September 5, 2023
By Eric Holmes, City Manager
Increasing accessibility and transparency through a new website and data tools
This summer, Vancouver City Council adopted its Strategic Plan charting a course for the City over the next six years and beyond. The plan includes values that prioritize a more transparent approach for sharing information about the work we do, and the services we offer to the community.
The primary information source for the City is our website, and Wednesday, Sept. 6, the City launched a new website. While the domain may be the same as our previous website, you’ll find that the new site’s features and user experience are completely different. Our website averages more than 100,000 visitors a month and the former version was built twelve years ago; it lacked some of the functionality and accessibility features users expect and that are necessary to meet the needs of our rapidly growing and diversifying community.
The new website was developed by putting the user experience first. Using analytics and data, the City learned that when people visit our website, they are primarily visiting to pay a bill or fee, apply for a job, get a permit or complete some other service-oriented activity. In response, the website now provides faster and more intuitive access to tasks and information searched for by site users.
I hope you will take the time to explore the new site; it continues to feature information about City services, projects and initiatives, boards and commissions, City volunteer opportunities and more.
Some of the new features include:
- An accessibility menu that enables users to select how they want to consume the content. Some available options are adjustable font sizes, color contrast choices, dyslexia-friendly text adjustments and other features to create an inclusive online experience for users.
- A translation tool that offers the option to instantly translate most content into 103 languages.
- Improved search, navigation and design to help users to find the information they need quickly and with minimal effort.
Also, as a City that values transparency, we embrace the importance of reporting the City’s progress to you as a means for you to hold your government accountable for results. As part of the new website, we built an Open Data Hub to provide easier access to publicly available data published by the City.
One example of how accessible data supports improved efficiency and transparency, is the recently launched interactive Development Projects Dashboard. Users explore projects at different stages of the development pipeline, and for the first time, view all development projects completed in the last six years.
The tool also helps staff and Council quickly and easily see data to support informed decision-making about future policies and programs. From departments seeking to forecast for the future, to community members checking in on the status of a particular project – the dashboard now serves as a valuable resource for understanding Vancouver’s development landscape.
When you explore the new website, I encourage you to use the site’s feedback form to tell us what you think. Feedback is invaluable as the City works to continuously improve access to information and services on its website.