By Matt de Simone
Botetourt County has a new, revamped website (botetourtva.gov), a cleaner, easier-to-use hub for information about local government, services, and programs.
In a recent press release, Director of Communications Tiffany Bradbury explained that departments worked diligently on this initiative for months to provide a more pleasant, consistent, and easy-to-use digital experience for citizens, visitors, and businesses. The county’s new website offers easy access to conduct county business, sign up for youth recreation programs, browse for library books, or learn more about building a business in Botetourt County. Additionally, the site is optimized for accessibility for users with visual impairments.
The new interface of the website allows users to navigate through its different functions. The former webpage suffered from being a bit disjointed without clear-cut navigation. Botetourt’s revamp of the website was in the works before its relaunch.
“The redesign of the website platform was in the plans before I joined the county in June 2021,” Bradbury recently stated during an interview. “My office then worked in concert with our technology team and county departments to move the process forward and launch the website that you see today.”
Many county team members played a part in bringing the revamp to fruition. Redesigning a county’s website is not an easy task.
“We had to take our current website, flush out anything that wasn’t correct (i.e., broken links, old information) and also move documents that needed to migrate to the new platform,” Bradbury continued. “Many times, we used the analogy of an onion—lots of layers. The Communications Department and Director of Technology steered the redesign process.
According to Bradbury, each department designated “page masters” responsible for making sure content is correct and easy to utilize. They also made more in-depth pages for some of the county’s very public-facing departments (Parks & Recreation, Fire & EMS, Libraries, Economic Development, and Community Development).
“You will notice when you visit the different pages that there are a lot of options and easy to navigate buttons to help users guide their way through the website,” Bradbury added. “I want to give huge accolades to Kristen Chapin, our Communications and Marketing Specialist, and Mahesh Tailor, our Director of Technology. They worked tirelessly on this project.
“Kristen held one-on-one sessions with departments to ensure that they felt confident in updating and maintaining the new website. Mahesh and his team made sure our connections were secure, that content was accurate, and links to forms were working properly. Our vendor, Civic Plus, also provided exemplary customer service and virtual training for our website team.”
In 2019, Access Advertising worked with Botetourt County to launch the new “BOCO” brand the community sees attached to Botetourt County content on social media. With this brand came a detailed style guide to ensure that the brand integrity stays intact. Bradbury and her team folded in the style guide and visually dynamic photos to provide the digital experience users see today.
“Websites are the gateways for our citizens, businesses, and visitors to engage and do business with Botetourt County,” County Administrator Gary Larrowe explained when asked about the new website. “We knew that our old platform was not as user-friendly or accessible as it could be, so our staff put in countless hours to develop the new Botetourt County digital experience.
“We are very proud of our new site and will continue to seek feedback on how we can make improvements. We intend to be informative in local government operations, and the website is a key access point for local citizens or for various folks around the world to see our efforts on many fronts,” he said.
Bradbury explained that their goal was to make the website as user-friendly as possible and accessible to everyone that uses it. For example, an icon on the front of the page allows users to tailor the page to fit their accessibility needs (i.e., a user who has visual impairments). They also strived to make the website as intuitive and as easy to navigate as possible.
The purpose of a website is for an agency to communicate effectively and have its users get where they need to be with as few clicks as possible. Another great plus of the new county website is that users can tailor their experience and sign up for news alerts to items that interest them (i.e., agendas, library news, county news, etc.), allowing for a two-way engagement with the Botetourt community.
“We will also be exploring opportunities for newsletters or blogs in the near future to keep the community informed on county news and initiatives,” Bradbury mentioned. “We also streamlined our Boards and Commissions pages and now utilize an ‘agenda center’ so it’s easy to access agendas and minutes of meetings. You can even sign up to have the links drop into your email box.”
Bradbury and her team wanted to ensure that anyone could navigate through their new website. They understand that citizens utilize the site to conduct county business. If someone is researching moving to the area or accepting a job, they will want to explore the county via a website. Companies looking to locate into Botetourt County will also use the website as a tool.
“We tried to make the website as intuitive and easy to understand as possible,” Bradbury said. “We also recognize updating the website and keeping it fresh will be an ongoing process – it will be ever-growing and ever-evolving, and we welcome feedback.”
Botetourt County established a link on the home page for site feedback: https://www.botetourtva.gov/FormCenter/Government-9/Provide-Site-Feedback-87.
During the revamping process, Bradbury and her team saw their share of obstacles. In a team effort, they overcame bumps in the road to generating a brand new web experience for Botetourt residents and visitors.
“Anytime you learn something new, especially with training being conducted virtually, you will have some growing pains,” Bradbury explained. “I am so proud of our team and the obstacles that they overcame to learn new technology. We worked together as a team, and our Communications and Technology teams led the charge to help our departments design and finalize their pages. (The relaunch) was truly a county-wide team effort, and I am so proud of everyone that rolled up their sleeves and worked on making the site what it is today.”
Bradbury mentioned that the website would continue to grow and improve, as most well-maintained websites do with the same scope in mind for those who: 1. live in Botetourt, 2. work in Botetourt, 3. partner with Botetourt, 4. visit Botetourt, 5. want to live, work, or play in Botetourt, and 6. want to bring their business to Botetourt.
“I will be very excited to pull our analytics after six months to see what our engagement rates are and what pages/departments are being utilized the most online,” Bradbury mentioned. “We didn’t have much of a capacity to measure these types of results (with the old website).
“I would like to thank our Board of Supervisors for allowing us to redesign the site. I would also like to thank our County Administrators Gary Larrowe, David Moorman, and Jon Lanford for their guidance and support.
“To our Technology Team led by Mahesh Tailor – we could not have done this without you. To Kristen Chapin in our Communications Department – this truly became her ‘passion project,’ and she embraced the design and launch of the website head-on. She worked tirelessly to learn the site and its functions inside and out to train our departments.
“To say I’m proud (of this project) is an understatement. I’m also proud of our departments that provided content and worked hard to learn the new technology. (The new website’s revamping) was truly a tedious process, but now that the site launched, we are so proud of the end product. We are also thankful to our community for their patience during the process. We value their feedback.”
Bradbury also mentioned the new website is for the user and wants to make sure that she and her team are constantly listening to feedback and implementing changes as deemed necessary.