By Trevor Busch
Users of the Town of Taber’s website are showing a significant shift away from accessing the site via desktop computers to smart phones or tablet devices, suggests a recent analysis.
A vital part of the town’s communication infrastructure, over the past year the town’s website has been the subject of an analytical study by staff to determine how the public has been utilizing the site.
Some 44 per cent of site traffic (43,904 visits) in 2015 were generated from a smart phone or tablet device. Thirty-four per cent of website visits happen outside the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Top searches in 2015 included construction specification, job postings, officers, Bio-Cycle Solutions, hockey, theatre, and job fair.
“Forty-four per cent of the site traffic in 2015 was generated from a smart phone or tablet, which has been steadily increasing over time,” said town IT manager Tom Moffatt, speaking at town council’s June 27 regular meeting. “It used to be almost 100 per cent desktop computers when we started back in 2011, and now you can see that smart phones and tablets are almost at 50 per cent of the ways that people use to visit our website. So this means that our website needs to evolve to serve this class of users.”
The town’s website saw 103,384 visits in 2015, with the average duration of the visit being two minutes and 28 seconds.
There has been a 41.5 per cent increase in web visits from 2014. Top visited pages include the Aqua-Fun Centre, police, bylaws, Taber maps, bylaw and act information, recreation, council, agendas and minutes, pool admission rates, and recreation and community services.
“A couple of things that they look for that they’re not going to find on the website are apartments for rent,” said Moffatt. “Currently we don’t have any of that type information on there, so it’s something we may want to at least have links out to. We’ve made the jobs link more prominent on the website. It was at the bottom of a navigation bar on the left hand side, and we’ve moved it up to the top of the navigation bar, so it can be spotted more easily.”
Most desired features include online issue submission (58 per cent), online registration (61 per cent), and online bill payment. According to numbers provided by administration in the report, only 25 per cent of local government websites are optimized for mobile use, while 54 per cent offer email subscriptions, 19 per cent allow online permit payments, and 21 per cent use social media. Seventy per cent of Internet-using citizens believe governments should use social media, while 50 per cent of citizens are unsure about the basic functionalities their local government website provides.
Administration confirmed that online registration is expected to go live on the website in spring 2017.
“Online bill payment is not something we do on the website at this time, and online registration is something that we will be adding in the near future.”
Finance director Devin Wannop came out against employing an online bill payment feature on the website, citing additional fees associated with this type of transaction.
“You can’t go to our website and make a credit card payment. You can’t go on our website and transfer from your bank. It’s just one of the philosophies that we have is we don’t want people paying with credit cards because then there’s additional fees.”
Retooling the website to be more friendly to mobile users is currently under consideration, according to Moffatt.
“There’s several ways that we could address that situation. We could do an independent app. We also are looking at a complete refresh of the website, because the platform that we started with in 2011 is a desktop-aimed platform. Since then they’ve actually re-written content management platform to be mobile friendly, so it’s much more adaptable for the mobile devices. But that would involve transferring all that to the new platform.”
Coun. Laura Ross-Giroux pressured Moffatt to come up with a solution for the problem sooner rather than later.
“According to the stats, this is where they’re checking us from, so it would really behoove us to do that as quickly as possible.”
The town’s current website went live on Oct. 31, 2011.