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Transforming Your County Website into a Digital Service Portal

County websites serve many important purposes, most notably to serve, engage and inform users. But unlike city websites that cater to specific audiences like residents, businesses and tourists; county websites serve a much broader population comprised of all of the cities, districts, and special interest groups within it.

With such a diverse group of stakeholders, county communications leaders must consider their website users’ distinct needs. What are the most common reasons people visit county websites? What unique services do county websites offer that city websites do not? What devices are people using to access county sites?

While research indicates that mobile usage continues to grow year-over-year on local government websites – the percentage is lower on county versus city websites at 41 percent compared to 49 percent for cities. With this in mind, county website managers should prioritize mobile responsive design, but also find ways to optimize more time-intensive tasks that are often completed on a desktop.

So, what are some of the most common tasks? To find out, Granicus analyzed website data from your peers in county government. Download the full study for a detailed analysis of top tasks by device, and see below for a sneak peek of the top ten county website tasks performed on a desktop:

County website top tasks

As mentioned, several top county website tasks require more time or involve uploading or downloading documents, making them best suited for a desktop. For example, research revealed the most-popular county website task is paying property taxes, which is a whopping 60 percent more likely to be completed on a desktop than on a smartphone. This makes sense, because looking up information about and/or paying property taxes can be a lengthy process that may be more challenging to complete on a mobile device.

It was not a surprise that quicker, on-the-go tasks like looking up county jail information, searching for parks and recreation programs, and finding county clerk information were found to be less common on a desktop and more popular on a smartphone.

Interestingly, looking up GIS information was one of the top county website tasks but didn’t even make the list for cities, despite the fact that city planning departments often provide this information on their websites as well. This indicates that looking up land and mapping information is much more common for county website visitors, and should be optimized accordingly. Furthermore, this task is more than twice as likely to be performed on a desktop than on a smartphone.

With these insights in mind, consider the following ways to create a more service-centric website experience for your users:

Feature a Geo-Finder

Since GIS is a common reason people visit county websites, make sure your website is custom-built to include a geo-finder feature. This provides users with a personalized view of their community based on address or ZIP code look-up that provides location-based information like their polling location or the local trash schedule.

Offer Interactive Maps on Your County Website

Sophisticated county websites often feature interactive maps, allowing users to hover over or click points on a map to access additional information about buildings or public works projects. Consider integrating with a third-party map provider like Esri to optimize these mapping services.

Build Data-Driven Navigation

Leverage user experience research and website data analysis to transform your website into a digital service portal with easy navigation to the most common tasks. For example, use intuitive “I Want To…” or “How Do I…” menus that feature top services, and showcase prominent homepage buttons with quick links to the most-popular tasks. Also consider a search-centric design, especially if your county offers a large variety of services that may not all fit on the homepage.

Stay Ahead of Mobile Trends

Although use of mobile devices to access content on county websites is less prevalent than on city websites, it’s critical to stay ahead of mobile growth trends. Invest in mobile-responsive design so users can easily access information from any device. Optimize on-the-go tasks by building a unique mobile homepage display with customized mobile task buttons.

A County Website is Better When It Uses Digital Forms

Since many county website tasks require submitting information or uploading documents, consider how to make these types of transactions as quick and easy as possible. One way to accomplish this is with digital forms for common tasks like paying property taxes, applying for employment, requesting vital records, and making online payments.

Interested in more tips for optimizing your website? Download the whitepaper for a complete analysis of top tasks performed on county websites, including real examples from Granicus clients.