Miami upgrades Web portal

Miami-Dade County portal

Miami-Dade County earlier this month launched a second version of its Web portal that incorporates a new content management tool, allows for better personalization and offers users e-mail subscriptions on 30 different interest topics.

It's the first major overhaul since the county unveiled its first portal, which it developed in conjunction with IBM Corp. as a pilot project more than two years ago. "It never really went out of pilot mode," said Assia Alexandrova, county Webmaster and senior Web designer.

During this time, the county had been adding online transaction capability and other interactive services, but information on the site has grown exponentially and the content now needs to be groomed, she said.

Alexandrova said the information architecture for the new site, which was unveiled Sept. 4, was improved by integrating Interwoven Inc.'s TeamSite content management tool with the county's IBM Websphere platform. That back-end enhancement allows agencies a more disciplined approach in managing and posting information, ensuring its timeliness on the site. It also frees up department resources for other core duties, such as design and development.

Design across the county's more than 40 agencies is more consistent and has a more "Miami" look and feel, Alexandrova said. Rather than assume what people want, the county conducted numerous surveys and interviews with the public and others — a process that is ongoing — to find out how to drive traffic to certain sections that previously were not visited often.

The personalization feature allows users to see only the information they want, and the weekly e-mail subscriptions will further narrow down the information that users want rather than having to scroll through the site, Alexandrova said. Already 1,600 people have registered for a personalized site when the new portal was launched. Previously the site had only registered 400.

Last year, the site received 6.7 million visits, producing nearly 60,000 electronic payments, ranging from parking tickets to building permits to occupational licenses, totaling more than $4 million in revenue.

Future plans include integrating the site with a 311 call center that is currently under development. Alexandrova said the center — a major upgrade of a rudimentary call center in place now — will answer questions and initiate transactions and handle service requests.

The county is also piloting a machine language translation technology that would translate English text on its emergency management section into Spanish, although the system is "very imperfect," Alexandrova said. The county is building a custom dictionary for the technology so the translations are more accurate and palatable, she added.

The portal's design and development, content management software and translation server costs totaled about $730,000.

In other portal news, Kentucky also announced major improvements to its site, including a live online customer service support, incorporation of Google's search engine technology, a statewide events calendar integrating schedules and events from different agencies and a state government newsroom listing press releases from different agencies.

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