5 Tips to Make Your Municipal Website More User-Friendly

Posted on 2/20/18 10:45 AM by Kim Fortin & Matt Fish

In our current climate of instant online connectivity and access to information, having a functional website is critical to cities all around the world. It is not only a virtual showcase for your organization but also a communication and even transactional tool that can be used at all hours of the day and night.

With that said, not all sites that exist on the internet are user-friendly – in fact, some are downright frustrating to look at and navigate. However, if your municipality’s online presence falls into that category, there are easy, inexpensive ways to make the experience more appealing to residents.

Here are five ways you can make your municipal website more user-friendly:

Be Clear and Concise

Websites are loaded with information, which makes clarity of language as well as the structure of your sentences and paragraphs very important to the success of your city’s online space. The guiding words to keep in mind here are “clear” and “concise” – at no moment should the text and the overall feel of your site ever lose those aspects.

The topic of every page on your site must be easy to find, letting users know what they can find by navigating to that spot. When writing the body of those webpages, keep your paragraphs short (3-4 sentences) and use subtitles and lists to give all the copy a better overall flow. Also, font choice is important as well: you don’t want to be an assault on the eyes of those reading and you never want to use more than two different styles per page.

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Simplify Your Layout

The use of pyrotechnics and eye-popping visuals might be acceptable in your typical action extravaganza at the cinema, but when it comes to your website, it’s a bad idea to lay the extras on that thick. In fact, an overloaded visual approach to your site can ultimately distract users, making them forget why they visited your online hub in the first place.

To avoid this scenario, know that less is usually more. Choose a simple way of laying out your webpages, but don’t be so simple that it’s boring either. If you’re concerned about having too much “empty space,” don’t worry: it’s a good thing. Allowing for breathing room around paragraphs and visual elements will not only be easier for users to navigate, but it will ultimately be a more appealing user experience and keep citizens coming back regularly.


Optimize Your Navigation Menu

When it comes to navigating your website, make sure it’s easy and intuitive. There’s nothing worse for someone trying to use the web as an information gathering tool than being unable to go from one page to another effortlessly. Your menu should ideally be located at the top of the page or on the left side of the page – it’s a style that has become internet shorthand and will be what your users expect.

The menu should also be visible at all times for those using the site; having to scroll down to the bottom of the page to access it is a big no-no. Additionally, a search option is a great way to help visitors find what they’re looking for. As a bonus, you can analyze your website search keywords and really hone in on who’s visiting regularly and what information they’re accessing.

Improve Your Site’s Load Time

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A byproduct of the online revolution in business is that attention spans are becoming smaller with each passing day. As a result, the websites that force users to wait for pages to load are often the ones collecting dust in less-travelled corners of the internet. What’s more, the democratization of information on the web means that, if someone can’t get what they need from your site, they’ll simply look elsewhere.

Improving your site’s load time will help you avoid this scenario. Reducing the size of your files is just one of the many ways to achieve this, with the lowering of image resolution being a prime example. You can also reduce the size of other large files, such as PDF documents, by compressing them.

Optimize for Mobile

Today, many people are accessing sites and messages without ever touching their laptops or work computers. Instead, getting your information on the go using a smartphone or tablet allows for professionals to introduce more flexibility and efficiency into their daily routines. With that in mind, your municipality’s website should be responsive and viewable across different types of devices.

Choosing a template, colour scheme and layout that works well on mobile is crucial for visitors to have a pleasant experience while browsing your site. On top of making your website more user-friendly, a responsive website also increases your ranking on search engines.

Adapting your website to the current digital age and ensuring that interacting with it is stress-free for citizens doesn’t have to be a painful task to undertake. Put yourself in the user’s shoes: What information are you looking for? Where would you like to find it? First impressions are everything and, if your site is clear and concise while also fast, easy to navigate and optimized for mobile, you’ll be able to make those initial reactions positive ones.


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