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Daily Journal
     October 1, 2021      #40-274 KDJ

Kankakee County working on new website 

By Chris Breach

Although Kankakee County's government's website, k3county.net, is accessible and workable, it has the look and feel of an early 2000s site.

The county board had previously approved the development of a new website, and the Finance Committee gave the final OK this week  by a 8-0 vote to have CivicPlus design and format a new website for the county.

"It's more than a website, it's a mass communications tool," said Jasmyne Humble, Kankakee County communications director. "It must be more than a website."

The Finance Committee approved CivicPlus to be paid $42,000 to develop the new site.

"Our current website does not serve the needs of a connected community," said Kankakee County Board Chairman Andy Wheeler. "While many were forced to shut down during the COVID-19 pandemic, local governments were among those still operating. We knew we needed to be a resource hub, and the pandemic brought that need to the forefront. We need to be accessible in ways the public engages content, even after our offices close for the day.

"Considering how people are consuming information and seeking it out on their terms, this next-generation resource will rise to meet that expectation."

Humble cited an analyticsusa.gov study that showed 55 percent of people search government websites on a mobile device, 43 percent on a desktop and 2 percent from a tablet. Websites must be accessible, informative, user-friendly, highly visible, interactive and innovative.

"A lot of people often call or email us and ask where to find something," Humble said. "The information is there. We just need to make it more user-friendly, more visible."

CivcPlus, out of Manhattan, Kan., focuses on websites for local governments. It has more than 4,000 clients, including 70 counties, Humble said. It has 20 years of experience working with local governments.

"They have a huge support team," she said.

Some advantages of the CivicPlus web design are that it can provide emergency updates, users can create an account, and it will have a document center for items such as agendas, minutes and forms, as well as staff directories. All of which will be easily searchable from tabs at the top of the homepage.

Job postings will also be easily accessible, and prospective applicants can apply for the job on the site, something the current website doesn't offer.

The new web design will have a modern layout with easy navigation, and it will be fully customized and more visual.

"You make it what you want it to look like," Humble said.

CivcPlus' project timeline for implementation of the new design is 18 to 32 weeks.

"It's going to take a few months if not longer," Humble said.

"There are a lot of little things to work through over the next six months," Wheeler said.

CivicPlus offers 24/7 emergency support via phone, email or live chat. County officials and staff will be provided training for the new website. Other nearby counties that currently use CivicPlus include Lake County, Ill., (lakecountyil.gov) and Porter County in Northwest Indiana (porterco.org).

"We have a true partner on a communications tool that is not only cutting edge, it's leading edge," Wheeler said.

"This is really phenomenal," said board member Steve Hunter after the presentation by Humble and Wheeler. "I think it's going to skyrocket us in the state and nationally in what you're doing."

CivcPlus' redesign also has the option of taking and uploading images of various sites in the county for the new design for an additional cost of $7,500. Wheeler said the county might be able to provide some of its own images.

"We don't think it will be the $7,500," he said.

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