Combining Services to Efficiently Meet the Needs of a Growing Suburb
With a bustling town of more than 80,000 residents, Shelby Township’s leaders knew the time was right to replace their outdated website with a modern, reliable, easy-to-use community hub for residents, visitors and taxpayers. They wanted a tool that could provide the kind of experience their media-savvy constituents have come to expect in their daily digital lives. Thanks to the Granicus civic engagement platform, they were able to get up to date and stay on budget.
Shelby Township, Macomb County, Michigan, was feeling the growing pains that come with an expanding population: The Detroit suburb had an outdated website trying to serve a digitally-savvy population of more than 80,000 residents and counting.
“The last time the township looked at our website was before we had a Community Relations Department,” said Brad Bates, Shelby Township’s Community Relations Director. “The old site was static. Essentially, our website was a digital billboard.”
The township had a team dedicated to content development and a need to better engage with citizens digitally. However, the former website did not afford the ability to interact and increase engagement with residents, visitors and taxpayers. Bates’ team sought to modernize their civic web presence, but they had to do it without breaking the bank.
“Everything we do is through the prism of making sure we provide the best possible service to our residents at the lowest possible cost,” Bates said. “We knew we needed to increase our website budget, but, after a thorough bidding process, we found Granicus provided all the services we were looking for without breaking our budget.”
Consolidating govAccess and govMeetings
When it came time to find a solution that could provide a modern experience, reliability and government-grade security, Shelby Township was fortunate to have one close at hand. The Shelby Township Clerk’s Office had already integrated Granicus’ govMeetings IQM2 for agendas, minutes and civic streaming. By adding the service-centric govAccess website solution to the govMeetings software, Bates presented a solution that brought multiple services under a common umbrella.
“Based on our experience with Granicus on the IQM2 product, we knew govAccess would cover the support portion of our needs analysis,” said Bates, “I was extremely impressed by the level of Granicus’ commitment to staff support throughout our design process, too.”
From there, the team went to work, working with the Community Relations Department, bringing together content across a variety of departments. They updated and streamlined content, which allowed the implementation of a robust search function. Previously, the search function had been removed due to too many outdated results being provided.
The new platform also allowed the staff to take ownership of engagement-heavy content that, due to the previous website’s limitations, had been hosted on Facebook. Doing so positioned the Community Relations team to deepen community relationships more directly while cross-promoting related information to build and sustain overall engagement.
“Our community is more media and tech-savvy than ever before, with a demand for high-end, graphically pleasing content to draw them to a site and its information,” Bates said. “To address these changes in the culture, we worked with Granicus to overhaul the site and add a lot of function for our residents and improve our presentation to new visitors.
“Having functions that increase ease-of-use, such as widgets, photos and online polls, it helps us better engage with the users,” added Bates. “Now we can manage those tools, own the content and control the traffic on the back end as we need it.”
Problem-Free Ease-of-Use at a Third of the Price
Sometimes the best response is no response at all. For Bates and the Shelby Township Community Relations Department, the true success in these early stages of their new web presence has been the lack of complaints.
“Our team knows when people are unhappy, believe me,” said Bates. “Now, more times than not, we aren’t receiving those types of calls. They’re finding what they need online. Silence is everything we need to know it’s working. It’s a stark change.”
Not all praise for the new web presence has been silent, though. Public comments from Shelby Township’s elected trustees noted the ease at which the new website provides both answers to common requests and intuitive navigation. Granicus’ reputation for government work also stands out for Shelby Township Supervisor Rick Stathakis, who told local press after the website launch that “… it’s good to know Shelby Township has the same level of protection as the most secure agencies in our federal government.”
For Bates, though, the balance of quality and price stands out from the project.
“During our predesign work, we looked at some municipalities that had faced similar redesign projects, and their budgets reached more than $100,000,” said Bates. “When we showed the Supervisor those sites next to our finished site, it was gratifying to have him acknowledge that our site had a better user experience, and it was created for one-third the price.
“And we are finding the value keeps growing as we realize more functionality with the site,” Bates added. “Our library was looking at redesigning their site and finding a new host. After talking with the staff, though, we found we could bring the library under the Granicus site’s umbrella. We no longer need to pay a separate host or design firm for the library because govAccess offers all of the tools we need with the ease of access for our employees and library patrons.”
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