Whether you’re registering your child for a swim class, paying your property taxes, reporting a pothole or renewing your dog license, the City of Surrey is creating a new website with the aim of making things easier to find and do at surrey.ca.
A redesign on a new platform is underway and staff expect the new website will launch in early 2020.
“One of our main goals for doing this was to fully embrace the digital transformation of our services,”explained Sean Simpson, Surrey’s director of information technology, during a presentation to city council on Sept. 16.
The new site will provide the ability to interact with city services “24 hours a day, seven days a week from anywhere on any device.”
“This is the mobile mind shift,” Simpson said.
The last time the city did an overhaul of its website was in 2010, and in 2014 the city launched the MySurrey app, separate from its website “because the website was on an older technology platform,” said Simpson.
When the MySurrey app was launched, it was described as the “first of its kind” for B.C. municipalities with information on everything from garbage removal to bike routes to parking, and also has the ability for residents to submit service requests, such as pothole repairs or pick-up of illegally dumped garbage.
Before the new website is rolled out next year, the city plans to launch “digital accounts” for residents this fall, Simpson explained, which will incorporate the “MySurrey” side of city services.
“Our vision is that when you log into surrey.ca you’ll know all the activities related to your account, including that your library book is overdue, or your dog license is up for renewal, or maybe your service request is now completed. We want to have one complete experience,” Simpson explained, adding that users will be able track all activity and business with the city in one place.
“When we go live with the MySurrey digital account we will be leader in providing modern, municipal services that will positively impact the lives of both our residents and businesses. Our online services will enable them to interact with us anytime, from anywhere and from any device. And saves them a trip to city hall.”
Cost is another important driver, Simpson noted.
“Research shows the cost per transaction is over $5 for in-person service by coming to city hall or answering that phone, whereas a digital cost per transaction is less than $1 when leveraging automation an integration with our systems. The digital transformation puts the customer experience first. We want to provide a consistent experience across all our online services,” he told council.
All of this work, Simpson said, will transform “the customer experience with a streamlined process for both the customers and our staff as we digitize our online processes.”
Darryl McCarron, Surrey’s marking and communications relations manager, told council the redevelopment project is currently at the half-way point.
“At this stage it’s important that we ensure our content migration is in lockdown so we can proceed with the migration of over 3,000 pages of content and 30,000 files. That’s everything like documents, bylaws, images, video, etc. So that’s the critical stage we’re headed into next.”
McCarron told council the project’s key benefits are for the new website to be more user-focused and accessible, to make content easier to find, to have a more vibrant design, to offer citizens better methods to reach the right person, to allow for more cross-promotion opportunities and to provide easier access to online services.
“The complaint we hear most often from external customers is how difficult it is to find what they’re looking for on the site,” he noted, later adding that “research shows that most people going to surrey.ca are looking specifically for a service or to complete a task such as paying for property taxes, for example.”
McCarron noted the new platform, called Drupal, is “far superior and more efficient” than the city’s current site, and that’s it’s currently used by the White House, and the Government of Canada.
“There’s lots of customizable modules off the shelf for this platform, there’s no licensing fees and the new system will basically provide an opportunity for us to do more in-house. Given it’s modern ease to use, there’s less staff time for making site changes, less staff time for training and less troubleshooting.”
Rob Costanzo, Surrey general manager of corporate services said the budget for the new website is “under $485,000.”
“The move to a new platform for the City of Surrey website will result in a savings of close to $600,000 over five years,” Costanzo told the Now-Leader via email. “The projected savings will be realized through reduced licensing, hosting and maintenance costs that are currently incurred with the outdated platform.”