Belchertown unveils more user-friendly website

Belchertown’s revamped website offers the most-used features of the former website as links near the top of the page.

Belchertown’s revamped website offers the most-used features of the former website as links near the top of the page.

By EMILEE KLEIN

Staff Writer

Published: 07-09-2024 11:33 AM

BELCHERTOWN — Town officials launched a new town website last week offering improved usability for site visitors and municipal employees, easier navigation and notifications for news and events.

The revamped website presents the most-used resources for residents on the home page, with an event calender and latest news releases right below it; a more organized top menu offers additional information. The redesign adds new features, including a town manager blog page and a Notify Me function that offers opt-in notifications for news updates by phone or email.

“Our goal for the website is to become a central portal for information relating to town events and administration,” said Select Board Chair Ed Boscher. “The old site had gone long past its usefulness, and it was time for a major overhaul, and we are incredibly pleased with how it turned out.”

Communications Committee Chair Chris Martin said the committee tried to update the previous website for about a year, but ultimately realized the site didn’t meet the municipality’s or residents’ needs. Town Administrator Steve Williams said in an announcement about the site that the biggest issue with the previous website was the difficulty in administering it, which deterred town employees from updating the website with the latest information.

“That was a major problem with the old site,” explained Town Manager Steve Williams. “It was so difficult to update the information that many people became frustrated and just didn’t want to fight with it, so the information was often outdated.”

The committee chose CivicPlus as the website’s new platform in July, and began drafting the revamped site last November. The Communications Committee also sent out a residential survey to learn more about how residents receive news and use the town’s website. The survey findings were incorporated into the design, and continued feedback from residents will impact any changes to the website.

“Overall, we have more flexibility with CivicPlus than we did with the previous platform, which does allows us to make these updates on the fly. Its also connected with Google analytics so we are able to see what pages people are visiting more often,” Martain said.

The Notify Me feature allowing residents to sign up for email or phone notifications from various town departments, was a major reason the committee chose CivicPlus as its new website host.

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So far, Martin has heard positive feedback from town employees.

“It’s easier to navigate, a lot easier to use, but we haven’t done a big town review. At least from the town staff, they really like it so we hope it will encourage them to update their pages more often,” he said.

Now that the website has officially launched, the Communications Committee hopes to add a site newsletter for residents and make updates as community and town employee needs change.

“This project doesn’t end now that it launched,” Martin said. “That’s just step one, and then step two is that all the focus goes back to the the website, content is continually going to be updated and we’re just growing this platform until it meets all the town’s needs.”

Emilee Klein can be reached at eklein@gazettenet.com.