By Stephen Dafoe

Morinville – Sturgeon County will be flicking the switch on its new website Valentine’s Day and are hoping County residents will love the new look and new user friendly interfaces. The website, located at sturgeoncounty.ca, offers visitors easier navigation to allow ratepayers and visitors to find what they are looking for faster.

Calli Stromner, Sturgeon County’s Manager of Corporate Communications, said the site has been completely built from scratch with the majority of work being done in-house. Information and files housed on the original site have been migrated to the new location and organized in such a way that it is even easier for County residents and staff to find what they are looking for.

Information categories include news and events, government, community, library, visitors, business, and employment. Additionally, quick links on the front page will provide instant access to Council agendas and minutes, building and renovation information, resident forms, road watch information and property tax information.

“In a rural municipality we know the Internet users rely on dialup Internet for the majority of connections,” Stromner said, noting some County users may not be as proficient at surfing the web as others, and that simplicity has been an important component of the redesign. “We’re really trying to scale back the depth the site can go. All of the information is within three clicks of the home page.”

Stromner said all forms, documents and publications will now be housed in one area of the website – The Sturgeon County Library. “Rather than have multiple files hidden throughout the website that have the same information, [we are]having one area where you update the information and the link back to it from other pages,” she said. “Ultimately it’s about providing the right information in the right way.”

Internet becoming more common method of communication

A recent resident satisfaction survey shows Sturgeon County residents are increasingly turning towards the Internet and away from traditional print media as a means of getting County information. Stromner said the two-year period from 2009 to 2010 and from 2010 to 2011 saw a 35 per cent increase in unique visitors hitting the County’s website. Last year saw another 5 per cent increase over 2010. “I think they [the numbers] speak to the volume of folks who are becoming more reliant on Internet than they are on traditional media.”

The County’s use of social media in addition to its website has also lead to increased engagement and dialogue with residents. The County’s Twitter feed @SturgeonFYI, began in May of 2010, currently has 530 followers, and is another way to get information to residents in a timely manner.

“We’re seeing a lot more unique conversations and retweets, and a lot of the dynamics that is specific to Twitter going on with residents,” Stromner said. “We have a lot of residents beginning a dialogue with us there now instead of picking up the phone and calling us, or looking on our website. It’s really being used to enhance conversations with folks who may not be in a position to stop by during business hours.”

Stromner said the County’s Twitter feed allows information like road closures and fire updates to be dispensed quickly and efficiently. “The nice thing about Twitter is that all of the regional media also follow us there, so those folks will have it instantly and be able to update their viewers or listeners or readers within their timeframes as well,” she explained. “From that aspect it’s a really good media management tool.”

The original domain name sturgeoncounty.ab.ca will re-direct to the new website permanently once the new site launches Tuesday.

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