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New year bringing launch of new City website, other communication resources

By Randy Bell

City Website

Marlee Price says one of her top priorities since taking over as Clinton’s Director of Communication and Tourism in September of last year has been to make some long-overdue improvements to the City’s website—and to find other ways to keep local citizens informed. And the Board of Aldermen at its meeting last month voted to spend a total of just over $62,000 to make it happen.

“For the last three months, I’ve been meeting with various vendors, just kind of figuring out what my vision was for the website,” Price says.

When she took the job, there was already a proposal on the table to revamp the website. But Price decided to keep looking. She met with eight or nine companies.

“I settled on an agency out of Hattiesburg called BREAD,” Price says. The City will pay the company $50,600 to create and implement the new website, an amount that is “substantially” less than the original proposal.

“We’ve already talked about next steps,” says Price. “I’ve done a site map of our current website and figured out what needs to stay, what needs to go, what can be reorganized. During our phase one, we’ll get feedback from citizens and various focus groups on what they want to see from the website. This isn’t just my website or the City’s website. This is the citizens’ website.”

Price says that input is crucial.

“Our current website does not have any back-end data to tell me what people visit, where people stay the longest, what they utilize the most.”

One of the primary goals is to make the new website more user-friendly.

“Currently, our website is very hard to navigate,” she says. “I would love to see the addition of some quick links on the homepage and then just organizing information and doing one to two click-throughs and not having to take nine clicks to get to a certain page. The user experience is definitely something I’m focusing on; because, if people don’t want to use it, then what did you redesign it for?”

Price says if everything goes “perfectly,” the project could be finished in twelve to sixteen weeks.

“My hopes would be that sometime in the second quarter of 2023, we would see a new website,” she said.

Mayor Phil Fisher told the Board it’s something the City needs to do every five years.

The aldermen also approved a contract with Text My Gov for a citizen texting service, which will cost the City $10,000 for the first year and $9,000 annually in subsequent years.

Price says the texting platform would pop up on the website almost like a chatbox.

“I think phones are very under-utilized in the communication realm,” she says. “Everyone always has their phone.” The platform would offer two-way texting in which City departments could interact with citizens, notifying them about things like water line breaks, street closures and scheduling changes for local events—and citizens could text the City to ask questions or pay their water bills.

The final piece of Clinton’s communications overhaul is a new mobile app.

“Hopefully, by February, it will be live,” says Price. “You can do events on it, you can do push notifications, it has weather alerts.” She calls it “an additional resource” which ties in with the website, allowing people to use the app to see pertinent information that’s being pushed to the front page.

The City will pay OneAppWay $1,500 to create and maintain the app.

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