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“How can Cook County help you today?” – Putting Services First with New Website

As many people are frustrated with the DMV or jury duty, sometimes people are frustrated when they log onto a website that is supposed to provide services that the government offers. A lot of times, people have to click through several pages of confusing materials before they can actually find who to contact for the service that they need. Cook County has taken a seemingly revolutionary approach by making “services” the number one focus of their website.

With their new website, Cook County has made finding it easier for users to find a lost pet, apply for a job, pay for a ticket, request a birth certificate, or report something.

What Was Wrong with the Old Website?

People rarely visit a government website to figure out how the government works. Most users visit government websites to figure out who to contact for a certain service. The old website focused more on “who does what” in the government, so the user was not really the focus of the website. Cook County saw that this was problematic, since it has long been held an American belief that the government should be designed to serve the people. After all, that’s where our tax dollars go, why should the people have to navigate through complicated websites just to find a service that the government is required to offer?

What Changes Has Cook County Made?

The new website puts the user first by focusing on services. In fact, when a user goes to the website, the first thing the user sees is a large search box with the words “How can Cook County help you today?”  When a user types in the box, suggested search terms pop up, and when a user searches for something, the results are very user friendly. After conducting a search, the user can filter the results, and a list of services related to the search term appears below the results.

What Else Is New on the Cook County Wesbite?

At the top of the page, the first main menu item says “I want to.” If a user opens that menu, a list of services will drop down. These are the most commonly requested services, and now they are very easy for users to find. Some of the most commonly requested services that are included in the drop down menu instruct people on how to apply for a job, get information regarding worker’s compensation, find where to vote or property information, pay property taxes or a hospital bill, request to postpone jury duty, and report an environmental complaint.

Several other services are now on the drop down menu so users do not have to go searching through the website to find them. It does not matter if you are using a smartphone or a computer; the website will adjust to whatever you are using.

What If Users Want to Search by Agency?

Users can still search by agency if they want, but these pages have been updated as well. On each agency page, users will find the agency’s location and contact information. The services that the agency offers will be listed as well. Users will also find a section called “Transparency” where documents that the agency holds will be listed. A list of related agencies and upcoming events are on each agency’s page.

Everything Is Connected in Cook County

That’s because everything on the website is connected to make it as easy as possible for users to get to where they need to be. The creators of the new website wanted to use links to bring people to an agency within the county, another county website, or a document held at another website. Linking websites together, and linking one agency to another, is much easier than telling users to go to a different website.

About 10,000 people visit the site each day, so officials will be monitoring the website to see how people use and find information. To create this website, the County worked with Smart Chicago, an organization that works to improve people’s lives through better online access. Smart Chicago brought hundreds of testers to make sure that the website is running as efficiently as possible. Residents of Chicago can be certain that the website will become easier and easier to navigate a more users frequent the website.

R.F. Wittmeyer

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