When the city of Lakeland communications staff overhauled the city website for the first time in 10 years, they set out to make it easer for users to find information and navigate the site on mobile devices. 

The new version of lakelandgov.net is more searchable than its predecessor and incorporates streamlined navigation to assist the 58 percent of visitors who come via smartphones and tablets, according to Kevin Cook, city communications director.

New site: top of the home page, viewed on a laptop.
New site: home page, viewed on an iPhone

Site highlights, Cook said, include:

  • An improved search engine.
  • A simplified home page that puts the 10 most-popular pages front and center. If the most-viewed pages shift, so will the icons on the home page, Cook said.
  • Latest news and closest events are highlighted on the home page.
  • Colorful links at the bottom of the page to link to open-government tools.
  • Prominent links to the city’s growing list of social media profiles.
  • Contact information for each department and key officials.
  • Responsive design that conforms the site to the size of the user’s screen, making it easy to read on smartphones.
Previous site: top of the home page, viewed on a laptop.

The work was done in-house, so there were few costs other than staff time and the Umbraco content management system, Cook said.

Digital content specialist Elizabeth Hollida spent much of her time for the last 10 months working on the revamp and was assisted by city IT staffers.

The staff will be busy fine-tuning the site over the next three to four weeks as they get user feedback and discover problems, Cook said.

One of the first tasks will be to make sure users who click on a link from the “old” site find the content they’re looking for on the new one. For example, a Google search for Lakeland Parks and Recreation directs a user to http://www.lakelandgov.net/parkrec/, which yields either to an error page or the old site. Soon, a user who clicks that link will automatically go to the new Parks and Rec home at http://www.lakelandgov.net/departments/parks-recreation/, Cook said.

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Barry Friedman founded Lkldnow.com in 2015 as the culmination of a career in print and digital journalism. Since 1982, he has used the tools of reporting, editing and content curation to help people in Lakeland understand their community better.

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