Five Ways to Build Citizen Engagement Through Better Online Communication

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Every day in communities across the United States, people are engaging with state, city, and county services. From the roads we drive to the water we drink, state and local governments are present. Yet, most people only actively engage with state and local governments when a need or question arises. Many times, accessing information or locating the correct email address can be challenging. There are more effective ways to build citizen engagement in your community. 

How Technology Empowers Citizen Engagement 

Today’s citizens engage with intuitive and modern websites, apps, and platforms daily. Yet, many state and local government websites look like they were built during a previous, less accessible generation of user experience design and are complicated to maneuver. Your goal should be to make it easy to find updates on projects or receive suggestions. So, how can technology help? 

Many website options out there make life overly complicated for your staff and for your citizens. There’s no reason to compromise on the digital experience. Here are five ways to build citizen engagement through better online communication. 

Ensure every citizen has equal access to your information:

Today’s communities are woven together by people from all different backgrounds and digital ability levels. They use an array of devices, speak different languages, and have differing access to technology. When finding the right platform for your community be sure that it has: 

  • Responsive web design so that, no matter what device someone is accessing your website from, it looks good and can be easily engaged with and accessed. 
  • Built in language translation so information can be accessed in the language that someone is most comfortable reading. 
  • Accessible templates and other accessibility features, so those within your community who have differing abilities will have the same access.  

Create an intuitive navigation for most sought after content. 

Think like those in your community: What information do they need most frequently? Put that information in your navigation or towards the top of your homepage. Ask potential vendors these three questions: 

  • Do I have the flexibility to change my navigation structure to fit my community’s unique needs? 
  • How can I highlight content on my homepage that is most sought after? 
  • Can I put contact information front and center on my homepage and also in my footer? 

Build a culture of trust by collecting and acting upon feedback. 

Utilizing forms and surveys on your community’s website provides additional options to hear directly from the people. When your citizens feel heard and see action being taken, you’re building a culture of inclusion and trust.

Use a content management system that makes editing easy and alleviates the pressure of a single content owner.

Your team shouldn’t have to possess a Ph.D. in computer science to manage your community’s website. Here are three things to look for when choosing your platform:

  • A simple user interface that doesn’t require coding experience. 
  • App based editing and familiar text editing to make editing easy for people of all ability levels. 
  • A permissions-based system that removes the bottleneck of putting all website management on just one person while maintaining quality control. 

Promise an always-on experience for your citizens:

Your website vendor should be providing you with insights into their hosting reliability, as well as how frequently they require downtime for updates. 

Why Make a Change in 2022 

The recently passed infrastructure bill will bring even more projects to communities across the United States. Whether it’s bridge construction, new solar arrays, or broadband expansion, your community will want to know what’s going on and how long it’s going to take. Now is the time to start sharing those details and keeping citizens updated.  

Beyond upcoming infrastructure projects, improving access to information builds trust between citizens and their government. Empower your citizens to engage with the decisions and projects that impact them by increasing transparency and the ease with which they can provide feedback. 

By utilizing Blackboard Web Community Manager, you get the best of both worlds. Your team gets an easy-to-maintain solution while your citizens get to engage using their preferred device and quickly find information. If you’re ready to bring information to your community and increase citizen engagement, let’s talk today