A cool makeover for Dare County's website - Shooting The Breeze

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A cool makeover for Dare County's website

Friday 09 December 2016 at 6:36 pm.

If you haven't been on Dare County's website in a while -- or if you've never been there at all -- you will probably be pleasantly surprised at what you will find.

This year, the site has gotten a makeover -- a new design, along with upgrades and improvements -- but not so much that regular users will be confused by it.

"We are really excited," Dorothy Hester, the county's public information officer, told the Board of Commissioners at its Nov. 7 meeting.  "The Dare County website is the most effective tool we have for communicating."

Hester told the commissioners that the county has had a website since 1999 that has undergone many updates over the years.  

I've always thought that even before the most recent makeover, the site was pretty nifty for a county the size of Dare.

Hester said that over a year's time, the site has had 395,000 visits and 5 million page views. People who used the site spent at average of four minutes and looked at an average of six pages. The most used part of the county website is the tax records, which is probably no surprise.

Though the website had served the county well, it was getting to be time for some more upgrades -- it's hard to stay in front of technology.

If you haven't been on Dare County's website in a while -- or if you've never been there at all -- you will probably be pleasantly surprised at what you will find.

 

This year, the site has gotten a makeover -- a new design, along with upgrades and improvements -- but not so much that regular users will be confused by it.

 

"We are really excited," Dorothy Hester, the county's public information officer, told the Board of Commissioners at its Nov. 7 meeting. "The Dare County website is the most effective tool we have for communicating."

 

Hester told the commissioners that the county has had a website since 1999 that has undergone many updates over the years.

 

I've always thought that even before the most recent makeover, the site was pretty nifty for a county the size of Dare.

 

Hester said that over a year's time, the site has had 395,000 visits and 5 million page views. People who used the site spent at average of four minutes and looked at an average of six pages. The most used part of the county website is the tax records, which is probably no surprise.

 

Though the website had served the county well, it was getting to be time for some more upgrades -- it's hard to stay in front of technology.

With the support of the county board and about $41,000 in funding, the Public Relations Department and the Information Technology Department went to work on the upgrades.  

The site has everything it did before -- and more.

It was unveiled on Monday, Nov. 14, and county staff members are still working on refining some aspects and functions.

Media specialist Sara Small of the Public Relations Department, who led the way on the project, went through the upgrades and improvements with the board members.

At the top of her list was noting that the site has something called a CMS -- a content management system.  Basically, this allows an appointed person in each county department to keep that department's page updated, rather than having all changes and additions posted by tech folks.

The CMS makes keeping the site up- to-date easier and makes the work more efficient.

Keeping the site updated is, in my view, the really important part of this.  In the past, some pages just didn't get updated often enough, probably because of a logjam of website tasks, which are now spread over more staff members.

There are built in checks and balances, so that supervisors and public relations staff members see and approve posts before they go live.

The new site is more compatible with mobile devices -- phones and pads.  It also allows users to share stories, calendars, events, and the like on social media, which Hester thinks is a big "plus" for county residents.

The home page of the site is dominated by attractive rotating photos and stories. It has an "In the Spotlight" section for what's trending, and a place for news releases, event listings, and a calendar of public meetings.

Because tax information is the most used part of the site, users will still find it in the bar at the top of the page.

Here are some of the things you can do on the county website -- not all are new features but they are improved and you may not have known about them before.

  • Find county departments with explanations of what they do and how to reach them.
  • A "How do I?" section with instructions on just about everything you can think of from volunteering to getting licenses for dogs, marriages, and duck blinds.  You can find out how to download tax maps and flood maps, pay occupancy taxes, water bills, and real estate taxes, and search county job listings, land transfers, and trash schedules
  • See a  list of upcoming public meetings.
  • Listen to a Board of Commissioners meeting live or view it on video after the meeting.  See the agendas for upcoming meetings.
  • Check the activities calendar at the Fessenden Center -- or any other county venue.  There is also a special calendar for older adults and for youngsters.
  • See the latest video update on the Bonner Bridge replacement construction.
  • Read the site in your native language if you are not an English speaker -- which is important for a county with a sizeable Hispanic population and many foreign students who work here in the summer.
  • Find out how to register to vote.  Find out the latest election results.
  • Keep up with announcements and information before, during, and after storms.  You can also find out how to prepare for a storm.
  • Links to the county's towns, schools, and to the Visitors Bureau, along with other local state and federal agencies.
  • Information on services for families, senior citizens, and even animals.
  • County ordinances and vital records.
  • A link to the Sheriff's Office with the office programs and news releases.  You can sign up to be notified when a news release is issued. Also on the page is a survey that citizens can fill out on the Sheriff's Office's performance and give their feedback.
  • See Dare County budgets and capital improvement plans.
  • Find out about Dare advisory boards and committees, including a list of them, the members of the boards, when terms are expiring, and vacancies. You can also apply to serve on the boards.

This last aspect of the web site is one that I really like -- and the commissioners do also, especially Margarette Umphlett, who speaks at almost every board meeting about the need to get more citizens involved in advisory boards and committees.

Some residents complain that the some people keep getting appointed to these boards and committees or that they don't apply because they don 't know what the vacancies are.

I have seen the commissioners play politics with a few board appointments, but, by and large, they seem sincere in their desire to get more of us to serve on these committees.

Try it -- you might like it.

As the website gets refined, you will eventually be able to apply for a job or have county news emailed to you -- specifying what kinds of news  you are interested in. For instance, you could have the holiday trash schedules sent directly to your inbox.

The county staff has done a really nice job, I think, on this site.  Take a look --  www.darenc.com -- and let them know what you think.

There is a place to do that also -- click on "contact us."

two comments

Dewey Parr

Thanks for bringing this to my attention. Checked out http://www.darenc.com Agree it is a great site. Was able to get a complete update on taxes and find out about a lot of other neat things happening in the county.

Dewey Parr - 10-12-’16 17:31
BB

Thank you very much for this Irene!

BB - 13-12-’16 08:19




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