MadisonAL.gov has been recognized by Juggle as one of the top city government websites in the state of Alabama. Below you'll find an interview with Taylor Edge, Executive Assistant to the Mayor for the City of Madison.
- MadisonAL.gov is a top-notch web portal; what has been your role in its development?
My name is Taylor Edge. I am the Executive Assistant to the Mayor. I was the project manager for the website redevelopment. We had a website redevelopment team that was instrumental in the initial development and ongoing content maintenance for the website. The interesting fact about this team is it is made up of representatives from all city departments. Not an IT team. This has made the content much more relevant and timely in updates. Our success is truly a team effort.
- Can you summarize the history of Madison's web portal?
Prior to 2009, the city had a very static, hard to maintain web portal. The website was only able to be updated by one person and it was not interactive. It was basically static text. Also the look was very bland and not representative of the kind of city Madison is. In the 2009 budget, a complete redesign was budgeted and a company specializing in municipal government website design, CivicPlus, was selected.
- What are the overarching objectives of Madison's current e-government initiatives?
Two of the primary objectives of the new initiative was access and dissemination of information. Rather than forcing residents to regularly check the website for information, we implemented a system whereby residents can sign up for notifications of new information and it is proactively sent to them via email or text message. Now they get the information they want delivered to them in real time. The other is access to information. With a web team at the department level, a much more robust set of relevant information is available across the city functions rather than basic information with telephone numbers to find out more. This new design and functionality has met our objectives.
- From a marketing standpoint, what are some of the strategies that you have utilized to draw attention to the information and services provided by MadisonAL.gov, both on- and off-line?
With MadisonAL.gov being the official portal of the City of Madison, it is visited regularly by default. The key was designing the home page in a friendly functional manner that made access to information very intuitive. The navigation structure was important to make sure we design access to information the same way resident think. Offline strategies have included word of mouth, print advertising, banner advertising at local sporting events, and newspaper articles. Of course many of the offline strategies translate to online mediums as most have offline and online presences.
- How has citizen feedback influenced the development of Madison's e-government services?
Citizen feedback not only influenced the development but actually drove it. The reason we have the Notify Me functionality, emergency notifications, and an easy to navigate site is direct feedback from citizens. Citizens also said they wanted a more attractive, representative look because that is typically the first impression visitors, business prospects, and relocators have of our City. The citizens wanted a city website not only that was easy to use but that they can be proud of.
- What is the most-used feature or service on the site?
By far the notification system called Notify Me. We not only have residents subscribed to get notified about road closures and athletic field status, but vendors subscribe to notification of new bids and out of town interested parties subscribe to new job openings. Another result of the site is news outlets subscribe to news releases and meeting agendas. They love this functionality as it informs them about stories and happenings in the city rather than picking up the phone or emailing to ask what is new in Madison.
- What is the surest and fastest way for a viewer of this website to ask you or anyone on staff questions related to the governing of Madison?
Right on the home page is a link to Let Us Know. This is a system that the viewer can fill out an online form and the request is routed based on the subject. In addition, the site has a link to the city directory of all departments right on the home page with phone numbers and email addresses.
- 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 Madison's web portal?
We just launched an online interactive Geographic Information System to the public. We see this as a huge benefit. Offering other services that are currently only able to be accomplished by a visit to City Hall is our 2-3 year goal. This includes buying business licenses and building permits, filing residential and commercial building plans for review, and paying city taxes online.