Pinellas County Staff Updates Commission on New Website Design | Pinellas County

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CLEARWATER – Pinellas County has been talking about creating a new, updated website for years. Now it looks like the staff are just months away from a relaunch of “the most used communication tool”.

Barbra Hernandez, Director of Communications, and Dan Schutzsmith, Website and Digital Project Manager, briefed Commissioners on work underway to make the site more user-friendly, among other improvements, during a February 3 working session in the new palm room of the communications building in Eau Claire.

The county had met in the Magnolia Room of the Largo Extension Office to provide enough space to meet Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines due to COVID-19.

Hernandez told commissioners that the website, www.pinellascounty.orgwas the county’s leading customer service platform, receiving around 3.5 million visits in 2021. However, she said, it’s high time for a change.

Around 51% of users in 2021 visited on phones, which was unheard of when the site went live many years ago. Over time more content was added and the site became cluttered. Technology has changed.

Staff set five improvement goals, using an inclusive approach with managed content control. It wasn’t meant to be just a redesign.

The first goal was for the site to be mobile-friendly, which meant a changing view and interface depending on what device a person was using for access – a desktop, tablet or phone. All county departments were included in the plans to ensure that all user needs were met on a daily basis.

Hernandez said it was important to protect the county’s branding strategy as it has proven successful in recent years, with the public indicating a high level of trust and respect. She said recent content layout improvements were working, giving an example of the new web pages devoted to COVID-19 information. She said those pages had received over 7 million views.

Goals also include streamlining the site for accessibility compliance and implementing a state-of-the-art content management system. The main priorities are technology, content, design and user experience.

Hernandez said county staff aren’t the only ones being asked to help create a new website. Residents were asked to give feedback on the current site and test the new site as it nears completion. She said it was important to help users find what they were looking for and provide them with information that might be useful to them.

The focus is on subjects and services rather than departments. For example, a topic of interest on the website is the Fertilizer Ordinance, which is part of the content found on the pages of the Department of Public Works. However, the public does not really associate the ordinance with the ministry. Creating a “fast path” using common topics and services instead of departments will make it easier for users to find what they care about and what they need to know.

Additionally, the pages have been modified to make them easier to navigate, Hernandez said.

Schutzsmith said demo pages had been created, which were still evolving. The site has over 4,000 pages of content.

Schutzsmith showed off several additions, including the quick search feature and new navigation methods. He showed off a new control section, a spotlight area, which can change as needed depending on what’s going on at any given time.

The most requested services are highlighted as well as the most visited links. Most requested services and links will be updated as information changes, he said.

The new site includes a visitor information section with real-time weather and an events calendar. All pages have a footer of links to content areas and a link to report issues.

A group of testers will soon get to work focusing on those who use screen readers to ensure the site is accessible to everyone.

Schutzsmith described the work done so far as a “Herculean effort” to move all pages from the old site to the new site. He said the staff were now in the “home stretch”.

Suzette Porter is the Pinellas County Editor of TBN. She can be contacted at [email protected]

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