Simple, relevant, logical, informative: a website that’s all about the user.
Hawke’s Bay Regional Council’s (HBRC) website was outdated and in need of a revamp. HBRC needed a powerful and yet simple, easy to use and user-focused site that would give ratepayers all the information they need, whenever they need it. The new site needed to provide an online “shop window” and a showcase of HBRC’s role in the community. To do this, HBRC needed a single-view and future-proof platform to enable seamless integration with Dynamics NAV, Dynamics CRM and spatial data, and to allow for the website and intranet to be built on the same platform. With a strong relationship with Intergen already in place, HBRC engaged Intergen to build a new Microsoft SharePoint website, including mobile views and apps, and the user experience design for the site.
HBRC’s old site was “stale and static,” says Kahl Olsen, HBRC’s ICT Manager. “It had become hard to navigate; it was hard to effectively keep content updated, where content management was manual and time-consuming. We were using our website as a one-way channel – being all about what the Council did – and we needed to rethink our approach, making our website all about the user instead. We needed to foster community by providing everything the ratepayer needs, including self-help facilities and social media integration, making it all available to them at 10 o’clock on a Sunday night (for example), from the comfort of their own homes. One of our key drivers was to engage the community in the way they want, when they want.”
“We wanted a website that appears simple, intuitive, relevant and needed no explanation,” says Kahl. In the envisioning stage of the project, HBRC staff identified that they needed a site that was user-centric, seamless to navigate, useable, authoritative and informative. Transparency of public information was extremely important, and it needed to be findable, concise and useful. The new site needed to provide Hawke’s Bay ratepayers with a one-stop shop where they could find all the information they need and perform transactions simply and with ease, including payments, consents and all council submissions. For council website users, the site needed to be flexible and easy to use and manage content.
Recognising the ever-increasing use of mobile phones to access website content, being mobile accessible was also a priority for HBRC, with the bus finder mobile app proving to be one of the most popular features of the new site.
HBRC embarked upon a programme of work with SharePoint at its core, encompassing a new website, intranet and extranet sites. “SharePoint ticked all the boxes and proved to be the right platform for us,” Kahl says. “We wanted a long-term, single-view platform, and in terms of our staff managing the environment, SharePoint has proved much less complex and stressful than our old technology.”
“The website project couldn’t have gone more smoothly,” Kahl says. “So much so that it was like the calm before the storm all the way through, and we kept waiting for the storm to hit – or thinking we must have forgotten something – but it never did. And the Intergen and HBRC teams worked really well together – responsive and engaged on both sides. It was all positive – an enjoyable project, no issues, the right amount of testing and quality code. We trusted that Intergen would deliver, and they did.”
The website is a resounding success with HBRC staff, councillors and Hawke’s Bay ratepayers alike. Regional Councillor Kevin Rose says: “With the new website, Council functions are brought to the ratepayer at the click of a mouse. It’s a bright site that’s pleasing on the eye. It’s easy to navigate and highlights the Council’s important areas of activity; and the layout is superb, making it easy for users to find their areas of interest.” Kahl says: “Staff love it and so does the public – the feedback has been unanimously positive. Now we have a robust and future-proof communication engine with distributed information in one place, and accurate and timely access to data, including environmental data, which is critical for us.”
“Mobile is where it’s at,” says Kahl, “and we’ll be doing lots of future mobile development for the site. One of the great things about SharePoint is that we can keep on extending it. It’s easy to keep up with new features and functionality and to use it for extranets, for example, which will allow for collaboration on regional projects.”