New city website set for launch on Monday
The City of Merritt is getting ready to launch the town’s new website, which Economic Development Manager James Umpherson said promises to “blow everybody away.”
The launch is scheduled for Monday, with additional features set to roll out over the coming months.
“The look is phenomenal,” Umpherson said. “It’s also a radical change from our current website, and if you were going to look at them side by side, you would see a significant change.”
Perhaps the most dramatic change is to live streaming of public meetings at City Hall. The content will also be archived on the website, where people can access previous meetings.
The city’s leisure services manager Larry Plotnikoff said the first meetings will likely be streamed by the end of February, but an exact date hasn’t been decided.
“For now, we only have provisions for council meetings, but of course that could be expanded to include others as well, once we work out any bugs,” he said. “It’ll be on the city page, but it will be a link. The beauty is people can tap into the meetings, but they can fast-forward and get a excerpt of it instead of watching the whole meeting.”
Other streams could include Committee of the Whole meetings and public hearings.
Plotnikoff said the format would follow Kamloops’ municipal streaming setup, as both municipalities use the same company.
In addition to the streaming, the new website will include brochure flip books, a banner newsfeed, inquiry options, links to specific organizations, and information about living and doing business in Merritt.
Umpherson said the new website is much more visually appealing and drop-down menus are available for most features.
“We are telling the community and those on the World Wide Web that we know this is a living process,” he said. “We’ve got as much as we can on the new website, but we also want people’s feedback about how we can improve it by telling us what they would like to see.”
The process to develop the new website began around this time last year, during budget season.
Umpherson said he proposed the $25,000 line item to council because the last website was outdated, wasn’t user friendly and it didn’t allow for the easy perusal of documents.
After budget approval, staff worked with developer Acro Media Inc. to decide on the details, such as buttons and the overarching Western theme.
Migrating the documents and other content from the former site is major part of the development.
That requires a lot of work from city staff and Acro.
“In the existing website we have about 10 years of information that needed to be migrated to the new website,” Umpherson said.
The site is the first municipal website Acro has developed.
“That’s the beauty,” Umpherson said. “This is a leading-edge website development company that has won Canadian and international awards for their website design.”
He said the city went with a developer new to municipalities partly because standard templates set out by companies that regularly design for cities don’t accommodate Merritt’s unique needs.
“We would have needed to modify [the templates] anyway, so it was easier to go in and say, ‘This is what we require,’” Umpherson said.
But the process is far from over, he added.
“We are hoping to look down the road at certain things that request things, and do things that aren’t there right now,” he said. “It’s an evolution. We don’t know when we will do them, but we are going to continually evolve.”
The city is scheduled to unveil the new website on Monday at 2:30 p.m. at City Hall.