March 31, 2015

How to Handle Website Suggestions from Town Residents

If there’s anything that all community website managers can tell you about operating a communal site for a large group of people, it’s this: The virtual suggestion box will always be full.

If there’s anything that all community website managers can tell you about operating a communal site for a large group of people, it’s this:The virtual suggestion box will always be full.Since the purpose of a town website is to help community residents and visitors find information without having to resort to phone calls or office visits, constant emails are hardly ideal. Fortunately, there are a few simple ways to cut the number of suggestions and queries via email, just by making a few important tweaks to the municipal website.

Include Information that is Continually Requested

Sometimes, people will find your website and assume that it contains information that your office would never expect. For example, business listings or job openings. Although these things are not necessary to create a fully-functional town website, they could perhaps enhance the user experience. When good suggestions come through, and especially when they have more than one supporter, consider adding the requested elements to your website. So long as the new pages or entries are relevant to the website as a whole, they could do a good job of attracting more viewers.

Make Website Info Easier to Find

On the other hand, if your website already hosts information that viewers can’t seem to find, it’s time to do some maintenance. If contact details, meeting minutes or other elements of your site are hiding and difficult to locate, they aren’t doing your office any favors. Users want to find what they are looking for quickly, otherwise they will look elsewhere.Organizing a website isn’t a skill that comes naturally, so it’s a good idea to ask the professionals for help. If you need our advice on anything or want to experiment with different page placements, we’re here to help! High-functionality is important for the success of any town website, and we can help you understand the finer points of page administration.

Create a Comprehensive FAQ Page

Every website has a few users that can’t quite get the hang of browsing. Sometimes they aren’t sure how to submit event information to be posted; other times they aren’t sure how to navigate the site. Sometimes, viewers are simply in the wrong place. To help with common problems, it is a great idea to publish a Frequently Asked Questions page.Display a link to the FAQ page directly on your town’s home page, where it can be easily seen and identified by anyone visiting the website. In fact, displaying this link on every page is a good idea, since it will be visible throughout the user’s visit.FAQ should be a stand-alone page with no other information except questions and answers. Clear formatting is important when setting this up, since it makes reading and scanning the print much simpler.You don’t have to include every single question or comment you’ve ever received from users; only the ones that are particularly useful. Here are a few examples of questions to include:Where do I find contact information for the town council?Can I attend a town meeting?Are there any job openings at the Town Office?How do I submit event information to be posted on the community calendar?What kind of information will I find on this website?Add more questions or more details whenever it seems necessary, and pay attention to those comments. Suggestions from town residents won’t always be useful, but duplicate requests and questions point you in the right direction for a more user-friendly town website.Image courtesy of U.S. National Archives and Records Administration