Saturday, August 23, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Montco's new website -- what do you think?

The county commissioners are excited about their "new and improved" website, but we'd like to know what you -- the user! -- think of it. Is it easier to find what you're looking for?

Montco's new website -- what do you think?

If you are anything like me, you've learned to navigate montcopa.org like the back of your hand.  And you may have freaked out momentarily when you opened the website today and it didn't look like the back of your hand anymore. 

The county's official website launched a redesign today with "exciting new graphics and significantly improved accessibility and interaction," according to the county commissioners.

It always takes a few days (or weeks) to get used to a site redesign.  But at first glance, the site visuals are certainly more streamlined and modern.  Rotating images showcase some of Montco's gems -- Perkiomen's Mum Mountain; the Schuylkill River Bike Trail; the county courthouse; downtown Narberth. 

The new homepage has less content and more navigation.  Hundreds of pages of information are nested into menus that unfold when you hover the mouse.  The goal is that with a single click, users can get the exact page they need from the homepage.  Or, they can use the search bar or the "How Do I" menu. 

For those who use the website A LOT, there's a feature to log in and customize your information.  I'm interested to see how many people sign up for this feature. 

As with the old website, bidding requests, campaign spending reports and other open-government documents are posted and searchable.  Contact information for department heads, row officers and other county staff is very easy to find.

The calendar feature is cool, as is the embedded Google Translation for 65 languages.  It appears easy to apply for a passport, register to vote, find job openings, etc.

The redesign took nine months and cost $267,199 -- including four years of site support and maintenance, the commissioners said.  Designers are developing a payment portal, so that residents can pay taxes, fees and fines online.

Unlike the commissioners, I never found the old site (designed in 2005) to be cumbersome or hard to navigate.  Compared to most government sites, it was pretty helpful and sensical.  But this new site definitely is not worse than the old one, and I suspect after playing around with it for a few days I might like it better.

What do you think?  Did you use the county website before?  Is the new one better, or just different?  Worth the expenditure?  Too graphic?  Favorite features?  Tell us in the comments!

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Jessica Parks and Carolyn Davis
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