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  • Success Story
  • Sunnyvale, CA

How Sunnyvale Adapted an Agile Approach to Updating Website


Identified as the “Heart of Silicon Valley” and home to such tech titans as Google and Apple, Sunnyvale, California, was recently named the “happiest city in America” thanks in part to low poverty and crime rates. Home to a racially diverse population of over 155,000 residents, the City of Sunnyvale’s digital presence needs to reflect the tech-savvy expectations of their community. Moving to Granicus’ govAccess CMS platform allowed the city to up their digital experience to keep pace with customer expectations and needs.

“I was able to finally make upgrades and changes to the site navigationally and template-wise that I hadn't been able to before. The new CMS allowed me to implement on our data findings to meet customer needs. It made making website changes simple.”
Lynn Stuart, Web and Communications Specialist, City of Sunnyvale, California


  • 17% improvement in accessibility
  • 98% trustworthiness score
  • 9% increase in mobile responsiveness
  • 6% increase in SEO score
Must have Granicus Solutions

Building Government Communications that Keep Pace with Technology

In 2022, Stuart said that a pending change to their CMS platform allowed her to not only spark a design refresh of the city’s website but set the stage to finding a solution that could increase compliance with accessibility standards, improve technical options and flexibility in a CMS, and allow enhanced online services and user experience.

“We were on a soon-to-be deprecated platform, so we had to get off of that,” she said. “In that content management system, I was limited in my ability to effect navigational changes, limited in the ability to move or hide pages, and limited in page template options. Our Web Team was similarly challenged by the clunky user interface and the “work arounds” we employed to function in the CMS. I hoped to find a more flexible, technically up-to-date, and easier-to-use solution.”

Stuart had led a major website redesign in 2017 where every aspect of the website was redone, from change of platform to creating user-focused navigation to rewriting every word of content; even to including a city rebranding. The 2022 project’s goals were to build on those results: increase compliance with accessibility standards, maintain and improve what worked, and enhance online services and user experience.

“When you only update your website every five years, the technology moves so fast you’re already far out of date,” Stuart said. “If you wait 10 years — like it had been when I joined the city — your website can’t be functional for anyone. Our website philosophy is one of ongoing continuous improvement based on data-driven decisions.

“Basically, instead of replacing the entire vehicle,” she continued, “we wanted to tune the engine, align the wheels, and give it an overall polish.”


Tools That Bring the Flexibility to Rebuild

After reviewing proposals, Stuart’s team chose Granicus’ govAccess platform to not only provide the backbone for their digital refresh, but to provide the flexibility to meet their overarching goal of continuous improvement.

“Being able to be on a brand-new updated platform was a breath of fresh air,” Stuart said. “Because now I can make those changes that I want to make. I don’t have to struggle over them or say, ‘Oh, we’ll have to wait for a redesign.’”

Having a trim, nimble website was a critical goal, she added, to meeting user needs.

“We know people aren’t coming to the site to read through it with a cup of coffee in hand; they’re in a hurry,” said Stuart. “They’re task oriented. People don’t read online, they scan. We want to provide a website that is as streamlined as possible so they can easily access our services and information. That’s a priority goal for us and we keep that in mind.”

With the new CMS, the team was able to easily improve the site with more template options, graphics, and icons.

“It’s wonderful having the flexibility to easily create new pages, remove or hide others, design new landing pages, and make changes to the navigation,” Stuart said. “That’s really helped us meet user needs and improve our user experience.”

An Aquatics Department landing page redesigned in response to customer requests, upleveling lesser-known programs, saw a 12% increase in visitor traffic to the page.

“Part of keeping what worked is our site search,” Stuart added. “Thanks to the integration, we were able to not only include that third-party site search in our updated site, but the refreshed design makes the search bar more prominent. You can find anything on our site using our site search. We continue to be very happy with that.”

The flexibility of the new CMS and its technical options allowed Sunnyvale to make significant strides toward their project goal of enhancing online services. They’ve made use of the CMS’s option to display a task-oriented mobile view of their site’s homepage, giving quick access to top services to their community on-the-go. And the system’s page template options permit seamless integration with their new third-party online forms solution.


Metric Success that Builds a Path for Future Growth

Since integrating govAccess in 2022, Sunnyvale has been able to make significant strides toward their project goals and enhance user experience for the better.

Aided by the flexibility and ease of creating compliant templates and functionality, and with the design changes to fix the color contrast issues of the previous design, Sunnyvale’s compliance rate with accessibility standards increased by 17%.

“Granicus built the CMS with accessibility top of mind,” Stuart said.

In their efforts to enhance online services and user experience, Sunnyvale was able to build on previous success, achieving a trustworthiness metric of 98.5% (a mark 22% higher than government benchmarks) and growing their responsiveness metric by almost 10% to 43%.

“Making site search prominent in the site design and streamlining our homepage and megamenus made it easier to highlight popular topics,” Stuart said. “And embedding other communications options, such as govDelivery, in the website footer created an instant way for users to access, subscribe to, or manage City communications.”

When it came to Sunnyvale’s goal of maintaining and improving what works, the continued impact of SEO for findability played a significant role, supported by govAccess’ native URL creation, along with the site’s use of single-topic-focused webpages.


“SEO is really important,” Stuart said of the 6% rise in SEO score the site saw in the last year. “I don’t think it’s something that people really think about for a government site. But external search is how a lot of people find content on your website. Knowing which areas of your site people mostly arrive at through external search is important knowledge. You want to make sure you have appropriate naming, expected content, and supportive linking to relevant related topics.”

The key to continued success for Stuart for the city’s websites continues to be the willingness to evolve in response to the needs of the community. The ongoing improvements to the website owe their achievements to data-driven decisions and customer feedback.

Stuart relies on multiple sources of information including robust analytics programs that, besides basics such as visitor traffic, provide webpage heat and click maps, user journeys, and search terms used; an on-page website feedback module for site visitors; and quarterly communication with city staff who service the counters and answer the phones for each department and are on the front lines of community engagement.

“Our front-line staff are the ones who get community input and response right away,” Stuart said. “We hear when callers from the community can’t find something, for example, and we can work to accommodate that.”

Maintaining website standards is critical to keeping the website current and ensuring optimal user experience. To that end, Stuart set up a governance model with what she calls a “small, but highly trained Web Team” of 20 cross-departmental representatives, staying up to date with changes, requirements, and maintaining a united voice for digital progress for the website.

To help meet accessibility and readability goals for the website, putting on training classes for both the web team and the organization on digital content readability is part of the process.

“Staff doesn’t necessarily understand why we need to make digital content a certain readability level for people,” Stuart said. “So, we deliver ongoing writing training workshops for the organization that really helps us have them understand why readability and plain language use is important and moves us away from bureaucratic-legalistic content. And having readable content is a component of meeting accessibility requirements.

“There’s a lot more to creating and maintaining a successful website than its design,” Stuart concluded. “The website is never ‘done.’ It takes ongoing monitoring, maintenance, data analysis and feedback, plus organizational support, and knowledgeable ‘gatekeepers’ in your web team to keep it at its best. Add to that, technology and standards are always changing. You’ll certainly never be bored!”

The City of Sunnyvale, California is a recipient of the 2023 Granicus Digital Government Website of the Year Award.