5 Local Government Website Providers and 3 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Deciding on One
Think of your agency’s website as your first point of contact with the community you serve. It should offer all the information someone could expect from talking with staff, regardless of their primary language or whether they have a disability. That includes everything from instructions for obtaining a business license to a calendar of upcoming events to public meeting broadcasts and agendas. A solid local government website also opens a channel of communication to the community, providing a way for them to share their opinions on policies and programs to staff and elected officials.
There are a few industry-specific providers who understand the functional and legal criteria that local government websites must meet. In this Insights, we’ll introduce you to five website platforms serving local governments across the country and recommend three questions to ask yourself before deciding on a platform for your agency.
For additional context, Tripepi Smith builds websites for public agencies using WordPress, so we admittedly have some bias. That said, there are several solid options available to public agencies. Our team has worked directly on all these other platforms through our support work for government agencies. As a result, we have a pretty holistic viewpoint on all the major website players in local government. Additionally, we have consolidated several contracts from the various providers together to make them easier for agency staff to review.
5 Website Providers Worth Considering
Revize cites its content management solution (CMS) as being the reason that its websites are easy for residents to navigate and for staff to update. Revize websites contain features that advance city business, including a Document Center, Agenda Management, FAQ, Citizens Request Center, Public Service Request, Public Records Request, Events Calendar, Emergency Alerts, E-notification and Social Media APIs.
Cities using Revize
2. Granicus govAccess
Granicus govAccess allows agencies to design, build and host their website all in one place. This is made possible through integrations with Microsoft Azure Cloud and CDN by Akamai. The govAccess solution was born out of the prior iteration known as Vision Internet that Granicus acquired in 2018.
The platform bases its CMS on citizen behavior, affirming that most people visit their local government’s website to complete a task. Similar to Revize, govAccess offers a CMS that complements city business, such as forms, digital signatures and online payment. Plus, govAccess integrates with Granicus’ other products: govService, an online form builder intended to digitize government services; govMeetings for managing public meetings and agendas; govRecords for digitally storing public information and records; and govDelivery, a mass email notification system.
Notably, in 2021, Granicus announced it would sunset another of its previously acquired government website platforms, Civica, come January 1, 2022. The reason they noted doing this was that it was outdated and at risk for cyber security attacks. In 2022, Granicus will end support, custom programming and security patches to Civica websites, leaving local governments running Civica to migrate over to govAccess (at a discount) or go with a new provider altogether.
Cities using Granicus govAccess
- City of Indian Wells
- Contract value: $32,282.46 over 1 year
- City of West Hollywood
- Contract value: $64,601.00 over 5 years
CivicLive provides system administrators and staff content managers a website CMS that prioritizes easy content updates. Staff can build key sections of city websites, such as Calendar of Upcoming Events, Latest News, Council & Committees, Agenda & Minutes, Bids & Tenders and GIS tools.
Cities using CivicLive
- City of Torrance
- City of Sierra Madre
- Contract value: $30,900 over 1 year + $5,400 annually after first year
Similar to the other website providers, CivicPlus offers an array of content management solutions. There are website builders for various departments in local government: CivicClerk, CivicRec and CivicHR. CivicPlus offers website features unique to the needs of municipalities, such as an Alert Center, where cities can post important, non-life threatening information on road closures and weather alerts, as well as FAQ templates where staff can organize information and resources most often commonly asked for by residents.
Cities using CivicPlus
- City of Napa
- Contract value: $75,000 over 1 year + $18,870 annually in 2017, $11,120 over 1 year + $23,880 annually in 2019
- City of Santa Paula
- Contract value: $15,475 over 1 year + $4,000 annually
Unlike the website providers we’ve mentioned so far, WordPress is a purely open source content management system and is not built specifically for local government. However, it can be crafted into a perfectly functional public agency website with the right developer. WordPress websites are highly customizable, making it possible for agencies to prioritize user experience, something that isn’t always available with local government-specific platforms that come with hardcoded templates and functions. With WordPress, agencies can choose from an array of specialized themes for governments as well as plugins that give the website the functions needed for the services your council, staff and residents want.
