Grand Rapids launches redesigned website

Grand Rapids
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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The City of Grand Rapids has launched a new website offering services previously unavailable online to its citizens.

The website replaces and offers online payment for 54 city services and 24 business licenses, among others. The new website is meant to function as a virtual city hall that is open for business at all times.

“When people just want to say, ‘I want to do this at night, on my time, on any browser. I want it to work, and I want to be in my PJs when I want to do it,'” said Grand Rapids 311 Customer Service Director Becky Jo Glover.

In addition to the payment and license services, it gives citizens access to 236 services that cover the top requests to Grand Rapids’ 311 Customer Service Center, 102 of which weren’t previously available online.

“Right now, it’s starting new water service,” Glover said.

Prior to the new site launch, the online process involved downloading a three-page form, filling it out, scanning it and emailing it to City Hall, hoping it lands in the right in box. Now, with a few mouse clicks, citizens are done with the process.

The city has also done away with a lot of the bureaucratic language on the old website.

“It was called utility agreement online,” Glover said. “But isn’t turning water on turning water on? Isn’t ‘starting refuse’ — trash?”

The new website still includes grpayit, a service giving citizens the ability to pay bills for services like water and trash online, which helps reduce the number of delinquent payments.

Glover said that will translate to less administrative and late fees, which is the right thing to do for the community.

While city officials designed the new site, the changes were all customer driven. Calls to 311 helped illustrate the challenges faced by city residents when trying to navigate the old site.

Rather than running the redesign through consultants who ask users what they want and then translate requests to the city, Grand Rapids went directly to its citizens.

“If we don’t test and do what the community is asking, we will run the risk of having a website that eventually that was exactly like the last one,” Glover said. “When you have a middle person or a team or consultant group in the middle,  you’re never getting that word, you’re hearing it second-hand.”

The second phase of the website’s redesign will add services to the city’s mobile application, add to the legislative model for city commission meetings and agendas and enhance grpayit.

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