Chattanooga will spend nearly $1 million to update the decade-old website


With a 57.6% bounce rate, more than half of City of Chattanooga website visitors leave before clicking another button.

That number suggests residents can’t easily find information about city services online — something city officials say they hope to change. It has not been updated since 2012.

On Tuesday, the Chattanooga City Council approved a $998,400 contract with software development company CI&T, headquartered in Brazil, to upgrade the city’s website next year. CI&T was one of six businesses that responded to an inquiry in June.

In the year “I heard a lot of complaints during the campaign,” Chattanooga Mayor Tim Kelly, who is running for office in 2021, said in an interview Thursday about the website. “I’m very disappointed in myself. In some ways, it’s symbolic of city government in general because this is an unplanned garden, it’s become a messy mess. It needs to be reorganized, and I think we have. A real opportunity to do something very unusual.”

Currently, the city’s website is based on individual departments rather than services. It’s also not user-friendly for people using cellphones, which officials said accounted for 53 percent of the city’s traffic in March.

“There are a lot of urban benefits that people don’t know about or understand how to use or maybe don’t know about,” Kelly said. “I’ve sat and listened to 311 operators answering calls, and people don’t understand recycling or when it happens or what to take. It could be a better source of information.”

The new website will be translated into Spanish, and the city will solicit feedback from residents as it irons out how to deploy new features on the site.

We have a lot of really smart people in Chattanooga working in the digital space, and my challenge to the community is to think at the margins, including the current ChatGPT transformation. AI chatbot launched in November. “It starts with thinking outside the metaphorical box.”

On the back end, the city will have the ability to enhance the tools it offers on the website. That could include, for example, a personalized calendar where people can enter and save upcoming events, or a search function for finding affordable housing.

Officials said the redesign could include an opt-in warning system for things like road closures or changes to the city’s garbage collection schedule. They also plan to add easy payment options for city bills or parking tickets, news feeds and live streams from city events and a platform where people can provide feedback on projects.

Kelly added that the redesign serves as an opportunity to double down on the city’s commitment to open access data. via chattadata.orgAnd for his vision to unite the city under the One Chattanooga initiative.

“We have a tremendous amount of data on urban operations, but it’s not being used,” Kelly said. “We take the accountability part of a Chattanooga plan very seriously, and, hopefully, it can be a tool for that as well.”

Kirsten Yates, Kelley’s director of communications and digital strategy, said in an interview that city officials reached out to representatives from the city of Boston, which designed its own website several years ago, as they went through the process.

(Read more: Chattanooga mayor says new leadership positions reflect city government priorities)

In the year In 2016, Boston also spent a million dollars. websiteShe said it will highlight links to information about things like recycling, street cleaning and the city’s hauling sites.

Some of the proposals Chattanooga officials received for the redesign included a simple one-to-one conversion or creating a simple WordPress site, Yates said, but the mayor’s office wants to take a more comprehensive approach.

“We’re making this investment now so we can do it right and adapt and grow and not have to go through this 100 percent upgrade for another 10 years,” she said.

At Chattanooga, a year-round development process includes user testing, translation and development. CI&T will audit hundreds of pages of content already on the city’s website. The company, Yates added, was the only applicant to incorporate resident focus groups and user testing into every step.

“It’s not easy,” Kelly said of the project. “The site itself is, hopefully, really important and more radical, but there’s also this cognitive dissonance when we talk about Chattanooga as a gig city and a smart city.

“The curtain and the curtain should match,” he continued. “We need to be able to walk the walk and talk the talk, and right now that’s just not true.”

Find David Floyd at [email protected] or 423-757-6249.

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