Crow Wing County is focusing on the small stuff-at least when it comes to its website and users of mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets.
County Administrator Tim Houle shared with the county board at its Tuesday, June 11, meeting ongoing efforts to update the county website to be more user-friendly on smaller screens.
"What we were discovering was that about 60-70% of the traffic on our website is from mobile devices, and that's changed significantly since the last time we updated the website in 2014," Houle said as part of his senior management team report to commissioners.
The county revamped its website in 2014 to improve accessibility and navigation by organizing the website based on intuitiveness and added a more powerful search engine.
From permits and license forms to geographic information system mapping, social services and human resources, the website set a record with about 1.3 million views in 2017, a trend for the fourth straight year.
"How our website appears on a small screen like a mobile phone, it was not the best experience and so we're trying to improve that experience given that most of our web traffic has moved to mobile devices," Houle said.
The Android and iOS mobile applications for the county website were discontinued last year because of lack of features, low usage and infrequent updates by the vendor, according to county officials.
"Tablets would count as a 'mobile device,'" Houle said. "We need to make sure that our website is going to appear in a useful way on a small screen, so we're in the process of doing that."
Last year, the county selected AudioEye to assist in ensuring its public content-text, pictures, weblinks, etc.-is accessible for all by continuously monitoring the county's website based on current accessibility standards, automatically correcting certain issues while alerting staff.
In 2010, the U.S. Department of Justice published Americans with Disabilities Act standards for accessible design, part of which stated electronic and information technology must be accessible to people with disabilities.
"Just trying to lay out a road map for where we want the organization to go in technology since that's such a significant investment for us and also has such a significant potential good return for us," Houle said.
Website visitors searched for a variety of information. The most common searches were criminal cases, in-custody reports, properties and property taxes. There were about 750,000 unique hits to the county jail in-custody webpage, but 125,000 unique hits to the county's homepage last year.
A significant change in 2017 was website visits to more content-specific webpages, such as in-custody reports, and bypassing the county website's main page or landing page were up between 10 percent and 100 percent, according to website administrator Marcus Cadena.
"We pay pretty close attention to what our technology needs are and where we're going with that," Houle said.
The county website also provides the option to subscribe to notifications on topics or services important to residents without having to check the page for updates. Almost 4,000 subscribers took advantage of this service in 2017.
In other business, the county board:
Approved the hiring of Kaitlin Ubl, community services social worker; Robert Anderson, sheriff's office correctional officer; and Ashley Miller and KC Stanton, community services senior technical/administrative specialists.
Accepted the departure of Tom Rime, community services probation agent.
Approved the findings of fact for denial of the petition of Suzanne Leagjeld Qual Per Res Trust-Driftwood Resort and Lodge for the land use map amendment request from shoreland district to waterfront commercial involving about 7 acres.
Approved the request of Bay Lake Township for an increase in their 2019 SCORE funding from $10,000 to $28,000 for the operation of Bay Lake Township's recycling drop-off center due to increased usage following Deerwood and Garrison discontinuing last year their recycling programs.
Authorized the removal of tax-forfeited land for a conditional-use deed to the city of Emily for a proposed public beach by Squaw Lake Road. If the use is ever discontinued or abandoned, the 34 acres at the southeast end of Little Emily Lake will revert back to a tax-forfeit status.
Authorized an out-of-state travel request for a geographic information systems coordinator to attend the 2019 Esri User Conference July 8-12 in San Diego with all expenses to be paid from the information technology budget.
Approved the 2019 renewal combination (on-sale Sunday and off-sale) liquor license application of The Woods LLC, doing business as The Woods, Unorganized Territory.
Approved the 2019 new 3.2% on-sale malt liquor license applications of Heartland Enterprises of Deerwood Inc., doing business as Heartland Hockey Camp, as recommended by the town of Bay Lake.
Approved the liquor-related applications by Little Pistol LLC, doing business as Chameleon Cafe, Unorganized Territory, for the 2019 renewal 3.2% on-sale malt liquor license; to sell intoxicating malt liquor on-sale in conjunction with the on-sale wine and on-sale 3.2% malt liquor license; and the 2019 on-sale wine license.
Approved the liquor-related applications by Wings Airport Café, town of Oak Lawn, to sell intoxicating malt liquor on-sale in conjunction with the on-sale wine and on-sale 3.2% malt liquor licenses; the 2019 on-sale wine license; and the 2019 new 3.2% on-sale malt liquor license.
Approved entering into a detour agreement with the Minnesota Department of Transportation, which is requesting to use portions of county highways 30 and 31 as a detour during construction work on Highway 6 north of Crosby during the 2019 construction season. The agreement provides the county $5,376.57 in compensation for use of these roads based on road length, traffic volume and detour duration.