Using WordPress is also developer agnostic. With proprietary solutions noted above, agencies will be locked into hosting and support contracts to sustain the solution. Should the agency find, they don’t like the customer service or limited templates with their current provider, they would have to move the entire website to a new provider. With WordPress, the agency has a choice. They can move hosting wherever they want. They can find a different firm to provide support. Or they can easily export the content to a new platform. Use of open source platforms provides lots of flexibility, but does place a great dependence on the development partner that the agency chooses.
Cities using WordPress
- City of La Cañada Flintridge
- Contract value: $23,135 over work period + $585 annually
- City of Lomita Coronavirus Portal
- Contract value: $20,547.50 over work period + $580 annually + $1,031.50 monthly + $30/domain name
To “show our homework”, we have assembled several contracts from the above providers in a DropBox folder to share with local government staff so they can easily review options and contract terms. See the folder here.
As you choose a provider, you first want to gauge council, staff and community priorities and needs in the existing website as well as a future one. We recommend using a scientific survey system, such as FlashVote.***
Once you gather, organize and analyze your data, you should have a better understanding of the features and qualities your stakeholders want in a website. Now that you’ve got a handy list of top website providers, you’ll want to compare it to your stakeholder feedback and start narrowing down your choices. Asking yourself these three questions should help.
3 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Choosing A Website Platform
1. “What level of customization do I need?”
How much you want to customize your website boils down to a choice between going with a proprietary platform versus a non-proprietary platform. With a proprietary platform, tools are limited to those produced by the platform itself. An example of a proprietary platform is Granicus govAccess or CivicPlus. That said, these platforms have a huge number of features and options, so while the platforms may be limited to their existing features, there are likely plenty of features present to meet your needs out of the box.
With a non-proprietary platform, you can integrate your website with a variety of tools ranging outside of your provider, which can allow for more customization. WordPress is a non-proprietary platform.
2. “What level of maintenance and supervision can my agency reasonably contribute?”
Your answer should account for both required upstart and ongoing maintenance once the website is up and running. Are you willing and able to commit to a potentially time-consuming and demanding upstart in hopes of general maintenance being less demanding? Or on the flipside, is a less arduous startup of the website more ideal knowing that general maintenance will be something you need to keep an eye on consistently? Are you looking for a website provider who will both handle the programming and write all the content for the new website? Will you need ongoing content management and change support, or do you want to staff that in house? Do you want a fixed monthly fee for maintenance and technical support, or will you rely upon internal staff to manage the website technical components?
3. “Can we reasonably implement every available feature a provider offers, or do we have limited capacity and therefore can only incorporate a limited number of bells and whistles?”
If your organization can roll out a website with every possible feature included and actually put those tools to work for the agency, then it is worth evaluating higher-end providers that offer a wider range of built in tools. If you find yourself lacking staff capacity to support use of all the features of a provider, however, it would be wiser to go with a solution that still delivers on the basics of a platform and offers an excellent CMS and overall experience while avoiding complexity and feature confusion.
We often use the analogy of buying a Ferrari Testarossa but not knowing how to drive a manual transmission. If you buy it, you end up owning a car you really can’t use. In such cases, maybe you should have opted for the six speed automatica Honda Accord. A better price, with less speed, but just the features you can handle.
There are many viable website providers for local governments. But remember, the value you get from your provider will only be as valuable as the features you can take advantage of.
Tripepi Smith can advise you on your website redesign. We not only build websites (our clients and team love the level of customization and user-friendly CMS of WordPress), we also offer consulting services on website redesigns using other proprietary systems. Our work in local government has seen our team routinely using many other platforms as we implement content changes for them on their website. Websites remain the first face for the communities agencies serve. Contact us today for guidance.
***Tripepi Smith Co-Founders Ryder Todd Smith and Nicole Smith are investors in FlashVote.