People who visited the Vienna town government’s Website, www.viennava.gov, on the morning of March 23 probably were surprised if they returned to the site that afternoon, as town officials went live with a new, more intuitive and user-friendly Website design.
“Because the town’s old Website was so dated, weighed down with so much information and represented different voices, we felt that it was necessary to create content for the new site from scratch,” said Lynne Coan, the town’s communications and marketing director. “I’m not sure that there’s anything technologically innovative about the site, but the whole look and experience is much improved.”
The new site features a prominent slide show of photographs, many taken by communications specialist Adam Kincaid, with links to upcoming events. Drop-down menus at the site’s top include:
• “Residents,” with links to parks-and-recreation programs, the Vienna Community Center, concerts and events, town services, project updates, license and permit applications, voting, taxes, volunteer opportunities, emergency preparedness, public parking, sustainability initiatives and Fairfax County Public Schools.
• “Engagement Central,” with links to meetings and agendas, alert notifications, Freedom of Information Act request forms, news, the town’s cable-access channel and request forms for services.
• “Doing Business,” with links to business, employment and economic-development information.
• “Your Government,” featuring links to town departments, the Town Council, boards and commissions, budgetary information, courts, strategic plan and code sections.
• “Getting to Know Vienna,” with links to prominent sites and activities, demographic data, newcomer information and town history.
Below that are round blue buttons for “Make a Payment,” “Public Meeting Participation,” “May 4 Town Election,” “Rec Program Registration” and “Employment Opportunities.” Further down are some top Vienna news articles, an events calendar and contact information, including a staff directory.
All town agencies participated in the Website’s overhaul, led by the communications-and-marketing and information-technology departments. Officials kicked off redesign efforts in the second half of 2019 and worked with the town’s Website provider, Granicus.
Developing the site’s content cost about $29,000 and the town spent about $35,000 with Granicus to redevelop the Website, Coan said.
The town developed a Website-user profile and goals for the new site, including making it less clunky and bulky and more attractive, streamlined, easier to navigate and focused on users’ priorities, rather than the town government’s, she said. Officials whittled down the previous site’s 700-plus pages to about 250 on the new version.
“There was a good deal of copy left out or at least made more concise and, we hope, easier to understand,” Coan said. “We are trying to use our new Website as an important informational tool, rather than as an archive. Users still can find issues of the Vienna Voice dating back to 1966 and meeting agendas and minutes, though.”
Officials worked with Granicus to develop the Website’s design and “wireframe,” or two-dimensional skeletal outline. They also incorporated the town’s current logo and style, then began creating a new sitemap, or the list of pages within the Website’s domain.
Town officials sidelined the Website project for several months after the pandemic hit. After coronavirus-related work continued to occupy the government’s communications department, the town hired Granicus to develop content.
Officials conducted a “soft launch” of the site, then had staff perform internal testing, updating and reorganizing. Officials also sent links to the “staging” site to at least two dozen people who are active with the town and asked them to find a list of specific items on the site and tell what the experience was like.
The town received about 10 comments back, most of them favorable. Some respondents said the new site looked “fresh” and “bold,” Coan said.
The town as of late last week had not received much feedback regarding the new site, but Sonya Arrington of the North East Vienna Citizens Association was enthusiastic.
“I navigated through your new Website and I can’t tell you how much more user-friendly it is!” she wrote in an e-mail to the town. “It is laid out so well and logically. I cringed at the thought of going to Vienna’s old Website, because it was like trying to find a needle in a haystack.”