New Township website provides service online, not inline

It’s here. After a year of conducting research, collecting information from residents and businesspeople, and finding out exactly what the community wants and needs, the Township of Langley has launched its new website.

The new site is still located at tol.ca, but it has a completely different look and brand new features. The new site consolidates information onto fewer pages, provides easier access to meeting dates, agendas, and schedules, and links subject pages to a helpful Services and Contacts directory.

“It is clean, modern, and easy to read,” said manager of corporate services Laurenda Rebelato, who noted the Township has been working on the new site for some time.

“Looking at other websites and listening to feedback from our users, we realized we were outdated. Our previous site was created in 1997, and we were not built from the public’s perspective. The information was there, but it was difficult to mine it out. We needed to find out what the public was looking for, and provide easier access to that information.”

“We knew we could do better,” Rebelato said.

The new site was created from scratch and the Township started by looking for the best software and people to do the job.

“We needed to find the right consultant, someone who would listen to us but also drive us to remember the public,” said Rebelato.

“The consultant made phone calls, conducted interviews, and held group discussions. They talked to patrons in recreation centres, listened to seniors in seniors’ centres.”

At the Township’s request, the consultant sought feedback from the business community, realtors, builders, developers, those in the film industry, recreation users, and sports groups, as well as the Township’s mayor and council, employees, and advisory committee members.

The new site was created with one goal in mind: to get visitors the information they need as quickly as possible.

“Analytics told us what they are looking for,” said Township webmaster Shane Barnaby, as monthly reports from Google list the topics most often searched for by the public. To help them get that information, the new site’s home page and navigation system is broken into subjects such as Parks and Recreation, Find A Place, and Doing Business, rather than by municipal division, as was done previously but made little sense to people who don’t know the Township’s inner workings.

A greatly enhanced search function is provided, along with a new Service and Contact directory which lists numerous common topics and key words alphabetically. Convoluted drop-down menus have been replaced with neat fly-out menus, and every page offers direct links to more information and continuous redirections to options worth exploring.

“On the new tol.ca, visitors can find forms, make requests, look at schedules, sign up for recreation programs, find a park in their neighbourhood, learn about the private well network, and get information from our Open Data Catalog, all with just a few clicks,” said manager of information technology Steve Scheepmaker.

A Document Library houses significant plans, reports, and documents such as bylaws and forms, and a new RSS (Real Simple Syndication) option allows job postings and news items to be sent directly to subscribers as they are added to the website.

To receive news RSS feeds, click on Current News and Initiatives, go to Current News, and click on the orange RSS icon to subscribe. Subscribe to career opportunity feeds by visiting About The Township, clicking on Careers, then clicking on the RSS icon in View our Career Opportunities.

A soft launch of the site was held for Township staff on April 4, and employees worked to get out the kinks and complete the last minute details. The new tol.ca was officially made public on April 11.

Improvements will continue to be made to tol.ca, and in near future, residents will be able to pay for business licences, municipal tickets, and business licences online with a credit card.

“Our motto for this new site was ‘Service online, not in line’,” Rebelato said. “We want people to find what they need quickly and easily, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, without having to leave their home or office.”