By Lacey Lively, Marketing Manager
When websites first became a big deal in the mid-1990s, a lot of folks thought they were just another technological fad. But about as fast as you can say “Gig ‘em, Aggies,” everyone realized that an organization’s web presence is its most important communications and marketing tool.
In the last quarter-century, websites have become essential to not only businesses, non-profits, and educational institutions, but all levels of government. The City of College Station’s website attracts more than 2.5 million views a year and provides essential information about the city’s activities, programs, and services.
The current website has been operating since 2007, and while 12 years may not seem long, it’s an eternity in the web world. The site has served our community well, but a change is long overdue. It simply has become stale, outdated, and out-of-touch with modern trends and technology.
Thankfully, we launch a fresh new website – featuring brighter graphics and user-friendly navigation with drop-down menus – on Thursday at the familiar cstx.gov. With so much of our web traffic coming from smartphones and tablets, the new site also is optimized for mobile devices.
Our web presence is vital since it’s typically among the first things anyone sees when searching online for information about College Station. Our priority was to develop the site from the users’ perspective, and the result is an easy-to-use, intuitive site that is also aesthetically pleasing. It’s much more secure, too.
Redesigning the website wasn’t a simple endeavor. Our Public Communications team led the effort with assistance from Information Technology staff and web administrators in the various city departments. The new content management system was designed and customized by CivicLive, an experienced national company that specializes in municipal websites.
The main sections of the new site are Departments and City Hall, Residents and Neighborhoods, Business and Development, and Our Community. An “I Want To” tab is a shortcut to find the answers to commonly asked questions. Other shortcut tabs take users to employment information, bids and proposal requests, utilities, maps, e-pay, and more.
The home page also features a prominent search bar, a meeting and event calendar, and the city’s latest news releases, blog posts, and podcasts. The new site will no longer allow users to subscribe to departmental updates (e-notify), although they can still subscribe to the events calendar and documents.
College Station’s population has grown by 50 percent since we launched the old website. The new site better reflects what our community has become. The best part is that it will continue to grow with us. Good websites are always a work in progress as new content is added and we explore new and better ways to communicate with you.
We’ll be tweaking the site and smoothing out rough spots in the coming months. The website exists for your convenience, and we encourage you to contact us with constructive comments and suggestions.
You can email comments or questions to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Blogger
Marketing Manager Lacey Lively has been with the City of College Station’s Public Communications Office since 2011. She previously worked as an internet marketing consultant for the Bryan-College Station Eagle and as a web designer. A native of Beaumont, Lacey earned a bachelor’s degree in agricultural journalism and communications from Texas A&M in 2009.
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A recent study at USC Annenberg found that Americans spend an average of 24 hours a week online. In a university town such as College Station, the hours spent online are likely even greater.
So are the risks.
As more people use the internet for online shopping, banking, financial management, and socializing, they also expose themselves to increased cyber risks. Online threats and cyber-attacks threaten our national and economic security.
The City of College Station is joining with the Department of Homeland Security to raise cybersecurity awareness during National Cybersecurity Awareness Month throughout October.
Cybersecurity is not just the responsibility of governments, companies, groups, or individuals. Everyone shares the responsibility for cybersecurity – from the average smartphone user to a corporate CEO.
Here are some basic steps you can take today to reduce the risk of a cyberattack.
Manage your password
Pick strong passwords for all your devices and don’t share them with anyone. In addition, never send a plain text password by email, instant message, or any other means that isn’t reliably secure.
You should also avoid entering your password on any device if you’re not sure the device is secure. Finally, don’t store your password on the device it’s designed to protect.
Be wary of phishing
Phishing is a type of online scam where criminals use email messages, websites, and phone calls that appear to be from a legitimate organization to ask you for sensitive information such as credit card numbers, passwords, account data, or other information.
About 156 million phishing emails are sent globally every day. The damage caused ranges from losing email access to substantial financial loss.
If you suspect a phishing email is in your inbox, don’t open it, don’t download attachments, don’t reply, and never click links.
Protect your online life
If a website, email, or text seems suspicious, be wary and don’t click any links they may contain. The links or attachments could contain malware. The best thing to do it to delete these messages immediately.
Your personal information is your property. Be leery of unsolicited contact from individuals seeking personal information, and don’t provide personal information or passwords by email or phone. Pay close attention to website URLs that use variations in spelling or unusual domains. To verify the authenticity of a request, contact the company directly.
If possible, you should use an internet firewall at home to keep cyber intruders out of your personal information. It’s also a good idea to update the security software, operating system, and web browser on all of your internet-connected devices. Keeping your security software up to date will prevent attackers from taking advantage of known vulnerabilities.
Secure your mobile device
Hackers want to use your mobile device as a gateway to you or your organization’s data. The content and contacts stored on your mobile device are the types of data cyberattackers need to hack into your accounts or company network.
Here are four easy ways to secure your mobile device:
- Update the security software regularly.
- Update your apps routinely, delete unneeded apps, and download apps only from trusted sources after checking reviews. You should configure app permissions immediately after downloading.
- Secure your devices with passcodes or other strong authentication such as fingerprint recognition.
- Turn off discovery mode and activate “find device” and “remote wipe.”
Free Wi-Fi really isn’t free, so make sure you’re connecting to a legitimate Wi-Fi hotspot. Your device will typically pick up the strongest signal, which could be a rogue Wi-Fi that seems reliable but is actually an attacker waiting to monitor, intercept, or even alter communications from your device.
Learn more about National Cybersecurity Awareness Month and how to protect yourself from threats online at dhs.gov/ncsam.
About the Bloggers
Network Systems Analyst Neil Black has been with the City of College Station’s IT Department since 1997. A native of Houston, Neil studied business management at Texas A&M.
Information Security Officer Xiaoying Hu has been with the IT Department since September. She previously worked for the City of Houston.
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By Chase T. Brooke, Former GIS Intern
As you drive around town, do you ever wonder why we call some roads avenues and others drives? Or why some are parkways or lanes?
These designations don’t happen by chance. Many have long-reaching histories going back hundreds of years. The terms listed below are not absolute, but we thought it might be fun to list standard road classifications in College Station with their general definitions: (more…)
Scavenger hunts have been popular across the United States for decades. Participants seek to gather items – or take photographs of them — on a list prepared by organizers. In the 1990s, the game migrated to the internet to encourage exploration of the World Wide Web.
The concept’s latest manifestation is geocaching, a high-tech scavenger hunt that uses smartphones and Global Positioning Systems (GPS) devices to locate hidden treasures or caches.
Mayor Nancy Berry and Councilwoman Julie Schultz welcome James Benham’s remote participation at a recent meeting.
“Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time …” –Winston Churchill
By Ben Roper, Director of Information Technology
Democratic government is messy, and can be compared to making sausage — no one really likes to watch the process, and not everyone approves of the final product.
Representative government was viewed by the founding fathers as so important that Article I of the U.S. Constitution sets the provisions at the federal level. However, the same concept is even more vital at the local level. As in many cities our size, College Station’s city council members are unpaid volunteers, and their full-time jobs and other demands occasionally conflict with scheduled council meetings.
Not long ago, that meant they sometimes had to miss council meetings, which affected their ability to represent their constituents in the debate and dialogue of a typical meeting. The institution of representative government was not completely fulfilled in those instances.
With National Cyber Security Awareness Month coming to a close, the City of College Station and the Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service (TEEX) remind you of some basic ways to help keep your online experience safe. These six tips apply to any electronic device, including smart phones and tablets: (more…)