THUNDER BAY – A fresh, overhauled gateway will now greet online visitors looking to learn more about city information and services.
The city of Thunder Bay on Thursday officially rolled out its updated thunderbay.ca website, the first major renewal of its virtual identity in a decade.
Karen Lewis, the city’s director of corporate strategic services, said a major focus was creating an online hub that is simple to navigate, accessible and versatile.
“To someone who’s viewing the website it may appear as though it’s just a new look. It’s so much more than that. It’s so much deeper than that,” Lewis said.
“All of the content has been pulled off the old site, run through an editor, revamped, new photographs and it’s all been brought up in plain language, scan-able instead of huge paragraphs of text.”
The city website has an average daily traffic of more than 5,300 users, with about half of that amount using a mobile device.
The update includes a responsive design that allows users to have the same experience on their smartphones as they would on a desktop computer.
That means no more small text on phones, said Coun. Shelby Ch’ng, who is chair of the city’s communications committee.
“When you look at the last 10 years of how technology has changed and how we get our information, it’s definitely moved more towards a handheld device or iPad or something you can carry with you versus the traditional desktop,” Ch’ng said.
“It’s extremely important to have this information that translates to the technology we’re using and keeping up with the times.”
Ch’ng said the overhaul had taken nearly four years and involved extensive consultation.
The project had been budgeted at about $250,000, which also included the partial cost of a revamped city tourism website that had already been launched.
Going online allows people to seek out what they’re looking for at their individual convenience, rather than relying on the hours of city departments and offices.
“People are busy. They want to access the service and information when they want it, not when it’s convenient for us,” Lewis said. “If an office is only open 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and they’re busy during the day they want to access it at night. The website is absolutely critical infrastructure.”
New features include the ability to subscribe to alerts for news and events, a comprehensive community events calendar, emergency messaging system and integration with the city’s social media channels.
A tab at the top of the main page functions to give people a clear list of commonly sought options such as reporting issues, paying bills and applying for permits with just one click.
“Now that we have this really great platform we’re going to see more and more services you can register for online that you can do online,” Lewis said.
“We’ve already had a number of e-services that were available. Maybe because it wasn’t as easy to get there they may not have been as well-used.”