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San Diego Debuts New City Website

Photo caption:

A screenshot of the city of San Diego's newly redesigned website, which was launched on March 14, 2016.

It cost the city about $600,000 to redesign the website. The updated site, made live over the weekend, can be used on a mobile phone and aims to be easier for residents to use.

The city of San Diego published a newly redesigned website over the weekend that can be used on a mobile phone and aims to be easier for residents to use, city staff said.

The new website has a cleaner look, with fewer buttons to click on the home page, and is mobile responsive, which means it will automatically fit itself onto a phone or tablet screen.

Its top menu includes buttons for "Resident Resources," where residents can pay water bills or parking tickets, and links to library information and upcoming City Council meetings. A "Notifications" box lists future city meetings, and an "Explore San Diego" section lists events happening in the city, including parades and farmers markets.

Toward the top of the page is a "Get It Done" section, where residents can complete specific tasks such as reporting potholes or requesting services.

The site also includes a section called "Our San Diego," with stories written by city staff. The city launched earlier this year with posts about city government, programs and events. It also recently launched an open data website where city datasets will be posted.

A screenshot of the city of San Diego's old website taken on March 11, 2016.

The old city website had been up since 1999, and last underwent a redesign in 2012. It had been using the same content management system, which provides a website's skeleton, since 2002. That system has been replaced with Drupal, an open-source system also used by the federal government.

Unlike with the old system, city staff will not need to know web coding language to post to the website using Drupal, said Jen Lebron Kuhney, a spokeswoman for Mayor Kevin Faulconer.

Kuhney said while the site went live over the weekend, some of its features are still being set up, and that the website's official launch is on Monday.

It cost about $600,000 to create the new website, including its design, migrating the old content to the new site and paying for the new content management system. That money also went to developing a brand style guide, including a new city logo and font preferences, Kuhney said.

The City Council approved spending $1.275 million for the website redesign, so the project came in under budget, Kuhney said. The remainder of the money was spent on improving the website's security and designing a Public Records Act request portal.

That portal will be the new way for journalists and members of the public to file Public Records Act requests. Instead of emailing their requests, people seeking information will now fill out an online form.

That also means that when the documents they've requested are ready, those documents will be posted online in the portal instead of sent by email.

Lea Fields-Bernard, the city's Public Records Act request coordinator for the city, said she anticipates journalists will be uncomfortable with the new system because records they've requested will be available to everyone. For that reason, she said, the person making the request will receive records 72 hours before they are posted online.

The portal will be used for requests from every city department, including City Council offices. When the site went live on Monday, there were already more than 590 records responses posted in the portal.

The portal also alerts someone requesting documents when those documents are already posted online. For example, if someone begins typing "SeaWorld" into the request box, the portal will provide a link to the city's lease with SeaWorld.

But Fields-Bernard said the city will not automatically update documents, so if a user wants the most recent SeaWorld lease, a new request will have to be submitted.

The new website was designed using analytics that showed how residents use the city's website and was tested by focus groups, Kuhney said.

Jeff Johnson, who works with the technology group Code For America, volunteered his time to help with the redesign. He helped the city hire vendors to work on different aspects of the website and made suggestions on how to make the site user-friendly.

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