It's been nearly 11 months since the Sunnyside City Council approved the development of a new website for the city and it launched earlier this week.
The project was the culmination of hours of effort on the part of city staff, spearheaded by former City Clerk Deborah Estrada and Information Technician Ryan Austin.
Estrada, said City Manager Mark Gervasi, took on the bulk of the work.
She, however, gives a lot of credit to Austin and the remainder of the city staff because without them the website wouldn't yet be live.
Gervasi said the idea of changing the city's website was prompted prior to him being hired.
"The website wasn't as user-friendly as the city wanted it to be."
Estrada said Deputy City Manager Byron Olson was responsible for brainstorming with staff members to conclude a new website would benefit the citizens, as well as visitors to Sunnyside.
After many discussions and research it was decided the idea of changing the website was not only beneficial to the citizens, but to city hall, as well.
Estrada said the city contracted with Civic Plus for the development of the design and content to be added to the website.
"We wanted it to be user-friendly and appealing," she said.
Also important was the ability to back-up any data and information on the website. Estrada said Civic Plus is able to archive information on the website for public records purposes. That wasn't possible with the old website.
"The city's website is a public record and every single change is archived," said Estrada.
She said there are features to the new website that are not active. Using the Facebook icon as an example, she said an internet user can click on the icon and still access Facebook, however. The difference is that the data on the page that appears is directly linked to the city's website. As a result the information is still archived and it comes from the original source.
"Facebook doesn't archive information," Estrada said, stating this is important because anyone who submits a public records request must have access to information published by the city.
Gervasi is especially pleased with the website because he says it is another extension of providing quality customer service to the citizens of Sunnyside.
He is proud that in November utility customers will be able to pay their bills online.
"The goal of the design was to make it easier for patrons to use," said Gervasi.
"There are drop-down menus on the new site that allow ease of use," he said.
The menus can also be clicked on to access a specific page for an intended need. For example, one can click on the word "departments" and access a page that lists the various city departments. The user can then click on the department desired, for example the police department, and another menu of options is available on the left-hand side of the page. The center of the page provides some information, including a mission statement, for the department.
"The website must be user-friendly and updated regularly," said Gervasi.
Estrada said the plan is to train someone from each department to update the website regularly.
To get to the point of going live, she said, there was a lot of input needed from the different departments.
Photographs, content and documents were gathered from the department heads. That information was submitted to Civic Plus for the draft design of the website.
"The Sunnyside City Council reviewed the design two times before the final product was approved," said Estrada.
She said there have been many revisions to the website and additional changes will be made in the coming months to improve the site.
"It's a beautiful product and there's so much there for citizens to access," Estrada said, explaining that the website may not be completely finished, but the majority of the work has been completed and proves too beneficial not to be made available.
Gervasi said, "Again, this is a public service."
He said he is pleased with the work completed so far. He is looking forward to the addition of more photographs, including photographs of the city's parks.
Estrada said the primary challenge of getting this far involved city staff and their busy schedules.
"Their time is invaluable and they had to find time to review the pages on the website...they couldn't always do so because of the demands of their daily work," she said, stating the staff was very cooperative in helping put the website together.
"This is about the city and how to better serve the public...there are tools on the website that allow citizens to receive notifications and access different departments with ease," Estrada said, stating the staff recognized the significance of every step in the process of developing the website.
Gervasi said, "I just think this will be a website for which we can be proud...it is appealing and easy to use. I like a lot of the new features and am excited about it."