Blue Ridge, Georgia Modernizes Website While Evolving Citizen Services
Southern Living Magazine named Blue Ridge, Georgia one of the 2020 South’s Best Mountain Towns and a 2019 Top Small Mountain Town for Retirement. That’s a good reflection of how this mountain town in North Georgia attracts both residents and tourists with its natural beauty, trout fishing, outdoor activities, shops, restaurants, and festivals. Incorporated in 1886, this city of about 1,300 residents is surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains and rests at the foot of the Appalachian Trail.
Such a city needs a website that stays equal to the task of showing off its best face to the world while also serving the residents who have chosen this mountain town as their home. As technology and website expectations evolve over time, the City of Blue Ridge needs to keep its website fresh and modern—but without the periodic high costs of a redesign. That’s where VC3’s Manage Essentials helped the city redesign and refresh its website—without any additional cost.
Refreshing and Modernizing the City of Blue Ridge’s Website
As part of Manage Essentials, a complete website redesign was included that typically costs municipalities a lot of money. The City of Blue Ridge worked with VC3's municipal-experienced website professionals to:
- Design a completely new look and feel: City staff worked together with VC3 on a new website design. For example, the homepage now contains a beautiful overhead view of Blue Ridge’s downtown—featuring a stunning visual of the city.
- Prioritize important information on the homepage: Residents can now get to important information even faster on the homepage. The City let us know about residents’ most visited pages, so we made items such as city ordinances, online payments, agendas and minutes, city news, upcoming events, and reporting an issue more front and center.
- Simplify the organization of information on the website: It’s always a good idea to periodically revisit and improve how information is organized on a website—especially when new information is added to the website nearly every day. We helped the city remove outdated content, rename and reorganize the main navigational tabs, and ensure each webpage is more focused. For example, the city’s Agendas and Minutes page for City Council meetings is much better organized—with easy access to archived agendas and minutes going back many years.
- Modernize the online payment functionality: We helped the city modernize its online payment functionality by centralizing the payment options in one place, giving the payment options a new look and feel, and ensuring that residents can easily find these options.
- Ensure the new design was mobile-friendly: Each year, more and more people prefer to use the mobile version of a city’s website. We ensured that the redesigned website was more mobile-friendly than ever—using a responsive design that adapts the website layout to fit the screen of different mobile devices, incorporates better visuals and easy-to-use buttons, and ensures that the text size is easy to read.
- Comply with website accessibility guidelines: The website content was created to comply with Section 508 and WCAG 2.0 accessibility guidelines (levels A and AA). This ensures that people with disabilities can access the city’s website and online services.
Benefits of a Manage Essentials Website
Some of the website benefits the city experiences as part of Manage Essentials include:
- A customized design (and periodic redesigns) at no additional cost: A redesign can typically become a significant budget item for a small municipality. As part of Manage Essentials, the City of Blue Ridge periodically receives a professional website redesign without any additional cost.
- Saved staff time responding to requests: The new website prioritized information, such as city ordinances, that previously tied up a lot of staff time when residents requested this information by phone or email. By putting important information at residents’ fingertips, the website did the heavy lifting and freed up staff time.
- Unlimited webpages: The city is not limited to a set number when adding new webpages, and the VC3 web team can help employees publish these pages.
- The ability for city employees to upload their own content—or receive help: On the backend of the website, city employees can easily upload and publish content. This is especially useful for timely content and ensuring transparency when new information needs to be shared with residents. While VC3 trained city staff to upload content themselves, VC3 is available to help whenever employees get too busy, or a content upload becomes too technical. The ability to post updates themselves freed up time for employees to focus on more job-specific tasks.
- Payment capabilities that evolve with technology: As payment capabilities evolve, so does the site. Citizens with computers, smartphones, and tablets can use the city’s website to pay water bills, taxes, licenses, and traffic fines—quickly, securely, and compliantly.
- An appealing website for new residents: When people think about moving to or applying for a job in a new area, it’s likely they will look at the city’s website as part of their research. With an appealing website, Blue Ridge looks good to newcomers expecting professionalism and pride from a city. Plus, newcomers can also more easily access information about the city.
With VC3 helping redesign and reimagine how the city presents itself to the world, the City of Blue Ridge continues to look as good in the digital space as it does in its natural space. Serving residents online has never been easier.
Nathan Fitts, Council Member
City of Blue Ridge, Georgia
So many people expect web-based services today, and a city or town can seem last century if the website doesn’t exist or feels obsolete. Many website companies give you a dog and pony show, make a lot of promises, and fail to deliver on them. Given the website outline we created, VC3 did a great job following everything that we wanted to include in our new website. It’s the only time I’ve ever designed a website where that actually happened. We could trust what VC3 planned to deliver to us and are extremely happy with the end results.