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San Rafael launches new digital city platform to better serve residents online

Posted on December 13, 2016


New site on devices

San Rafael, Calif., launched its new digital presence, located at cityofsanrafael.org, using a holistically innovative approach to how cities will procure and deliver online services to residents in the future.

San Rafael (pop. 57,713), the largest city in Marin County, located directly north of San Francisco across the Golden Gate Bridge, began its digital transformation process in early 2016. The new web presence marks the beginning of a new digital direction for the city.

The new city platform includes a mobile-friendly interface that adapts to all devices (phone, tablets, laptops, desktops), security protocol to protect visitor privacy and an administrative system that allows internal staff to easily and regularly maintain online services. Key features include predictive search, easy access to frequently asked questions, payments, localized services and issue reporting.

Procurement

San Rafael researched several options, and the staff tested a trial of the final software prior to making a purchasing commitment. Rather than a traditional RFP-based approach to custom services, San Rafael selected a subscription-based software-as-a-service platform (ProudCity).

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Branding

In tandem with its digital upgrade, San Rafael went through a re-brand process with local design firm Afstudio Design that included a new logo, color palette and comprehensive guidelines to unify city common look and feel, tone and writing style.

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Cross-department collaboration

The City established a multi-department, metrics-driven ‘Website Implementation Team’ that currently includes the following departments:

  • City Manager’s office
  • City Clerk’s office
  • Library
  • Community Development
  • Economic Development
  • Public Works
  • Community Services
  • Fire Department
  • Finance

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Guiding principles

Rather than focus on technology first, San Rafael started with a set of values to guide its digital modernization efforts. The City is approaching its vendor partnerships with a set of principles that include:

  • Authentic and responsive engagement
  • Transparency
  • Accessibility (user-centered design, mobile-friendly, ADA compliant)
  • Continuous improvement and learning

Beta

Prior to formal launch, the City released a test version of the new website for eight weeks to gather internal and external feedback. The Website Implementation Team also conducted user tests with community members at community centers and local gathering places.

Software-as-a-service

The new, cloud-based site is hosted and managed by third-party digital cities platform provider ProudCity.

Open source/data

The new platform is based on open source software and open application programming interfaces (APIs) that adhere to open source and open data directives established and championed by the White House.

Social media

The City’s Facebook and Twitter feeds update automatically into the new website. The City also has a first-of-its-kind Facebook integration that allows residents to access services directly from the social networking site.

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Open integrations

The new platform integrates seamlessly with a variety of third-party applications, including Romulus CRM, Granicus and MailChimp, with more to come.

Mobile-friendly

San Rafael’s digital city platform is 100% mobile-friendly and adapts to all devices (phone, tablets, laptops, desktops, kiosks).

Privacy/security

The new website includes HTTPS security protocol to ensure visitor privacy.

Status updates

To keep residents informed, the city posts monthly ‘Done/Doing’ status reports on accomplishments and upcoming work.

Example: https://www.cityofsanrafael.org/donedoing-10/

Shared services

San Rafael contracted with the platform provider, ProudCity, to develop additional city-specific services (ex: CRM integration, enhanced contact directory, service center, FAQ list widget) that were not yet available. Because it’s a software-as-a-service offering, all cities using platform received the upgrades at no additional costs, showing how code is also a government shared service.

Continuous improvement

As part of the ProudCity development cycle, the city will receive enhancement upgrades every two-weeks without additional costs beyond pre-established software subscription rates. The City also plans to regularly use site analytics and feedback from user tests to improve the site.

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