The $57,500 question: Does Manteca need to revamp its new website?
City Manager Elena Reyes convinced the Manteca City Council they needed to do so to attract jobs.
She had lined up the consultant that San Joaquin County hired for a small king’s ransom to change the county’s old, tired and clunky site earlier this year. Reyes was the county deputy administrator overseeing economic development at the time.
At the same time the county was updating its website, Manteca municipal employees did the same thing for the city’s site. They did so without the city having to hire a consultant. And they did the work while juggling other IT tasks. In other words, they’ve done what Manteca municipal employees that care about the city have done for at least the past 25 years I can attest to — they’ve given taxpayers the maximum for their dollars.
There is little doubt the county and city websites needed updating.
But what is wrong with the new Manteca site that every member of the council heaped high praise on when it was rolled out eight months ago?
Based on the assertion that they need to spend $57,500 on website work and branding and seeing what the county site looks like, the answer is yes if the council is more concerned about selling or conducting a public relations campaign than focusing on serving Manteca’s 75,000 residents
The county site is stylish and functional. It has a catchy “Greatness grows here” slogan below San Joaquin County that has a leaf growing out of the capital letter ”J”.
The first thing you see is a search field below the line “Welcome! How can we help you?” that is placed across a rotating photo field. If you’re a resident looking for information on something such as a building permit you’re likely to type that in this box. My advice is don’t. I did and was immediately sent to a page that showed 10 pages plus of results. Your best bet is to scroll down the homepage past three “explore” boxes aimed at residents, growing or starting a business, and community resources, as well as a location map of San Joaquin County to get down to quick links to county departments.
County website doesn’t
cater to county
residents at first click
The website is definitely geared toward economic development and selling San Joaquin County. But for a county resident that needs to find out information or conduct business you’re regulated to the equivalent of the back of the bus by being forced to scroll all the way down to the bottom.
Nothing says county taxpayers count as burying the reason most county residents would use a website which is accessing or communicating with county departments.
Compare that to the Manteca website that is all of a sudden so defective it needs a $57,500 overhaul and branding effort.
There is no confusion what this website is. It is the City of Manteca website.
It gets to the people’s business right away. The top bar has the essentials a city resident would need from on-line crime reporting to accessing department web pages. Also high on the page are city contacts, city hall closure information, water conservation information, how to contact the city on line, council agendas and minutes plus online bill paying. If you’re the CEO of some tech firm this may be mundane to you but it touches on all of the interactions 75,000 Manteca residents need to have with their municipal government.
There is also a search feature in the upper right hand corner. You can also find a city map with points of interest and city employment opportunities with the city in the upper right hand corner — two fairly important things the county site lacks.
Scroll down and there are community announcements as well as community news and events. It tells Manteca’s primary customers — its 75,000 residents — when the next shred it event is as well as various parks and recreational activities that are coming up and city involved events such as the Manteca Police Department’s seventh annual motor skills challenge.
Why doesn’t county
app on its front page?
It also has something that is light years ahead of the county’s website (light years in tech talk being nine months or so): The ability to connect to app stores directly to download the GORequest app that allows you to submit issues and crime reports from anywhere using your smartphone.
For example you can use this feature to report a street light that is out. If you did so online or over the phone you’d have to provide a pole number. But the GORequest App includes GPS capabilities meaning the city will know where it is at if you send them a text via the app if you are in the vicinity of the street light that is not working.
Staff came up with that one based on issues Manteca citizens had communicating concerns with municipal staff. (Note to council: The rank and file and department heads don’t need consultants to tell them how to best serve 75,000 people. They’re doing that now.)
Now for some criticisms about the Manteca site. Since this is ground zero for housing growth and new subdivisions pose concerns for existing residents, the planning commission agendas shouldn’t be buried as they currently are. There should be a direct link from the home page to the agendas such like there is for City Council agendas and video.
Economic Development isn’t listed on the pull down tab for departments on the front page. You have to go hunting for it under administration. And once you there it doesn’t tell you much. The old city website had the basic information that people looking to open small businesses including franchises look for in their first search for sites: Demographics and traffic counts at various intersections. And while the older site had that, the information was from 2005.
The city’s recent creation of a step by step diagram of opening business with a flow chart is nowhere in sight — or at least I couldn’t find it.
Both issues are easily correctable and can be done without a $57,500 consultant.
In all honestly the old county website — and I’m sure the new one will eventually — lacked basic up-to-date information that those in small businesses need in judging the economic strength of an area as well as what the jurisdictions requires to open up shop.
Manteca makes it
easy to access law
touchy feely site
The criticisms for the county site versus the Manteca site are best illustrated by clicking to their respective law enforcement pages. Manteca’s police department page gets down to business with the ability to quickly click on what you need. The sheriff’s department is touchy feely — just like the county home page when it pops onto your screen.
Manteca’s front page has nice photos. It isn’t a spacey “pretty” design like the county’s but it does what it is supposed to do which is serve as a conduit to connect the city’s staff with the 75,000 people they serve.
There is a huge difference between the county’s core constituency and the city’s. The vast majority of the people using the city website aren’t looking for tourism spots in Manteca or interested in opening a distribute center in the Family Center. They want to report vandalism, pay a bill, or report a problem with their water service.
And they certainly aren’t going to be looking for a catchy brand such as “greatness grows here” when they click onto the site.
A good marketing plan requires knowing who you are targeting. If it’s not Manteca’s 75,000 residents then maybe someone should revisit spending $57,500 for a branding exercise that has the potential to make Manteca’s 75,000 residents second class citizens when it comes to whom the city targets its website at.
To contact Dennis Wyatt, email firstname.lastname@example.org