Is Your Department Website Up To Snuff?

September 29, 2017

Is Your Department Website Up To Snuff?

by Ian D Scofield

Police departments around the world have websites to serve many purposes.  In the modern age, there is no excuse not to have a website.  Especially since they are so easy to create and can even be built for free.  That doesn’t mean that your website is up to the task of representing your department though.  In this week’s article, we are going to take a look at some important parts of your department’s website and you can determine if your website is up to snuff.

Branding

A brand is a theme that your company sets for itself that inspires recognition, trust, and a general identity for a company or agency.  Despite the fact that a police department is a public entity, it still has a brand.  A good example of this is the uniform color scheme that most departments use on their patrol cars.

Your department website should carry on the brand that has already been set up.  If a brand hasn’t been officially established, look at your department and find the brand that is already there. 

Every part of your design carries a brand.  From the font to the color scheme, to the placement of the logo can all carry your theme.  Wording and context denotes a written brand.  For example, a police department that is focused on the community would have a more casual branding and formal wording might appear out of the normal on the website.

Helpful Information

Your website isn’t just a place holder that contains the most basic information about your department.  People will visit the department website to locate all sorts of information.  Make sure that the department website has all of the helpful information you need to provide to the population.

Common information that people visit department websites for is:

  • How to contest parking tickets
  • Permit information (including concealed carry)
  • How to report a crime
  • How to register information
  • Probation and Parole information
  • About the department
  • Contact information

Easy To Access Information

One of the biggest reasons that people will visit your department website is to find information such as your non-emergency number.  Information like this should be prevalent on your website.  I have been to department websites where this information was among some of the hardest to find.

Other information should be categorized and logically placed on your website.  From recruitment information to how to report a crime should fall into different parts of your website.  This will help to benefit the people your website is designed to serve.

Recruiting Information

If your department chooses to use their internet presence to recruit new officers (which they should), then that information should be clearly marked and separated from other information.  Recruiting information should include answers to frequently asked questions, application information, clear directions, and a detailed outline of the process.

But your recruitment doesn’t stop there.  Try to use your website, especially the recruitment section, as a tool to inspire future officers to your department.  Recruiting photos and videos will help with that, as well as motivational text.

Links

Links are an important part of your website.  They help to direct people to where they need to go so they don’t have to continuously contact your department with questions.  Linking to other city agencies such as the sewer/power company is helpful.  These links can be put in a section that is dedicated to links or in an informational section.

Social media also plays a major role in the modern world.  Some departments use social media for recruiting, as a police blotter, or to announce department news.  Having your social media accounts around your website will help direct your visitors to these areas.

Search Engine Optimization

Your department website might not be a tool for your department to make major income like an online business but you should still try to use search engine optimization in order to make sure people can find your website when they need to.  On page SEO such as keywords also helps people to find specific parts of a website when they are looking for a page such as the services offered by your department.

Keywords, helpful content, use of headers, alt tags, and more all go towards making your page ready for search engines.

Loading Times

People hate when they have to wait, it is a simple fact.  Your website should serve to each visitor quickly, long load times may make people turn away, and this can be dangerous when they need to access a police website to find out information.  Test your website using multiple devices or an online testing service to ensure your load time is within 4 seconds.

Multiple Languages

For small town police departments, you probably won’t need to have your website available in any language but English; however, it is important that you take a look at the area you serve and analyze what languages people speak.  If there is a significant population of any language other than English, you should make your website available in that language.  This will help people who can’t read English as well, still find the information that they need.  It will also help to prevent confusion as Google will offer to translate a page if there is no translation already available.

Rules and Regulations

Make sure that you are following all of the rules and regulations for your department website that are set by anyone from the city you serve to the county and state.  It is important that you meet compliance at all times.  You don’t want to have to redesign your website, especially with very little notice.

Don’t forget to update your website and regularly so that the content is always new and always up to date.  If someone visits your website and finds out of date content, they will not be given a very positive view of your agency.  Use these tips and ideas to help make your department website stand out.  Stay safe out there.

 

 

About The Author:

Ian is a staff writer at APTI and hospital security officer at a major medical center who has a Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice with a Specialization in Administration of Justice.  He has held multiple positions in the security industry from patrol supervisor to auxiliary public safety officer.  At APTI he brings his writing skills to help further the careers of others and provide quality content.  Feel free to visit his freelancing site or his creative writing site.





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