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Canmore to begin work on more mobile friendly, e-service website

“The fact that we’ve had a website that has lasted eight years is phenomenal. It’s well past time to upgrade platforms and move along. … The increased engagement and increased communications to our citizens is greatly needed.”
Canmore Civic Centre 1
Canmore Civic Centre on Thursday (April 21). JUNGMIN HAM RMO PHOTO

CANMORE – A new, more user and mobile friendly website could soon be coming for the Town of Canmore.

Council approved a change in project scope to help address ongoing issues with the website, while making it better for mobile users and the growing use of e-services such as licence plate submissions for the paid parking program.

“It’ll play a really key role in providing confidence to all stakeholders to participate, adopt and improve our service offering through e-services,” said Robyn Dinnadge, the Town’s manager of communications.

A capital project had already been approved in 2018 by the previous council, but during the study for improving the website it was found new functions were limited in being added. The funding was approved at $150,000 and preliminary research was done in 2020 for a little above $10,000.

Dinnadge highlighted the website has been on the same platform since 2014 and is regularly updated.

However, the platform has “significant challenges” when it comes to new e-services and a change in the project’s scope was needed for the direction of the approved funding.

It would also allow for a better experience for mobile users, who make up roughly 56 per cent of its website visits compared to 20 per cent in 2013. The number of unique visitors have also shot up to 426,000 when it was 288,000 in 2013.

“The website’s platform has not been able to evolve with current technological trends due to support limitations and existing programming customization,” the report stated. “This increases the overall risk in case of an outage or platform failure.”

The report also noted the 2021 Citizen Perspective’s Survey had the Town’s website as one of the four main methods to get information, with social media, email and the newspaper the other three.

It added anecdotal feedback had people experiencing issues with the search function and an increase in getting information online.

The change would help provide more accurate search functions, allow people to receive notifications and alerts and an ability to access more services online.

“I think moving forward, the community’s expectations is that our website will become easier to use and become more of a portal with less logins, less passwords and one access point to the various services we have now and are bringing on stream,” Coun. Jeff Mah said.

“It will only boost the viability and the attention the site gets, which will make our communication and engagement efforts better.”

The proposed timeline would have information technology and communications meet with each department to learn the website’s requirements and begin seeking public input in September and October. Software systems would be sought after and testing completed between November 2022 and January 2023.

A new website would be launched between February and April, 2023 and new pages built or transferred.

“There will be months of work to ensure a new website platform functions at least as well as our existing one, and the goal is to ensure the new platform has the capability to be improved upon for years to come,” according to the report.

The report stated an estimated $10,000 was needed each year for software licensing and about $2,000 for website hosting fees each year. A firm number won’t be known until a platform is selected.

Coun. Wade Graham, who has a background in systems administration and a computer science degree, noted the rarity of having a website platform last as long as Canmore’s had.

“The fact that we’ve had a website that has lasted eight years is phenomenal,” he said. “It’s well past time to upgrade platforms and move along. … The increased engagement and increased communications to our citizens is greatly needed.”