People had say in county's site

Citizen feedback played a big part in helping Fairfax County design its new Web site (www.co.fairfax.va.us), which officially launched June 8.

County administrators developed questionnaires that were posted on the old site and distributed in public schools and libraries. The survey asked people how often they visit the county site, whether their visits have been successful and what kind of information they most wanted to see.

"We let the citizens and businesses give the input because it was obvious to us that therein was the best way to find exactly what they needed and wanted," said David Molchany, chief information officer for Fairfax County.

County officials also held a series of 12 focus groups in which citizens and businesses sampled the site in progress and gave feedback.

The result is a site organized by subject. The site's main page, for example, breaks down information into four sections: Living Here, Doing Business, Visiting and Government. Going to the Visiting section, for example, presents readers with choices including shopping, history and entertainment.

David Lloyd, Web designer for the county's Department of Information Technology, said to satisfy people with varying perspectives, the county made a conscious effort to equip the site with multiple presentations of the same sets of information.

One example is a feature where visitors can check the history of complaints filed against a particular company or browse complaints by topic, such as animals, medical or utilities.

"It's all about presenting information in more than one way," Lloyd said. "That's how citizens can realize what you actually can get done online."

Officials hope to increase access to the site by putting 90 Web-enabled computers in libraries and also placing kiosks in 25 strategic locations throughout the county.

"This is a clear strategy for bridging the digital divide for citizens and businesses, as we can present a government without walls, doors or locks," Molchany said.

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