Pioneer Press

Praise for Blaine's 'City Connect' website rolls in

By Emily Cutts Pioneer Press, St. Paul, Minn.
Publication: Pioneer Press (St. Paul, Minnesota)
Date: Sunday, September 19 2010

September 19-Nearly two years of work has paid off for the city of Blaine and Heidi Andrea, its Web coordinator.

Blaine's newly redesigned site, dubbed "City Connect," was named by an online reference service as one of Minnesota's top city government websites. It was recognized for its visual appeal, use of technology and navigability.

Blaine was among eight Minnesota cities to be recognized by Juggle.com, an online encyclopedia and reference resource. Others include Red Wing, Northfield, Minneapolis and Maple Grove.

Andrea designed the site, which has been online since June. She was notified August 31 of Juggle.com's recognition.

While working on the redesign, Andrea gleaned ideas from other websites and met with Blaine's city communication teams to learn what they wanted the site to be.

The chocolate-brown site is a drastic change from the gray screen of the past. The new tagline, "City Connect," sums up the site.

The city calendar is now front and center, sharing the home screen with local news. The new navigation system allows users to choose which subpage they would like to see without first heading to the page's home.

"I love the tag of 'City Connect' because that's what it's all about," said Carol Spencer, treasurer for the National Association of Government Webmasters and web manager for Morris County, NJ.

And the changes came with minimal cost. The site uses Blaine's existing server and software and did not require funding outside of Andrea's salary.

Although the city's social-media efforts began in 2009, they didn't reach their full potential until the new site was up and running. All the information posted is also shared on Blaine's Twitter and Facebook pages, allowing the city to connect to its residents like never before.

People's lives and dependence on technology have grown, and they expect their governments to adapt to the advances as well, Spencer said.

Minnesota's Best

Using criteria such as design, content and use of technology, these are the state's top city websites, according to Juggle.com:

Blaine, www.ci.blaine.mn.us
Bloomington, ci.bloomington.mn.us
Hopkins, hopkinsmn.com
Maple Grove, www.ci.maple-grove.mn.us
Minneapolis, www.ci.minneapolis.mn.us
Northfield, ci.northfield.mn.us
Red Wing, red-wing.org
Rochester, rochestermn.gov