A New Era Online: Mayor Walsh Announces Changeover to New City Website
Published on September 30, 2022
New site is optimized for desktops, tablets and mobile users; Walsh calls site a “big digital leap forward”
Syracuse, N.Y. – For the first time in nearly two decades, visitors to the City of Syracuse website are seeing a new online presence and new web address for city government. Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh announced the changeover to a reorganized and redesigned website on Friday, Sept. 30. The site is now found at syr.gov. Visitors to the legacy site, syrgov.net, will be automatically redirected to the new site.
“When people visit the City of Syracuse online, they now find a website that reflects the transformation occurring in city government. The new syr.gov is more modern, better designed, and easier to use,” said Mayor Walsh. “Moving to a ‘dotgov’ is a big digital leap forward and reflects the City’s commitment to security, accessibility, and usable digital services. It’s the next step in our digital transformation.”
The new website improves the city’s digital accessibility. Syr.gov functions better for the nearly 40% of users who have accessed the site using a tablet or mobile device. The responsive design means the site recognizes the type of device being used by a visitor and presents the content for best viewing and navigating on a smaller screen. The site has other accessible features such as high contrast between text and background for visibility and to support those who are visually impaired; a translation button that will translate the site into Spanish, Arabic, Nepali, and Vietnamese; and an accessibility checker for the City’s content editors.
A Change in Navigation
A notable change on the site is that the top-level menu is now organized into three key areas: government, living, and business. Before, web visitors needed to know what department provided a service to know where to for information.
For users concerned about not knowing where to find information, the website also features a state-of-the-art predictive search bar that allows users to more easily find the content or service they are seeking. For pages not yet converted to the new website platform, users will be directed to the content in the previous website format.
“Criteria for the redesign went far beyond how the site looked. We worked hard to be intentional about prioritizing accessibility, usability, and site security,” said Ruthnie Angrand, Director of Communications and Marketing. “Our departments and constituents have been eager to see this transition occur. With investment from the American Rescue Plan, the City can better manage and quickly publish public information when residents need it most,” she said.
Partnering for Success
The City’s website design and functionality has not been updated since 2008. The current redesign and redevelopment, which touches every aspect of city government, started in 2019. The multi-year, multi-department project was led by the Communications Office and the Digital Services team. It required partnership internally across government and with public stakeholders. The City partnered with the community, collecting nearly 300 beta site surveys, and worked with partners like Visit Syracuse, TNT, and Downtown Committee on collaborative design as well as on organizing the site’s navigation using real user-tested data.
The City brought on a development partner that specializes in government websites, Granicus (formerly Open Cities) to partner in developing the site.
“What stood out to us about the city of Syracuse and their website project was the staff’s unwavering dedication to fully addressing the needs of residents, businesses, and visitors. The team was intent on creating a robust and inclusive digital experience,” said Luke Norris, VP, Platform Enablement and Digital Transformation at Granicus. “They took a comprehensive look at all of their audiences and ensured that those needs stayed top of mind when building their site. We are proud to have been a partner on this very impactful project for Syracuse.”
The City also brought on Bloom Works, a woman-owned technology company which helps cities advance their digital services, to support rewriting complex content for large departments and digitizing paper-based applications for functionality and equity.
“It’s rare that a city recognizes how difficult it can be for users to find what they need on their website. We were thrilled to partner with city departments and redesign content to help residents and business more easily get the info they’re looking for,” said Lauren Lockwood, CEO of Bloom Works, a Public Benefit LLC.
The project teams have been migrating, retiring, and rewriting and developing more than 6,600 pages of existing content from the previous website. Visitors to the site are encouraged to continue to send feedback on the site by completing a 1-question prompt found at the bottom of web pages asking, “Was this information helpful?”