Published in the August 8, 2019 edition.


WAKEFIELD — The Town of Wakefield’s new and improved web site is expected to debut later this month, but this week Town Councilors got a sneak preview.

Jennifer McDonald, the town’s Content and Communications manager, provided a demonstration at Monday evening’s Town Council meeting.

Websites do tend to have a lifespan, she explained, and since the third-party platform that the town uses was being updated, it was a good time for the town to redesign its site.

McDonald said that she met with every department head to review each department’s section of the website and discuss ways to improve it. There was a tremendous amount of data cleanup that needed to be done, McDonald said, with outdated files being purged.

McDonald showed the current town website in order to explain some of its deficiencies. The “Town News” section is inconspicuous and competes with center column content for attention, she said, and the “Quick Link” selection is “subjective.” The “Action Center” is underutilized and the “Community Calendar,” which lists events around town, has no exposure.

“Boards and Committees” can only be accessed via the homepage, McDonald said, so that if you follow links to another part of the site, you need to return to the homepage in order to see the links to boards and committees.

The DPW site feels disconnected from the rest of the town’s website, she observed, with a different color scheme and design than the rest of the site.

Overall, McDonald said, navigation on the current site feels cumbersome.

The redesigned website features “News & Events” more prominently and has a tabbed calendar that can be used to toggle between public meetings and community events. “Featurettes” will be displayed at the bottom of the homepage.

A “Get Town News” button will be prominently displayed that will take users to where they can sign up to receive various types of electronic alerts. Residents will be able to sign up for urgent notifications or they can ask to be alerted when a news item is added or when meeting agendas are added.

The online payment system will also be improved, with multiple hubs for different types of online payments.

A blue bar at the top will run throughout the entire web site, allowing users to bounce around the web site without having to return to the homepage.

The new website will provide a way to book meeting rooms online or apply for permits for outdoor events and other types of licenses.

There will be sections of the website devoted to information on starting a business in Wakefield and there will be a way for the town to conduct surveys and collect input from residents.

The new web site will also be much more “mobile friendly” than the current site, McDonald said.

Members of the Town Council praised the new design for its usability, noting that everything will also be much more searchable.