By Nona Tepper
The village of River Forest unveiled a sleek new website Dec. 11, which allows residents to now pay for parking tickets, apply for a building permit, map property information and more online.
Development of Vrf.us was about a year in the making. River Forest put out a request for proposals for a new website last year, and received six responses, said Jon Pape, management analyst for the village. After reviewing proposals, officials chose the Chicago-based Webitects development firm for the job, at a cost of $29,640 to redesign the front and backends of the site.
"In their proposal they showed a real ability to be flexible and customize something for us, rather than an out of the box solution," Pape said. "It was built from scratch with our residents in mind, they were able to take a lot into consideration and really show us how they could do something personalized and custom for us."
Webitects started the design process in February by hosting a series of community focus groups where residents voiced their needs and concerns about the old site. After about six months, the development firm got to building. By Dec. 11, the work was done.
"It makes strides in improving communication with people, it allows them to find more information and keeps it looking a little more fresh," Pape said. "The old one could certainly use a facelift and I think we've gotten there now."
When designing the new site, Pape pointed to organization as a key new feature. The homepage prominently features five popular functions separated—pay a utility bill, contractor licenses, overnight parking requests, service requests and building permits—instead of the old site where "everything [was] jumbled together and divided by department or function of the village" Pape said. Underneath the five buttons is a search bar, where residents can type in their address and view such property information as tax data, voter precinct, garbage collection day and more on a map.
Another feature of the new site is the Life in River Forest menu, which offers guides to new residents and businesses about historical preservation, sustainability, the village's comprehensive plan and more.
The new Vrf.us also allows the village to put up more events on the homepage, whereas the old site could only showcase five at a time. It also features more pictures and video than the old site.
Pape said he plans to integrate more maps to specific addresses on the site soon, like a map of crime, forestry, and a map of when recycling is picked up at your home. Right now, this information is currently siloed under specific department menus.
"It's certainly a living, breathing thing, you never feel like it's quite done," Pape said. "But we're glad to have it live and we're going to keep continuing to improve it."
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