Sunday, June 26, 2011

Does Your Town Have A First-Rate Website?

What does your town website say about you? Do you need to take a closer look at your town's website or ask your constituents to create one? Poorly designed and neglected websites hurt local businesses and organizations by presenting them to the world as sloppy and negligent. Also, most viewers don't realize those folks are not the ones neglecting their town's web pages. Webmasters and town councils control what is on a town's website,  and thus also deserve the blame.
The Rockford Webmasters' contract expires this month. Micki Harnois, the mayor of Rockford, Wash., asked the Town Council members and the audience at the June 1, 2011 meeting to take a look at websites of two nearby towns that are good examples: Palouse and Millwood. A year ago, Rockford officials engaged two teens, both Future Business Leaders of America members at Freeman High School, to create the town's website. Unfortunately, the officials lacked knowledge about websites and didn't first thoroughly investigate the websites of other towns in the Palouse region.

Whether websites are created well or poorly depends on the owner of the website. The reality is, a town's website carries its image to the world. Ineffectively designed and neglected websites hurt local businesses and organizations and the community in general.

A quick browse through town websites in the Palouse region shows that Rockford's town council members are not the only people who tackled challenges while lacking the resources to engage professional website designers. Sadly, too many of the towns in the Palouse that have websites have sites that are neglected and outdated, and represent the region poorly.

Each of the following could be improved:
Rosalia , Farmington , Rockford , Oakesdale . Spangle is a classic example of an out-of-date website.

St. John has an interesting and informative website. If dates on the EVENTS page included the year, visitors would know the website is up-to-date.

Better examples of how to represent a community with an informative, up-to-date, and attractive website can be found at: Palouse , Garfield , Tekoa , and Uniontown .

Palouse offers a free Newsletter subscription that provides news as it's happening, and is a remarkably well-presented, concise subscription. Ann Thompson, Deputy Clerk, deserves recognition and special thanks for her dedication and the fine job she does in keeping people informed via the Palouse Newsletter. Every town should have a 'Ann Thompson'!

If the following towns have a website, it's not readily found on the Internet: Belmont. Fairfield, Freeman, Latah, Malden and Mica. However, Hangman Creek Chamber of Commerce provides a web presence for a few Palouse area towns that lack websites, and does the job better than websites where data about many towns can be found, such as Wikipedia  and Hometown Locator .
Although minimally effective, local information can be found about towns without websites by searching the Internet: examples, Pine City , and the history ofValleyford Park

An analysis of Rockford's website, ten months after its debut, exposed the fact that local businesses and organizations had no knowledge of how to submit updates for the free web pages provided them on the town's website. Within a week after they learned of their responsibility to contact webmasters, Rockford showcased its new improved website.

Those in charge of their town's website are wise to further educate businesses and organizations in how to take advantage of Internet exposure the town provides, and encourage each entity to hop on the bandwagon, get effective exposure and keep their references up to date.

Free opportunities for promotion abound on the Internet. Education to optimize your presence is made available through free programs, including classes at local libraries, on the Internet, and at stores such as Best Buy, in Spokane Valley, Wash.

So if you want your town represented effectively, contact your town officials and urge (or remind) them to update their websites, and to assist you with informative information. Outdated websites hurt the reputation and economy of the entire north Palouse region. Creating and/or maintaining a first-rate website may present an opportunity for employment for someone in you area who understands websites and journalism, as well.

Contacts (*note, the following information may be outdated. Also, be aware that many towns do not reply to unsolicited email.)
Whitman County Library

BELMONT (unincorporated)
FAIRFIELD, City Hall (509) 283-2414, email:
FARMINGTON, City Hall (509) 287-2500
FREEMAN (unincorporated)
GARFIELD, City Hall 509-635-1604, email:
LATAH, City Hall (509) 286-3471, email: "Heidi Turnbough"
MALDEN (unincorporated)
MICA (unincorporated)
PALOUSE, (Ann Thompson, Deputy Clerk), Mayor Michael Echanove,
PINE CITY (unincorporated)
PLAZA (unincorporated)
ROCKFORD, City Hall (509) 291-4716, email:;, or
ROSALIA, City Hall (509) 523-5991, email,
SPANGLE, City Hall (509) 245-3260), email, (Peggy Mangis, Clerk.)
STEPTOE (unincorporated)
ST. JOHN, email,
TEKOA, (509) 284-3861; email, Kynda Browning, (Tekoa clerk); (Mike Bogereis, Council Member Tekoa)
THORNTON (unincorporated)
UNIONTOWN, City Hall 509-229-3805; email:
VALLEYFORD (unincorporated)
WAVERLY, City Hall (509) 283-4372.

The North Palouse Washington e-Newscast,

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