County website will be more mobile friendly
As of this summer, there will be no more zooming, pinching, panning or enlarging when it comes to the Becker County website.
Rebuilt in 2008, the county’s website was suitable at that time, but traveling at the speed of ever-changing technology, that same website is now cumbersome.
The current site was built before the popularity of smart phones, tablets and other small, mobile technology devises. Now though, “you have to zoom and pan in and out” to see the site on a mobile device, county Web Developer Tony Brahmer said.
“We took a look at who is coming onto our pages,” IT Director Rick Kelsven said, and the result is 40-45 percent of people visiting are using mobile devices of some sort.
So Brahmer is working to make the site more mobile user friendly, cleaning up the look of the website, but more importantly, making it readable from your phone without scrimping on any of the information.
Using a system called responsive design, the screen from a desktop computer can be shrunk and viewed on a phone and have the same content, it’s simply arranged automatically to be more accessible.
No longer will mobile technology users have to zoom and pinch through the screens, trying to read the miniature type. The new site will be easier to navigate, with bigger fonts and more spacing, so your finger will only hit one link and not two or three.
“Everything has a big button. It’s all touch friendly,” Brahmer said.
He’s keeping the main tabs across the top the same, so people are familiar with the site as they have been in the past, but now there won’t be any “fluff” along the sides of the pages.
For instance, all the contact information will be in location rather than listed along the side of the pages.
“Keep it simple, keep it clean,” he said.
The new site will be launched in 30-60 days. Brahmer said he’s spending his days getting information switched from one site to the other and will be happy when just one is running, because when changes are made to the original website, he has to make those changes on the yet-to-be released site as well.
“It’s a daunting task with the sheer volume of what we have on the site,” he said.
Years ago, the Internet wasn’t utilized nearly as much as it is today.
“People don’t need to come here (to the court house) for all that anymore,” Kelsven said, because many documents are online now.
One hiccup that will need to be dealt with is being able to successfully navigate the site, regardless of the Internet connection or provider someone may have.
Brahmer said that since Becker County is a rural county, there isn’t the larger broadband capability found in the larger cities, so people with various types of Internet may not be able to have as smooth of an experience as hoped. Brahmer is working on that though, too.
One heavily used portion of the site that won’t be updated quite yet — but Brahmer is working on it, too — is the GIS system that allows people to look up plats of land in the county and see who owns them.
(By the way, the list of jail inmates is the most viewed page on the website.)
Besides the new site being a benefit to the public accessing the site, it will be easier for the county IT employees as well. Brahmer said that while some entities have a regular desktop site, they also have to maintain a second site for mobile users. With this new program though, it’s all fed through one site, and everything that’s on one site is on the other.
Besides a change in the look and abilities of the site, Brahmer said, “it’s a time to do housecleaning,” clearing any information on the site that’s never accessed or needed.
“We’re not skimping on information,” he said. “We’re not taking anything away, but making it easier.”
It’s simple and can be built off of if needed in the future, he added.
“This is just the next step in the evolution,” Kelsven said of technology.
The county’s website is www.co.becker.mn.us, but make sure to check back this summer for the new, cleaner version of the site.
Follow Pippi Mayfield on Twitter at @PippiMayfield.