Newton works to craft "modern, professional" website

Newton wants to make one of its windows to the world more "modern and professional" looking.

At the same time, however, the city wants to also "keep it simple."

"We are looking for ways to redesign our website. The current site has been here for about five years, and there have been no significant changes to the design," said Jason Clay, Newton Information Systems director. "We set the objective of making it more modern and professional looking. It doesn't take much to recognize a professional looking website."

Currently, Newton's website,, is managed almost entirely by the city's Information Systems department. While city department heads can make minor changes to their pages, most modifications require some reprogramming of the website, Clay said.
With a new website design, that would change.

"We want something that is easy for (department heads) to manage their own stuff. That keeps the website from going stagnant — it keeps the information new," Clay said, adding that content added to the site would still go through an approval process.

Updates to Newton's website would also allow improved citizen interaction, Clay said. Adding events calendars, survey forms and the city's E-newsletter to the site are among improvement ideas. Other new additions might also include photo galleries, a site search box and even a means to translate content on the site into additional languages.

There will even be a section for frequently asked questions.

"We want to make it real simple for citizens to be able to find information." Clay said. "We can also link it to our emergency alert system so we can post alerts throughout the website."

During Newton City Council's January meeting, Clay received the green light to proceed with efforts to update the site. Newton Mayor Robert Mullinax said improvements to the site "need to be done."

"It is time for us to update the website," said Newton City Manager Todd Clark. "Internally, we all agreed it is time to refresh the website, but we also recognize the fact that funding is limited."

Hiring a professional company to create a custom website design could cost $10,000 to $30,000 Clay said, citing informal quotes the city obtained. However, by pursuing a template-based website, that cost can be reduced dramatically.

"This is a way for us to do that without spending any additional money that is already appropriated," Clark said.

Clay cited a service provider, Revize, which would allow the city to select a website from existing templates. Newton can customize those templates to shape the site.

Revize has created websites for other cities, including High Point, the Texas towns of Bastrop and Melissa, and Monroe County, Mich.

"There is a flat fee, a one-time fee for the template and design of the system, and there is a monthly fee for content management — and we can stop using that at any time," Clay said.

The initial cost is $3,500, he said, adding that for city department heads to have the ability to manage and alter site content, the fee is an additional $225 per month.

"That's a good deal because you can keep the website up to date, to the minute," said Newton City Council member Robert Abernethy Jr. "The other way, you have to contact someone to go on and change things for you."

Clay said he plans to have examples of a redesigned Newton website available for City Council consideration during its planning workshop next month.