Last night we finalised and began promoting Community Voice on the City of Lincoln Council Website. The premise of this satelite site is to have a simple solution to hosting all of our ongoing consultations in one place. While this functionality could easily have been achieved on our current website, I suggested that we maybe should also allow members of the public to openly comment on consultations, giving us another channel of communication. As this functionality is not native to our website, we would have had to look at getting something extra specced up and developed, which would have taken time and cost money or, alternatively, look at another more immediate solution. We went with the latter.
Enter WordPress.com. Having already hosted this blog on WP.com, I knew the system very well and thought that it could do what we wanted. When a couple of consultations came up I put together a proof of concept on the platform to show our Policy team who loved the idea. A quick tidy up, some introductory text and a custom masthead later and we “launched” Community Voice on our website.
Once we had started the public push I quickly Tweeted to see what my Twitter cohorts thought and was met with some pretty positive feedback! Thanks to Dave Briggs for this blog entry, posted minutes after my Tweet. There were a few questions floating around the Twitterverse that I’m, hopefully, now going to provide some answers for…
The simple answer was because it is free and because it is already there. The truth is we didn’t and still don’t know what kind of takeup we get on the comments side of things here. If things remain stale despite our promotion of the tool then we will probably pull things into the realms of our corporate website and drop the comment ability. If things prove to be popular and we get some positive usage out of the service then we shall look at expanding with maybe a hosted version of WordPress.org that we have some more control over, or even integrating a solution into our website.
I’d like to point out that the decision to go with WordPress for this is in no way a snub to ARFS, the developers of our corporate website, who continue to do a stellar job there. This is an experiment to see if the people of Lincoln will be receptive to using this kind of platform as a means to talk to us and themselves about matters that are important to them.
Why the branding?
The theme is a standard WordPress.com theme (the one I use for this blog, in fact!) which we are hoping to customise somewhat in the future to bring the visual style more in line with our corporate site.
The idea to name it Community Voice was not so much to distance it from the Government face of the council but to give it an identity that the users could instantly recognise. It still bears the Council Crest and name as well as linking back to the Council Website. Again, time will tell but we’re being receptive to feedback on this.
What’s for the future?
If the takeup is good I’m hoping that we can do some great things with this site, like holding open consultations, previewing future consultations (pre-consultation consultations?) and detailing the results of past consultations. I’m also hoping that we can provide more detail in the posts, as well as providing links to related resources on the City Council website.
So there you have it! We also have a similar project in the pipeline which I’m not going to talk about yet, but please feel free to leave any comments here!