The Village of Cumberland has an innovative new website at cumberland.ca.
Created in partnership with Courtenay design firm Dialect, the site is a dramatic departure from traditional municipal websites.
Instead of relying on dense layers of pages grouped under vague headings, the Village gives users a simple search box with access to the entire breadth of the site.
Want to know if water restrictions are in effect? Instead of clicking through three levels of links, just type “water” and the answer is there.
The site’s visual design took cues from Cumberland’s rich industrial and labour history as well as today’s vibrant main street. Bold colours, striking photos and strong contrasts make a modern impression and send the message that this little Village punches above its weight.
“We tried to create a site that’s welcoming and comprehensive at the same time,” noted Mayor Leslie Baird. “We also wanted to give a real sense of the village’s character. The visuals, the structure and the style of writing are all working toward those goals.”
The new cumberland.ca isn’t your typical government website and, in fact, it’s part of a larger movement that sees design and technology as instrumental in connecting people and their governments.
“We took inspiration from ground-breaking efforts like the U.K.’s gov.uk portal,” says Alex Dunae of Dialect. “And we’re delighted to have been able to bring that sort of innovation to British Columbia.”
Before starting on the website redesign, the Village worked with Dialect to identify three principles that guided the site’s development.
First and foremost is crystal clear communication between residents, businesses and visitors to Cumberland and their government. The site aims to give each of these groups straightforward answers to their questions without jargon or complexity. When landing on a page, the most important information should be prominent, not buried midway through.
The second principle is that the site is a vital part of open government. Throughout the site users are invited to engage with the Village, whether sending feedback, attending council meetings, volunteering or even running for council themselves.
Equally important, the site is the primary way that many residents interact with their government and so it must be reliable and current. Little things like ‘last reviewed’ dates atop every page give users that confidence.
The third principle is that the site must be accessible to all.
This takes many forms, including large type options and keyboard-only navigation for those with disabilities, mobile- and tablet-friendly designs for those on the go, and encrypted connections for those concerned about privacy. It also meant writing in plain language and avoiding PDFs and other complex document types wherever possible.
The site continues to grow daily and the Village is actively soliciting user feedback.
— Village of Cumberland