Lake Oswego to unveil revamped website design
Residents who visit the City of Lake Oswego's website on Sunday will notice that things look a little bit different.
On Feb. 4, the City's Information Technology department plans to debut a new version of the site at www.ci.oswego.or.us that aims to modernize the design and offer guests a more streamlined process for locating information.
According to Weston Pay, Lake Oswego's webmaster, an internal staff committee began work on the new site about a year ago and spent about four months creating the design. The remainder of the time was spent on implementation and testing, which took a long time because of the sheer amount of content on the site.
"Building a website of this nature is not easy," Pay says.
There are approximately 45 departments represented on the site, each with its own staff pages and content. In total, the website has approximately 10,000 pages, Pay says, the vast majority of which are single-issue pages for things like individual meetings on the City calendar.
Part of the implementation process involved streamlining the site by removing and archiving some of the older content — Pay says the team found calendar pages dating back to 2002 — but making sure relevant older content stays online and up to date.
Staff say the clean-up work has been long overdue, but the main impetus for the change was that the previous site was built using an outdated software version that is no longer being updated. Still, staff also took the opportunity to revamp the site's appearance. For example, the dark-red-and-tan menus are gone, replaced by a color scheme that emphasizes the blue, green and white shades of the City's logo.
The layout of the various menus and tables has been redesigned to make more effective use of the display space, and to provide more opportunities to display photos of the city. Pay says the new menus took inspiration from Google's 'material design' style that was introduced for Android phones in 2014.
One of the key changes, Pay says, is that the new site provides a much better experience for people connecting on cellphones or tablets. The design is fully responsive, meaning it automatically reformats itself and rearranges content to fit the size and shape of the user's display, avoiding situations where parts of the site extend off the left or right edges of a phone screen.
The previous site debuted at a time when the vast majority of internet traffic still came from desktops, Pay says, so it originally wasn't responsive at all. He says he did later implement some scaling capabilities, but it was difficult to give mobile users the exact same experience as desktop visitors.
"Thus far this fiscal year, we've averaged 45 percent mobile use," he says. "Instead of trying to wrangle the older site to be mobile-friendly, for this one we started there."
The other big goal, Pay says, was to add more robust menus and enhanced search options to make it easier for visitors to find information. The center of the page now features a large search entry box, along with a list of the eight most-searched questions and terms of the past week.
Behind-the-scenes, the search functionality has been integrated directly into the site rather than relying on support from Google, which means results should be more directly relevant and new pages added to the site should show up in search results sooner.
"Making things easier to find has been the biggest request," Pay says, "and also the biggest hurdle."
It's a balancing act, Pay says — if every department is given a direct link on the homepage, the page becomes incredibly cluttered and things become even harder to find. That's the approach the City took with its original website back in 1995, according to Chief Technology Officer Chip Larouche, and it was one of the causes of the site's first big redesign in 2004.
"We just kept adding icons," Larouche says. "(By 2004), we had about 60 icons on the homepage."
The site underwent another revamp in 2012, resulting in the version that will remain in place until Sunday. That makes the new version the fourth edition of Lake Oswego's website, Larouche says.
Pay and Larouche say they're expecting to receive a lot of feedback in the first few weeks. Redesigning websites can be tricky, they say, especially if longtime users find that their bookmarks for certain pages have stopped working. But the content is all still there, and it should be easier than ever to find from the main menu.
Questions and feedback can be submitted by clicking on the 'Contact' icon in the menu at the top of the site, Pay says. And if all else fails, Larouche says, don't be afraid to call the City's information line at 503-635-0257 for tips and instructions.
"Play with it and let us know what you think," he says.