OSWEGO — The Oswego County website is receiving its first major remodeling in nearly two decades, with a fully redeveloped site — one that officials describe as modern and interactive — set to launch today after more than a year of planning and development.
For several years, county officials and residents have railed on the website as out-of-date and difficult to navigate as the county lawmakers deliberated whether or not to spend taxpayer funding on an update. In May 2018 the county agreed to spend up to $100,000 to have Michigan-based Revize develop, host and maintain a new website, and more than 18 months later, county officials say the website — located at www.oswegocounty.com — is launching about “95 percent complete.”
County Administrator Philip Church said the county moved forward with the project because the longstanding website was “very old” and “way overdue for an upgrade.” Church said county officials were careful throughout the more than yearlong process in order to ensure the final product was high quality and useful to constituents.
“It will be far more interactive, easier to use and easier to navigate,” he said of the website, adding the new website would also be “an important and far better tool to help make government transparent and more effective for constituents.”
Church and other county officials expressed excitement about what the website would offer to constituents, and the capabilities that could be built into it in the future. When approved, officials expected the website to offer constituents ways to pay for and complete various services, including with the Department of Motor Vehicles and county treasurer’s office.
Revize touts itself as “the government website experts” and the creator of more than 1,2000 municipal websites, and the county entered into a contact for roughly $73,000 that covers four years of service.
County Community Development, Tourism and Planning Director David Turner, who’s department oversaw the website development project, said the county landed on Revize after searching for a company who had built municipal websites and “knew what the user expectations would be” and had experience building the user functions county officials sought to implement.
Turner said the previously website was built internally by county employees many years ago and “was really more of a static list” of contact and other basic information.
“Basically we’ve gone from a list of ‘here’s how to get a hold of somebody’ to an interactive experience where you can go and actually do things on the website,” Turner said, noting county officials are pleased with the current outcome. “Hopefully, when we’re fully complete, you’ll be able to pay bills, order things and sign up to take employment tests. There are lots and lots of things that people can and should be able to do electronically now.”
The update provides the county with “a modern website,” Church said, and allows people to do certain business with the county website without physically making a trip to the county offices.
“It’s going to be able to do more financial transactions online and that makes it easier for the citizens that need to do business with us and makes it more efficient,” Church said. “It also gives citizens more of an opportunity to give us ideas and ask questions that can be answered via the website. It’s going to improve communication between the county and constituents.”
Oswego County Clerk Michael Backus, who had previously advocated for an update to the county’s website, hadn’t yet been briefed on the website’s capabilities, but said his department provided information to the developers and noted a new website could provide a significant boost to his offices.
“Anything that helps communicate what the county clerk’s offices, and our three department of motor vehicle offices, do in a better, more customer-friendly environment is a welcome addition to me and the county workforce,” Backus said.
An entity’s website is its window to the world, Turner said, and whether an individual is considering taking a job, moving their family, visiting or attending school in the area, the website could be one of the first places those individuals are introduced to what an area has to offer.
“When they look at your online presence that says a lot and the last thing you want to do is turn them off immediately when they’re trying to make those big decisions,” Turner said. “Visually this is going to be like night and day between the old site and the new site. The new presence in the digital world is going to be way beyond what we had before, so I’m excited about that.”
Under the new website, officials from various county departments have the ability to update portions of the website internally, Turner said, noting it is a simple technology platform and each department will delegate web editing duties to a specified employee to streamline revisions and updates.