Sharing information can be a challenge for all organizations, but county government has a responsibility to be as transparent as possible to its citizens. This responsibility was the key motivation for Transylvania County Commissioners to release a newly revamped website in May.
“County government is diverse with a wide range of services to citizens. While sometimes it isn’t as apparent, the functions of our county government are serving all citizens every hour, every day of the year. This can range from the operation of our public safety agencies to the solid waste site that serves our county and each citizen in it,” Larry Chapman, Chair of the Board of Commissioners, said.
The new website is intended to improve how Transylvania County communicates to citizens about the services provided and available while making it an easier, more personable, experience for anyone to access information. The new website takes into account changing technology to reach users by including formats for viewing on mobile devices in addition to the full site format.
“The number of mobile devices that are connecting to the county website is steadily increasing. In 2014 about 26% percent of the connections to our website were mobile devices. And in 2015 the number increased to 31%. This year it is around 35%. iPhones (Smartphones) rank first, then iPads (Tablets). There are currently 8 billion mobile devices in use around the world. That
is expected to increase to over 10 billion by 2019. Nearly 40% of these devices will be cell phones,” County IT Director, Dean Landreth, said.
The County contracted with Transylvania Web Design and Development (TWDD) to create the new website along with upgrading the capabilities it offers and accomplished goals around accessibility to personality.
"We wanted to build a website which focused on 3 key areas. The website had to be easy to use, so that users could easily find what they are looking for. It needed to be responsive, so that the website could be viewed on a desktop, tablet and mobile devices. We also wanted to show a more personal side, so that users could learn more about the great people that work for them on a daily basis to make the county what it is." TWDD said.
The website is also intended to showcase that county government is primarily based on providing services. According to County Manager, Jaime Laughter, “Our website should not feel like a black box to our citizens. We are an organization of people here to serve the people of this county. I think the new website provides more information while also showing citizens that we are here to serve them.”
Transylvania County included goals around transparency in the strategic plan and the website was proposed in the FY 17 budget as a tool to provide more transparency to the public. Information being easily available was a top priority.
“The ability to easily navigate the website and find what you are looking for in a timely manner was extremely important. Searching through minutes of past meetings by keyword or subject was also one of our objectives. In addition we wanted to integrate the county’s social media presence into our website. Another important piece we added was an “Emergency” notification piece, in other words, we wanted to create a “portal for all things Transylvania County” for citizens as well as visitors,” Landreth said.