Kalamazoo is a city situated in southwestern Michigan and is equidistant from Detroit and Chicago. An estimated population of about 75,000 residents and industry leaders in pharmaceuticals, medical science, and craft beer call Kalamazoo home. To keep residents current on community news, events, and meetings, Kalamazoo city officials wanted a modern, easy-to-use website that was both user friendly and easy to update on the backend.
Usability and consistency across the website were concerns for Kalamazoo and the team wanted an opportunity to streamline the content and rebuild the site from the ground up without the high expense. Rather than pursue an expensive custom site development, Kalamazoo leaders implemented the Granicus digital solutions OpenCities and OpenForms to achieve these goals.
“There’s no doubt [OpenCities] has positively impacted people’s experience online with our city.”
Implementing Procedures and Technology Solutions to Build Consistency, Improve Experience
Kalamazoo is a robust city, hosting hundreds of meetings and events every year. Making the community aware of news had largely relied on one person from each department to coordinate, update, and post content on a regular basis. This process resulted in inconsistency and frustration among residents when content on the site was outdated or inaccurate. Additionally, many pages simply included links to PDFs without explanation of how to accomplish tasks, like apply for permits, or find general city information.
That Kalamazoo site was also lacking an effective search function. City government can be confusing to residents, and it can be challenging to know where to go on the site to find important information. With so many meetings and events occurring in the city, Kalamazoo officials knew that giving visitors the ability to search for a term that would bring them directly to the information would be a valuable addition to the website.
Improving Site Usability with Modern Digital Solutions
Introducing OpenCities and OpenForms to streamline the Kalamazoo website resulted in a more consistent user experience. The OpenCities solution provided navigation recommendations which aligned with Kalamazoo’s goals for the website. Implementing the platform’s search and map functions allowed users to find information quickly and more easily.
Additionally, Kalamazoo’s website had received criticism because residents were having a hard time finding information on community meetings. The platform’s calendar and events functions were a major improvement in presenting accurate meeting information in a clear, visual format. These digital solutions allowed Kalamazoo staff to convert PDFs into content on pages, which greatly improved the website’s usability. These service pages now contain detailed information on processes and serve as helpful resources for both internal staff and Kalamazoo residents
Residents were quick to express their positive feedback for the new site. One resident tweeted at the city:
“I like that residents’ most common ‘jobs to be done’ are front-and-center. The ‘enter your address’ to find personally relevant service and amenity info is excellent.”
Digital Solutions Bring More Site Visitors, Higher Quality Site Visits
The impact of OpenCities and OpenForms has been widespread. The Kalamazoo team saw a 5% increase in users, and a 10% increase in new users. Site sessions increased by 22% and pages per session decreased by 48%, suggesting that more people are using the site and are finding what they need faster. Visitors are coming to the site differently as well – mobile users increased by 26% and desktop users decreased by 12%.
Digital solutions were pivotal in helping Kalamazoo convert PDF files to searchable service pages. Kalamazoo leaders estimate that 90% of their existing PDFs were converted to content pages. More than three times as many services are now available as webforms that can be completed easily from a computer or mobile device. In the last six months the city has received more than 4,300 responses to these online forms.
“I love how easy it is to use and administer OpenForms. The user experience is really modern and simple.”