Orlando tests user-friendly government website - Orlando Sentinel

Orlando is testing a new city website, with the aim of saving residents trips to City Hall.

The site, officials said, will offer a one-stop-shop for dozens of city services, where residents can report potholes, apply for building permits or contest a parking ticket from the comfort of their home — on a computer or a smartphone. .

“Our goal is that you won’t have to come into City Hall to do business with the city, because the reality is that our residents operate 24-7, but City Hall does not,” said Matt Broffman, the city’s director of innovation.

The city has already launched an early prototype of the site at alpha.orlando.gov. Broffman said the goal is to launch a “beta” version sometime in the summer and debut the final version by the end of 2018. Setting up the site is expected to cost about $150,000, a city spokeswoman said.

The prototype’s homepage has nine buttons under the heading of “Do It Online,” with most tied to a specific action, like “Report a Problem Tree,” “Parking Tickets” or “Request Housing Assistance.” It currently offers about a dozen services, Broffman said.

Clicking the button for problem trees brings up a numbered, step-by-step guide for identifying dangerous trees and getting them removed.

Among the project’s goals, Broffman said, is to reduce “government speak” that makes it hard for residents to find what they need — replacing terms like “solid waste” with “trash pickup,” for example.

“We know that government tends to use terms most people don’t,” he said.

Broffman said about 4 million people each year, more than half of them from smartphones, visit the city’s current site, cityoforlando.net, but many wind up having to call or visit in person to accomplish their goals.

The city is seeking to hire a five-person team to build the new site: three digital product managers, a digital service designer and a software engineer. All five jobs pay between $31.33 and $41.79 an hour. Those interested can apply via cityoforlando.net/job-listings.

Jennifer Pahlka of Code for America, which helps local governments, including Orlando, modernize their online presence, said the city is an “early adopter” of the services-first model for which the group advocates.

“You have a local government here who’s really thinking about how government should work in a digital age, and there’s a lot that we all have to do to help governments be effective in 2017, which is different from how they were effective in 1997,” Pahlka said.

Hard-to-use government websites, she said, place a burden on residents, especially those for whom it’s hard to find time to wait in line.

“That’s inconvenient for everyone, but it has a disproportionate negative effect on people with low income and lower resources,” she said. “The more you have to interact with government, the higher the burden on you.”

Read the original article posted here.  By: jeweiner@orlandosentinel.com, 407-420-5171 or @JeffWeinerOS on Twitter