I could not be more excited to share with you a project that I have been working on for a year and a half – and you’re looking right at it! I present to you the redesigned City of Manassas Park, Department of Parks and Recreation’s website!
When I came on board in August 2015, I recognized the Department’s website was overdue for a upgrade. While it appeared nice on the front end (the public view of the website) the back end was overly complex and relying too heavily on workarounds. It was also built in a platform that was not user-friendly or intuitive. This made making updates difficult and frustrating.
The user experience for the previous design was also lacking. The website lacked a true responsive platform. It featured a separate mobile website that was difficult to update and didn’t link up properly when shared on social media. If I shared a link from my desktop on Facebook and you clicked it while browsing Facebook on your phone, you wouldn’t be directed to the correct page. You as a visitor would find this disconnect frustrating! I disabled the mobile site to help remedy this disconnect, but now you were being redirected to a non-responsive website. Yet another terrible user experience, but to me it was the lesser of two evils. For those who don’t know, responsive means that the website adjusts automatically to the size of your screen. You can test a website’s responsiveness by opening the website on your desktop browser and then changing the size of your window. If the website is responsive, you’ll see the content react by shrinking or repositioning. If you don’t see this, then the website is most likely non-responsive.
In addition to improving our experience, the website redesign also served several purposes to align our digital marketing to industry best practices. Here are few:
- Hyperlinks in the address bar have been simplified making them intuitive for us and the public. This was possible on the old website, but with migration on the horizon it was better to just to do it all at once.
- The blog was merged with the website – The blog was hosted on wordpress.com not on our website meaning traffic to our blog wasn’t being funneled to our website! This is a huge disconnect and results in missed opportunities.
- Important content is highlighted, easier to access, and easier to understand. As you browse the website, you’ll notice big green buttons begging you to click them! Those buttons contain important information you want right away rather than sifting through the text.
- Content is easier to update and updates with less effort. If I update the rental rates sheet, I no longer have to update it on seven different pages. All I have to do is update it in one place, and now all the instances it’s located on the website will update as well.
- Important news and upcoming events are presented in a smarter format. We had a newsfeed that was functional but not very engaging – and it was pretty difficult to update the slideshow or call attention to very important news. The new website is a breeze to update. Upcoming events will either be featured in the slider on the homepage or in the calendar tab half down the homepage. Important news can also be featured in the slider or – and more importantly – called out in a very eye-catching banner. This is how we’ll display closures moving forward.
While you’re browsing the website, be sure to visit some of my favorite pages. These pages we poured a little extra love and work into to make them extra special and I think you’ll really appreciate them. The staff page has been completely redone and features headshots of our full time staff. Look at all those beautiful smiling faces! The indoor pool page has been redesign to feature more photos and call your attention to the information you want – look at all those buttons! Renting outdoor space has been made easier with our redesigned pages – such as the Costello Park page – which now features a gallery of all our park spaces. You’ll find galleries on several pages throughout the website. Pictures are worth a thousand words after all!
Most importantly, I hope the website redesign makes browsing the website a truly pleasurable experience for you! We want you to spend time on the website and to be able to quickly and easily find the information you need to answer your questions. Please take your time and look around and let me know what you think!
Jason Shriner is the Marketing Manager for the City of Manassas Park, Department of Parks and Recreation. He can be reached at 703-335-8872 or via email at J.Shriner@ManassasParkVA.gov.