Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Liberty-NC.com

So this website (yes, the one you're reading) has been around longer than the town's website by several years. When the town created the website under David Oles (former town manager) I assume they did so, because of this website. When that happened, I was excited to see that they joined the technological age (despite being a bit late), though I was confused why they would choose to copy and paste my work rather than simply ask me to help (I would have). Imitation is flattery, you know, right? That said, I don't really mind it, nor did I mind the recent Liberty newspaper which again copy and pasted all my work for publishing. This site has always been a service to the community, a conduit to motivate, influence, and inspire. I really couldn't care who gets credit for the idea, as long as people listen and change happens.

However, Liberty seems to get bitten and taken advantage of a lot. While I will say the new Liberty-NC.com website is several magnitudes of better than its previous incarnation, it's still a copy and pasted (for the most part) website. I'm not saying this to criticize, only to help out. The biggest mistake of all is the domain name. Considering the fact that the town is a legitimate town and government, my first suggestion would have been (if I came in as a consultant) would have been to secure a .gov domain. It's a rather simple process of merely authenticating your official status, and then setting up a 301 Redirect of the old domain to the new one. Both the old and new domains will continue to work (don't worry, you don't have to take down the signs), however, there are many benefits from a .gov website (e.g. preference in search engines), not to mention it gives the town a sense of officiality. A nice, www.libertync.gov, would make a whole lot more sense than a hyphenated capitulation.

My other suggestion is quite minor in comparison to my first. There's three things a person wants when the come to a municipal website. 1) to pay their bill, 2) access to contact information (e.g. a directory) for every government employ or department (including email). For instance where is the mayor@libertync.gov? How do I recommend that he install a sidewalk for the elderly? 3) Information on when things are happening. Unfortunately when you go to liberty-nc.com, the first page is some random information (borrowed from something I wrote almost a decade ago), which means nothing to current citizens, and it seems like a vacuous statement to anyone Googling the town out of interest.  In essence, this new website is out of date even before it went live. While visually it's an improvement from the previous incarnation, I would recommend in the future, hiring a professional who know what they're doing (e.g. Tech Triad). Once the website is created, get someone to maintain it who has a background in writing, print, public relations, and communications. Most importantly, find out why people use the website, and build it so it serves those needs. That's what a government does... it serves.