Dublin.OH.US has been recognized by Juggle as one of the top city government websites in the state of Ohio. Below you'll find an interview with Bruce Edwards, Web Editor for the City of Dublin.
- Dublin.OH.US is a top-notch web portal; what has been your role in its development?
Dublin started their website in 1999. I was hired as the city’s first Web Editor/Designer in 2000. It is funny to look back at not just the city’s website but all sites in the late 90s. From frames to CSS, php and MySql, my role has always been to keep the city’s website on the cutting edge of web standards. There are now two web positions in the city. It is a testament to the value City Council places on being a leader in local government.
- Can you summarize the history of Dublin's website?
When I started the site was laid out in frames and every image on the site was labeled 1 through 100 with a notebook that kept track of what each image was.
I didn’t jump right in a change things. I needed to do my homework. Looking at usage stats played a big role in how the site needed to be set-up. In 2000 the International City/County Management Association (ICMA) put out a special report called Local Government On-Line. This helped shape the focus of our site.
In 2001 the new site went live built using php, allowing greater flexibility than html and asp at the time.
Since then the site has had three major ‘refreshes.’ With each refresh we looked at how the site could be better based on trends and usage statistics.
- What are the overarching objectives of Dublin's current e-government initiatives?
We established three strategic goals with the city’s website:
- Maximize the availability of relevant and credible information;
- Strengthen the capacity of individuals to engage with information; and
- Promote individual engagement with information and the public life of the community.
- From a marketing standpoint, what are some of the strategies that you have utilized to draw attention to the information and services provided by Dublin's portal, both on- and off-line?
We started with how we coded the site. We used key words and meta tags from day one to boost our rankings on search engines. Anytime someone looks for Dublin we wanted our site to come up. After our first refresh in 2001 we did an online contest to show the average Dubliner’s knowledge of the city. This was publicized on our other outlets at the time. It drove a lot of new traffic to the site. We started to promote the site on all print pieces and started to push more content on the site.
- How has citizen feedback influenced the development of Dublin's e-government services?
Citizen feedback has driven what we do on the web. We do a community survey every two years. Based on what residents want we have adapted to their needs with our online recreation registration, online tax tool, Service Request Center.
- What is the most-used feature or service on the site?
Search still comes in first, second only to our online job application page.
- In what way has harnessing social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) allowed you to connect more directly and personally with the citizens of Dublin?
Social media has opened more doors. It allows us to attract larger audiences and engage them more deeply in long-term relationships. The online experience has become more interactive and social media has facilitated ongoing dialogues between the City of Dublin and our audiences. Using Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, Flickr and Podcasts, we have established and re-enforced our outreach to our audiences and encourage public engagement.
- What has been the biggest hurdle in developing and/or maintaining Dublin's portal, and how did you overcome it?
I think the biggest challenge is trying to figure out where the web goes next. Social media has changed the game a bit. But, I think mobile apps are the future.
- Where do you see e-government heading in the next 2-3 years? Are there any exciting new features or services currently in the works for Dublin web portal?
Again I think with the onslaught of smart phones, mobile is the future of the web. We are developing iPhone and Android apps that will connect with resident needs.
- What else that you would like to tell us about Dublin.OH.US?
We are very fortunate to have a well wired community and a forward thinking City Council. We want to continue to support widespread knowledge of and participation in the community’s day-to-day life by all segments of the community by the creation, organization, analysis and transmission of information to the whole community via new and emerging digital communication tools.