COVINGTON, Ky. - Covington residents, businesses and visitors may find getting information about the city easier these days. On Sept. 31, the City of Covington officially launched its new website.The updated version promises better design, more information on core municipal services and accurate, up-to-date information.
According to marketing and communications director Natalie Bowers, the City of Covington redesigned its website after receiving countless requests for more interactivity. The original website was launched more than 12 years ago, and Bowers said the city fell abysmally behind the times--with the site becoming more of an albatross than an asset.
“So they finally had somebody to do it,” she said. “It was something the organization realized they had to do, but like every other municipality we’re understaffed. So this project was on the 'to-do list,' but they didn’t have anybody to do it.”
Covington-based web design firm, Systems Insight built the site, Bowers said, at a price the city could afford.
“Systems Insight went above and beyond by donating over 50 percent of the cost for developing the website,” she said. “It’s as if they gave us this website for free, they put so much extra time, money and effort.”
Simpler access to answers, information
The new website is broken down into four major categories: Residents, Business, Visitor and Government.
In addition, breaking news and links to events are displayed on the homepage along with the new 311 online feature which allows users to find information regarding non-emergency services. According to Bowers, Covington residents became increasingly frustrated trying to find answers to simple questions, which is what prompted the 311 section. Covington has no general information number, so she said people would call multiple departments--often, to no avail.
311 topics include:
- Vacant Property Maintenance
- Noise Complaint
- Zoning Concerns
- Yard Waste
- Trash Can Delivery & Repair
- Fire Safety Concerns
- Bulk Trash Pick Up (Oversized and Large Items)
- Leaf Collection
- Traffic Signal Investigations
- Fire Reports
Bowers hopes the new feature will provide a clearer path for those with questions, like how to get a new trash container or how to report a noisy neighbor.
Building a better website
Bowers said Covington studied larger citites' websites and copied the 311 feature.
“In phase two, we’re looking into upgrading 311 so people can submit request as an online service,” she said. “We would love to implement that now, but in the meantime, we’re providing an easy access portal to information.”
Bowers said the new website fits with city manager Larry Klein’s two-fold reinvestment plan for the city. She explained the first strategy involves looking toward long-term growth and investment by planning five years out as opposed to year to year.
She said the second facet focuses on providing excellent customer service. She said the strategy will strengthen the city’s internal structure ultimately providing businesses, residents and visitors better access to core municipal services. The website will allow for ongoing feedback from users and increased transparency for the city.
“Our citizens have made it clear that they want easier communications between themselves and their government,” Klein said. “They want it in an easy to find format, and they want access to city services accessible from their mobile devices. We responded, and this updated website should help to bridge any perceived gap between our residents and City Hall."
Local company builds site
Even though the site is already receiving positive reviews, Bowers said it is still a work in progress and will be continually updated based on feedback from users. She encourages people to use the link on the homepage to share their ideas.
She said one of primary complaints from previous users was the site was impossible to find in any search engine. She explained the new site moved from page four or five when users searched "Covington KY" on Google, to the first page of results.
Systems Insight designed the old website for the city. Vice president of web development and design David Green said the company were eager to update its work when the city called. He explained the new site is “responsive,” which refers to users being able to access the site using any device--including laptops, tablets and smartphones.
“Knowing how popular the mobile phones are, there are a bunch of studies that are saying halfway through next year, 2014, we’re going to have a shift from the most popular device being actually the smart phone taking over the desktop for browsing the web,” he said. “So we really want our clients to be ready when that happens.”
Located in Covington for more than 15 years, Green said Systems Insight is dedicated to supporting the city's success. He explained the new site will be a great tool for small businesses as they can now easily access pertinent information.
The firm designed websites for a number of other municipalities including the Kentucky League of Cities (KLC) and Northern Kentucky USA. Green said it were able to leverage their experience to create a dynamic and user-friendly resource for residents and stakeholders.
“Obviously from the end-user’s perspective, the design aspects were made to simplify everything. It doesn’t need to be difficult, just quick and easy,” Green said. “We’ve got 311, we’ve got search powered by Google. From the administration perspective, the more content they post the better, so making it easy as possible to do that.”
City of Covington: At a glance
- Population – 40,713 (2012)
- Businesses – 4,781 (2013)
- Estimated median household income – $34,873 (2012)
- Median home value – $107,340 (2011)
- Unemployment rate – 8.4% (July 2013)