On March 1, the City of Salem will “soft launch” a new website it hopes will be more straightforward and clear, as well as mobile-responsive, for people accessing it by phone or tablet.

“We’ve even rewritten the content,” says Kenny Larson, Communications & Community Engagement Manager for the City of Salem, removing “jargon wherever possible to make things easier to understand.”

The “soft launch” means that, for the month of March, visitors will see a button in the corner of the current website, inviting them to preview the new site. During this ‘beta-test’ period, Larson says City staff will maintain data on both sites concurrently.

In early April, visitors to CityofSalem.net will see the new site with a button to the old site. After that transition, the old site will live as an archive for a time as people get used to using the new site. “We felt residents would be better served by having time to transition to our new site, rather than an abrupt switch,” Larson says.

The underlying philosophy for building the new website was to make it community-centric and easier to access, Larson says.

It was also built completely in-house, without outside consultant help. “This is unique among Cities, as most hire third-party consultants for at least some part of the work,” Larson says. By using internal staff the City was able to save money on the conversion project.