Updated county website in the works

  • Hawaii County website

  • Information Technology Director Jules Ung, (Nancy Cook Lauer/West Hawaii Today)

HILO — Other than which mayor is smiling from the upper right corner, little has changed on Hawaii County’s website over the past decade, despite repeated plans to upgrade it.

Now Mayor Harry Kim’s administration is having another go at making the simple format more user-friendly.

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The county has posted a survey at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/PPG3HKQ asking the public what it wants to see in an upgraded website.

“We need resident participation to guide the end user experience and needs,” said Information Technology Director Jules Ung.

The survey asks questions such as how difficult it is to find information, how often the user goes to the site, whether they access it from desktop, laptop, tablet or cellphone, and other such questions. There’s also room for people to leave more detailed comments.

One of the biggest critics of the county website has been local blogger Damon Tucker, who posted on Dec. 27, 2008, that he wished the county would do more with its website.

“Now that Mayor Kenoi has surrounded himself with good people who understand how important it is to have a good working relationship with the media, I think they are also learning the value of Digital communication,” Tucker said on his blog at the time.

Oahu blogger Doug White went even further in a Dec. 31, 2008, post in Poinography! blog:

“Is there a County with a more amateurish web presence?! Sheesh,” he posted.

In a response, a former county spokesman said a revamped website was expected to be completed that January.

That hasn’t happened yet.

But Ung said the county is serious this time. Consultant Granicus Inc., which already handles the county’s video technology and livestreaming, is doing a true makeover once the survey responses are tabulated.

The $119,505 contract includes all development and maintenance costs for two years.

“We have a pretty aggressive timeframe to complete this,” Ung said.

Ung said about 100 people have completed the survey since the county put out a notice about it less than a month ago. She’s hoping for at least 300 to make the results more meaningful.

Ung said the website is being changed because it’s an outdated platform with older technology that does not work with modern applications, has limited features and functions and is not user friendly.

The new design will provide more interactive online services, prioritize accessibility for people with disabilities, increase government transparency by providing easier access to public records 24/7, Ung said.

“We receive a lot of public feedback that users cannot find what they are looking for,” she said.

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While the look, feel and functionality of the website may improve, the county plans to keep the Laserfiche system of document management. Laserfiche is preferred because it provides a good Americans with Disabilities Act compliant system, Ung said.

“We’ll now have a better Laserfiche,” Ung said, “so people will be able to search for documents a lot easier.”