More flexibility for access, updates
Okanogan County has debuted a new website that works on computers and smartphones and lets county departments keep their pages up to date without going through the county’s IT Department.
Before the launch, the procedure for updating a page was so cumbersome that some departments rarely added current information or documents, Okanogan County Central Services Director Karen Beatty said.
The website, which has a clean, consistent look and access for people who are visually impaired, hit the small screens on Thursday (May 13). It’s the first website update in two decades, said County IT Systems Administrator Steve Rowe.
The old website was literally impossible to view on a phone. People had to turn their phone on its side, zoom in, and zoom out again to go to another page, Rowe said.
Before the update, some departments had to email IT whenever they needed to make a change. Now they can upload their own documents and photos.
The auditor will be able to post election results more promptly, since they won’t need to go through IT, Okanogan County Auditor Cari Hall said. “It’s very easy to do and user-friendly. There was lots of redundancy on the old site,” she said.
Now that the site is ADA-compliant, people who are visually impaired will be able to access audio, and photos will be tagged with an audio description, Okanogan County Human Resources Director Tanya Craig said.
The home page has links so people can live-stream county meetings or respond to bids. It will be updated with current events and news. The home page also links to county maps.
Another tab takes people to documents and forms, such as the county code and interlocal agreements. People can view informational videos about the county. There’s even a gallery of historic photos.
Department heads were consulted about the template and had input about how to organize their information, Rowe said. The county reviewed and fine-tuned the site until it went live.
“We were looking for a more streamlined presentation,” It flows better and there is a unified color theme,” Beatty said.
The county is still adding some features. People will ultimately be able to fill out applications online, search for and request public records, and research recorded documents like deeds and marriage licenses.
The website also includes an E-Notify feature, where people will be able to sign up for email or text alerts when anything is posted on a particular topic, such as minutes of commissioners’ meetings or new planning documents. The alerts are different from the county’s emergency alert system, which is used to notify people about wildfires, floods and road closures.
The Auditor’s Department is working on an electronic system that will make document recording of deeds and other land documents electronic, Hall said.
Ultimately, the county expects to digitize all county records going back to the 1880s, Hall said. “For the first time ever, every record in Okanogan County will be digitized and indexed,” she said. Because staff will work on that as they have time, it could take six to nine months before that process is complete, she said.
The site was designed by Revize, a developer that specializes in government websites. The county selected Revize after a request for proposals. The new site can be translated into some 80 languages, from Spanish to Chinese to Gujarati.
The county has been talking about the need for a new website since 2019, and the commissioners allocated money for the change, Craig said. The new site cost $18,000, plus a $3,400 annual fee for hosting and maintenance. The price included training for staff in keeping the site up to date.
The home page still has the same URL: https://www.okanogancounty.org. Individual departments are under the “Government” tab. People who have bookmarked a page will be taken to the county’s home page, where they can navigate to the department they want, since the URLs for specific departments have changed.