Sarnia unveils new website with a goal of better connecting with customers

Project was done internally by staff, with 'beta' version live now and replacement of sarnia.ca taking place on July 2

Pictured are Chris Carter, Sarnia's CAO, (left), and Mark Dillon, IT director.

Regular visitors to the City of Sarnia website—at sarnia.ca— will see some dramatic changes if they take a look at a complete redesign that has been unveiled, at least temporarily, at www.beta.sarnia.ca.

On July 2, 2019, the existing site will be completely replaced.

Mark Dillon, the City’s director of Information Technology, said the goal of the new site was to fundamentally address the audience for the website.

“What’s different is our approach was to focus on improving our staff’s ability to better serve our customers rather than IT’s ability to better serve our staff,” he said.

While the City contracted some design services, once the actual production of the site began, existing staff did the work, said Dillon.

The new site is published using WordPress, an industry-standard (and open source) platform that is used to carry some 30% of the traffic on the internet, according to industry experts.

The new site features an enhanced user experience with integration of mobile-friendly features as well as compliance with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA).

There is also improved digital customer service options, an easy-to-use search function.

Chris Carter, the City’s new chief administrative officer, said he was able to offer a set of fresh eyes on the project when he came into the job several weeks ago.

“They’ve done a fantastic job of putting this together,” he said.

Dillon said focusing on what customers/taxpayers are seeking online remains a key objective and the new site can be easily modified when needed.

Indeed, he said staff responsible for various sections of the site are able to make changes without contacting IT, itself a major shift from past practices.

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