Iowa City to update website, include student resource section

Iowa City is updating its website to increase accessibility and will include a new student resource section. City officials expect the website update will be released in late March.


Rohan Abernathy-Wee

Photo illustration.

Jack Moore, News Reporter

The official City of Iowa City website is set to have a new look in next month.

Iowa City is updating its government website to improve accessibility and add a new section of student-related resources.

The City of Iowa City’s government is planning to release the changes in late March. Shannon McMahon, communications coordinator for the city, said the changes to the website will help more people access it.

The city website was first introduced in 2015. The site receives minor updates regularly, but this update is an overhaul to both cosmetically change the site and the information stored on the site, McMahon said.

The American Disability Act was an important component that was incorporated into the redesign, she added.

“One of the things that we looked about with a new development team was to make sure that we’re ADA compliant going in and that we maintain that compliance,” she said.

As for how new information will be incorporated, one of the new features going into the site are called accordions. Digital accordions appear as small black boxes on the screen that can be expanded when clicked on.

The purpose of having the accordions is to minimize the amount of information on the screen, which will in turn reduce the amount of scrolling necessary to navigate the site.

One of these accordions will contain resources for students in Iowa City. Iowa City Digital Communications Specialist Zach Berg said the content that is planned to be included in the student accordion will have advice on how to live in Iowa City and more.

“Everything from how to avoid a tow to tips for first-time renters, some off-campus housing options, regulations on owning pets, registering a bike, signing up for utilities, spring and winter break tips, and UI student government representatives,” he said.

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When it comes to accessibility, Berg said the city is partnering with Denver-based website provider Granicus, which is one of the most popular government website creators.

“Granicus is the biggest and the best when it comes to government websites, and so they’re going to know all the different ADA rules,” he said.

Granicus works on various government websites around the country. Berg said he is excited for the opportunity to work with the company as they are experts in accessibility and know how to abide by ADA guidelines.

Some of the accessibility issues the redesign team is focusing on include elements such as the text size on the website, minimizing the use of PDFs, and reducing the text within pictures because it is not ideal for search optimization, Berg said.

Rachel Kilburg, Iowa City assistant city manager, said she hopes the new website will help residents in navigating through the multitude of information stored on the site.

“We have just reviewed all of our website content to make sure that it’s accurate, it’s updated, it’s well organized and intuitive for folks who are accessing the website,” she said.

In addition, Kilburg said she and other government officials are welcoming feedback from residents of Iowa City.

“We view the website transition as a positive change for our residents… we really value resident feedback and ability to connect with us and enrich information they need from our city government,” she said.