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Why Is a Municipal Website So Valuable?

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Victoria Boyko
Victoria Boyko, Software Development Consultant

Despite the critical importance of a website in today’s world, too many municipalities still do not have an online presence. Recently, we assessed three states (Georgia, Alabama, and Iowa) that publish online city directories—including whether or not the municipality has a website. After crunching the numbers, we found that approximately:

  • 33 percent of Georgia municipalities do not have a website.
  • 41 percent of Alabama municipalities do not have a website.
  • 44 percent of Iowa municipalities do not have a website.

In 2021, when so many people go online to research and look for information, it is perplexing that hundreds and hundreds of municipalities still operate without a website. No longer a “nice to have,” websites are a must in today’s society because of how often people use the internet. If you’re not visible on the internet, it’s like you don’t exist. Or, if other websites talk about you on your behalf, then you’re not in control of your messaging.

By not having a website, municipalities are missing out on so many opportunities. Here are five of the most important reasons to get a municipal website as soon as possible—or risk falling further behind in serving your residents and marketing your municipality to the world.

1. A Website Is Your Online City Hall

What’s more likely?

  1. Someone will stop by City Hall to learn more about your city.
  2. Someone will look at your website to learn more about your city.

The answer, far and away, is (2). So many people access the internet, especially through their mobile phones, as their primary method of seeking information about an item of interest. It’s become easy, convenient, and instinctive for people to begin their search online. So, when your municipality doesn’t show up with a website online, it’s like a resident showing up to a City Hall address and nothing is there.

Think of your website like your online city hall. Welcome people. Orient them to your services. Help them find the information they need. A website offers residents and visitors a sense of your city and a sign that you are there to greet them. Today, a digital greeting is as important—and perhaps more important—than an in-person greeting.

2. A Website Offers More Transparent Government and Encourages More Active Residents

It is difficult and inconvenient to stay informed about city council activity when residents must show up in person—either to city council meetings or to City Hall to access meeting times, agendas, and minutes. Placing these materials online creates a more transparent government by making information easily accessible.

Going digital with city council also increases resident engagement as people are more likely to stay informed and interact with elected officials. You also ensure that primary sources of information are readily available to counter angry citizens on social media or inaccurate media reporting.

3. A Website Encourages Businesses to Locate to Your Municipality

Let’s go back to the stats in the introductory paragraph. Imagine you’re the owner of a business that is expanding or wanting to relocate. You’re looking at 10 municipalities in a specific area of your state, including your municipality. Six have a website that details how they help businesses, what amenities exist, and why their city is a wonderful place to live. Four cities, including yours, have no website.

Your lack of website speaks volumes. It’s logical to make the deduction that the six cities with a website have a better business climate than the four without. Why? If you don’t communicate, people make their own assumptions.

“There’s probably nothing going on in that city.”
“Apparently no one has anything to brag about at that city!”
“Maybe they’re closed off, unfriendly to outsiders, and want to keep out businesses.”

A website allows you to counter these incorrect assumptions. You can reach out to prospective businesses when they are researching new locations and highlight what makes your city a great place to locate.

Many municipalities also have downtown development projects that benefit from a website talking about this important revitalization work. When municipalities talk about their downtown development projects online, it’s attractive to businesses who may want to set up shop.

4. A Website Offers Online Services to Residents

Many people are used to paying bills, accessing services, and interacting with organizations online. Also, our society is not as 9-to-5 as it was in the past. People work multiple jobs at all hours, run their kids to school and activities, and travel a lot. It helps if people can pay taxes and fines, submit a business license, or sign up for a utility service online. You are doing a great service for residents if you introduce online payments, forms, and services—making your services more accessible and convenient.

5. A Website Promotes Tourism and Attracts Future Residents

Your website gives you an opportunity to brag. What attractions exist in your municipality? What events and festivals take place? What are the natural attractions? Museums? Entertainment? Many people like to take local or regional trips either for the day or a weekend. How are you promoting the best aspects of your municipality?

Even if you think there is not much to promote, you would be surprised at what treasures exist in your city. List them out, ask your residents what they love most about your municipality, and put these attractions on your website.

Without a website, you’re missing opportunities to highlight to the world why your town or city is special. Website options exist that are extremely cost-effective and allow for custom design, online payments, and easy-to-upload content (requiring very little technical skill).

If you want to talk more about a municipal website, especially if you currently lack one, contact us through the form below.

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