For anyone trying to find a city council report, the current City of Hamilton website has been a challenge. The current version was launched in 2015 and what became immediately apparent was the document search function did not work as well as its predecessor. It was nearly impossible to search for city reports and documents under keywords.
Hamilton staff, aware of the issues, spent the majority of 2020 collecting business, end user and technical requirements and feedback through public and internal stakeholder consultation for a new City website.
In a report last December staff told council they had received an earful from the public, including:
The current search tool does not return relevant results or crawl 3rd party systems and applications and is the cause of much user frustration and negative feedback.
Public consultation revealed that poor search performance is exacerbating trust and transparency issues in government.
When asked what features and/or functionality residents would like to see improved on the City’s website – 57% of those surveyed answered “Searchable document libraries or repositories for bylaws, reports, records etc.”
Many citizens use search engines such as Google to find information on the City’s website instead of using the City’s website itself.
Staff are recommending that the document retrieval function be separated from the day-to-day functions related to services and information to the public, A vendor to design and build the website has been engaged and the City estimates the project will be complete by April 2022. With all of its challenges the City website gets about 17 Million page views a year—a number that will undoubtedly increase with better functionality.