficulties for some users. We are also expanding our ability to provide online applications, payment services, interactive maps, videos, live streaming and document searches.
- From a marketing standpoint, what are some of the strategies that you have utilized to draw attention to the information and services provided by CityOfFargo.com, both on- and off-line?
Anytime you see a City advertisement, informational publication or notice, you will also see a web address directing residents to our Web site for more information. This statement holds true for all departments within the City, including Transit, Solid Waste, Police, Fire and Public Health, each of which have their own direct urls.
- What is the most-used feature or service on the site?
The most visited feature on our Web site is the interactive parcel application. Below is a brief description of what it is and how it works:
This site allows a search of properties in Fargo by address or parcel number. The information on each property includes items such as ownership, appraised values for tax purposes, special assessments, basic building and site information, and legal descriptions. Once a property has been located on the site, there are also links to additional information through maps and a connection to the Cass County property tax bill website.
- In what ways has Twitter allowed you to connect more directly and personally with the citizens of Fargo?
Twitter and Facebook are valuable assets, allowing us to reach a new demographic of residents and reach them quickly. Our newly designed Website also displays the most recent tweet on the homepage along with current news and events. Our IT department created an application that allows us to update our homepage news and events and send related tweets and Facebook messages simultaneously. Twitter was invaluable during the flood of 2010 when we needed to update residents on vital flood related information regularly throughout the day and night. We now work to retain our Twitter followers by providing timely, useful information to users.
- Fargo features the unique “Freebee” resource to help citizens connect to distribute unwanted items in order to improve landfill conditions; how does it promote more interaction between citizens and the city of Fargo and how successful has the program been?
Freebee is a fun opportunity for residents to share unneeded goods with their neighbors, for free. Residents have been able to get a variety of free goods ranging from electronics to books to flowers. We also hope that while residents are surfing the Freebee site they will take a look at what else the City has available for them online.