Prince George’s government overhauls its website for transparency, ease of use -- Gazette.Net


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Two months ago, when John Scoulios of Bowie wanted to file a complaint about potholes on Governor Bridge Road, he sought the help of a Bowie city government staff member to navigate the various tabs, menus and forms on the Prince George’s County government’s website.

When Scoulios visited the website, www.princegeorgescountymd.gov, on July 8, he said he found it a lot easier to decipher as the county government is overhauling the site. “It seems logical. .... It looks interesting. It looks like it’s modern,” Scoulios said of the new website.

County officials are hoping visitors have similar reactions to the redesigned website unveiled June 28.

The changes are expected to be finished this month, according to county officials.

Officials said the site will offer more data on government operations than the old site and will be more visually appealing to hopefully attract visitors and businesses to the county.

Officials are still working to convert the county’s old web pages and forms over to the new system, said Vennard Wright, the county’s chief information officer and director of the county’s Office of Information Technology. The new website was created by the county government and the Greenbelt-based company Ingenium Corp. for about $448,827, Wright said.

The website replaces the county’s old design, which was created around 2006 for about $1.5 million, Wright said. The old site’s design appeared outdated compared to other jurisdictions’ websites such as Baltimore city, Montgomery County and Northern Virginia and it was hard to navigate, Wright said.

“Things were put up but they weren’t put up intuitively,” he said. “It took a while [to locate items], if you didn’t know where to find it.”

County officials will allow greater departmental control of their respective parts of the website, which should allow for quicker posting and updating of individual web pages, Wright said.

In a marked contrast to the old website, county officials are looking to provide searchable databases of service requests made to the county government’s 311 non-emergency call system, as well as requests for service to the county police and the location of the service requests. The website will allow residents to see issues across the county and in their neighborhoods, and ideally be updated and refreshed at least once a week, if not faster, Wright said.

“They can see that we’re aware of the problems and are responding. It lets people know that we’re aware of our challenges,” he said. “It really helps to keep us honest.”

Going forward, the county government will also be looking to increase the number of searchable databases in general on the website, Wright said.

“We want any information that we can see inside the county government available for you to see as well,” Wright said.

The website will also feature large photos of upcoming events and county attractions such as the Bladensburg battleground of the War of 1812.

“I wanted it to be a lot more attractive. The reality is a lot of people will never visit Prince George’s County physically. They’re only going to know it from online,” Wright said. “I didn’t want them to just see Prince George’s County government, but Prince George’s County life.”

amccombs@gazette.net