The star of Riverside’s new website is Riverside itself. 

The home page (www.riverside.il.us) celebrates the village’s woodland setting via a looping video shot by a drone, presenting a vista of the village’s downtown, with a view toward downtown Chicago.

After that striking introduction, the most noticeable feature of the website’s home page is a large “search” bar. While the subjects “Departments,” “Community,” “Boards & Commissions” and “Business in Riverside” top the home page, they’re secondary to an invitation to submit search terms into the field.

It was an intentional decision, according to Village Manager Jessica Frances, to engage directly with residents and make the site more user-friendly and interactive. 

  “That was based on analytics that said, if people can’t find what they’re looking for, they want to be able to find the search bar right away,” Frances said.

But for those who want to explore the home page a little further, you’ll also be able to find prominent links for paying utility bills, police fines and recreation program fees online; links to the village newsletter, videos of board and commission meetings and signups for emergency notifications; and obtaining general information about the village’s history, business districts and park programming.

The home page also will direct you to download the Riverside Responds app, where residents can communicate with village officials at any time about issues or problems. It also includes a “trending” feature where residents can find links to information about important and timely issues.

“If we’re getting phone calls about something we can put information on there,” Frances said. “It’s an eye-catching way to provide a place where people can go for answers or for things of common interest.”

There’s also a “community calendar” feature that’s fairly slim so far but which officials want to turn into a clearing house for events happening all over town.

“We’re trying to capture as much as is humanly possible,” Frances said. “We’re reaching out to the chamber of commerce, school districts and community groups to get as much information as possible.”

An important new feature is a section of online forms – from Freedom of Information requests to business license applications to special event applications and garage sale permit applications – that can be filled out and submitted directly to the village online.

“We’re trying to make it as interactive as possible,” Frances said.

The new website went live Dec. 15, replacing its much less interactive predecessor, which was more than a decade old.

Back in May, the Riverside Village Board hired a firm called CivicPlus, which specializes in designing municipal websites, to develop the new site. The contract called for a new site to be developed for $35,000. CivicPlus will provide website maintenance and support for the next four years for an additional $14,000 and will redesign the website in 2020.

Riverside had received web development proposals from 16 vendors in response to a request for proposals earlier this year.

The website’s design incorporated elements, like the new village logo and color palette, are part of a new branding and marketing strategy being undertaken by a firm called Point B Communications. That firm will be tasked with completing a full marketing plan in 2017.

Another consulting firm, Nolan Collaborative, which was hired to produce a marketing video for the village, was responsible for the drone video on the home page of the new website.

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