Mount Pleasant launched a new website Wednesday that bears a strong resemblance to Central Michigan University’s homepage — something city officials said was not unintentional.
Earlier this week, city commissioners had a preview of the site before its official launch. City Manager Kathie Grinzinger said the city’s partnership with CMU has evolved over the last 12 months with the hope each site will “sport similar looks linking us more in the eyes and memories of our users.”
“The city (has) had a Web presence for many, many years, but the look, feel and operation of that site hasn’t substantially been updated for nearly that long,” Grinzinger said. To remain a community trumpeting a competitive sense of place, she added, “It’s critical that our public face match our vision.”
Stephanie Brown, the project’s Web content manager, said CMU had developed a wireframe for mt-pleasant.org, based very much from cmich.edu, when she came in to “fill in the blanks.”
In order to configure the navigation and architecture of the site, she said she had to collect all of the necessary information from each department.
“Also in this process, we wanted to consider the content,” Brown said. “It’s very important to look at the search engine optimization and to build content that’s related around that, so search engines like Google and Yahoo will quickly pick up on the content and make sure the city (is brought up as) No. 1 in the search rankings.”
On the city’s homepage, three different areas are designated for residents, businesses and visitors, which Brown said act as gateways to general city information. At the bottom are quick links, city updates and upcoming events.
Included in the new features of the site is a designated section that allows contractors and builders to peruse through all of the city’s bids and quotations for planned construction or capital projects.
Renee Walker, associate vice president of University Communications, said her office helped with the Web design and planning for the CMU Research Corporation, and that a member of her team helped identify a vendor and goals for a new Mid Michigan Development Corporation website.
She said there were several goals for the city’s site, such as heightened usability and performance.
Though the city’s website is up and running, the university’s involvement isn’t quite over.
“There will be a phase two, so we will get all of the subsites addressed as well in the coming months,” Walker said at Monday’s city commission meeting.
She said this next phase will mostly consist of working with Mount Pleasant’s partnering vendors to redesign subsites like the “pay your ticket now” page, which still matches the site’s old design.
Grinzinger couldn’t put an exact number of man hours from city or UComm staff during its partnership, saying it couldn’t have done it without CMU’s in-kind contribution of time. The city did pay about $30,000 to contract with its content manager from March to November, she said, which were funds that would have otherwise been allotted for a communications coordinator.
“We did not have the budget and would not have been able to pull it off,” she said.