So much of Westport sparkles.
Our transformed library. Compo Beach, from the playground and pavilion to the new South Beach walkway and grills. Longshore. Staples High School. The Saugatuck River. From Harbor Road to Beachside Avenue, Sherwood Mill Pond to Mahackeno, this is a truly remarkable town.
Our website, however, sucked.
Last updated in 2011 — after 2 previous equally grim versions — it was an ugly, bloated mess. Typography, layout, massive text and lack of photos — all that wouldn’t have been so bad, if you could easily find what you were looking for.
But you could not.
Happily, as of today Westport’s official website is as crisp, clear and clean as so many of our other wonders.
Don’t believe me? Click here!
The new site was more than 2 years in the making. First Selectman Jim Marpe appointed a Website Redevelopment Steering Committee, including town staff and residents with expertise in technology, design, economic development and community interests.
They worked with Granicus, a company that specializes in website services for local governments.
Since the 2011 version debuted, users have migrated from desktops to mobile devices. The new website, all agreed, had to be mobile-friendly.
In addition, town operations director Sara Harris says, users needed quicker access to information.
One key feature of the new design is a better search bar. The former “mega-menu” has been cleaned up and streamlined.
The committee used Google Analytics to rearrange the “How do I…?” section. The most popular requests — regarding, for example, beach passes, railroad parking permits, town maps, employment opportunities, open bids and bid results, and videos of town meetings — are given the most prominence.
A one-click “Popular Services” section makes it easier to pay taxes, register for programs, and get meeting agendas and minutes.
News is more prominently displayed on the home page.
There are more photos too, showing (of course) Westport at its best and most beautiful.
An “Economic Opportunity” page is aimed at anyone considering opening a business or relocating here. The goal, Harris says, is to show the town’s great quality of life, and support of business.
The site now offers a 1-click link to subscribe to some (or all!) town notifications: emergency alerts, meeting information, news, you name it.
And — this is very, very cool — the Town Charter, plus every ordinance and regulation (including Planning & Zoning, the Conservation Commission, and Parks & Recreation Commission) are all available on one page.
As often happens, after the 2011 website went live certain sections lay dormant. Now, every department has a designated content manager. They’re trained on how to keep their own pages fresh and updated — and respond to users’ evolving needs.
As part of the project, volunteers with marketing and design backgrounds — including graphic artist Miggs Burroughs; advertising creative director Rob Feakins; brand innovation principal and Westport Downtown Merchants Association president Randy Herbertson, and marketer Jamie Klein — worked to refresh the town’s “brand identity.”
They eventually settled on a new logo. Designed by Samantha Cotton — who grew up in and now works here — it suggests open space, the movement of water or sails, and “open warmth and refreshing coolness.”
After a month of testing by the committee and town staffers, the new website went live yesterday.
Harris says, “We’re confident that users will be happy with the experience. We think it represents the town very well.”
She invites residents — and everyone else — to test-drive the new website. The URL is the same: www.westportct.gov.
What do you think? Click “Comments” here.
And/or email the town directly: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Of course, you can also do it from the site itself. Nearly every page has a “feedback” button.
It’s simple. It’s easy.
And that’s the whole idea behind the refreshing new website refresh.