Agree on the goal… there is a greater chance of success when all boards, committees and departments agree that providing services electronically is a worthwhile and necessary goal. Cooperation is critical when it comes to a project of this scope and importance.
Identify contributors and content managers… web projects require research, writing of content, gathering of documents, legal review, artistic design, project management… in short, a lot of work by a lot of people. Identifying likely candidates for various tasks is imperative, especially when there is no IT department to spearhead the initiative.
Investigate the technology… does everyone at town hall have Internet access? Will infrastructure (including electric, telephone, cable, and computer) upgrades be necessary? Do we design and/or host the web site ourselves, or outsource all or part of the project? Is everyone comfortable with using e-mail and web sites in general? Acknowledge the technical and human limitations up front, so informed decisions can be made in order to move forward.
View and evaluate other sites… many local sites already exist - some are excellent, some are works in progress. Look first at neighboring towns; who has a web site? Is it easy to navigate? Is it attractive? Is it useful? Who designed it? Who runs it? Does the site fairly and effectively represent the town and its citizens? Contact the people responsible for those sites and ask questions. Chances are good that their answers will provide some valuable information.
Look outside Town Hall… citizens, local officials, state officials, civic groups, businesses - all these groups have a role to play in designing and maintaining a successful town web site. Encourage communication; encourage creativity. Every community contains talented people, many of whom would love to become more involved. Attracting these people can be the key to success, particularly in a small town where even town officials are basically volunteers.
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