A lot of municipal councils are building community directories into their budget, some of them are quite good, comprehensive and easy to navigate and some are visually messy and confusing to use.
An online directory is a convenient place to search for services, and community groups, and most people hop online for quick access to information these days. It makes sense to have a localised directory based on the needs of your citizens.
A good directory is a knowledge hub that builds connectedness between residents, community groups and services within that society. It empowers community engagement and charts community assets and resources in an online noticeboard that is of benefit to everyone.
What makes a good community directory?
Start with an engaging home page with a short introductory paragraph about the directory and the community it serves.
It should provide free public access to collated quality information, listing all services and community groups in a one stop shop, preferably with consistent and attractive page layouts. Quality images are a bonus.
Your directory should build on the most basic functions for a simple user experience with a straight forward easy to navigate interface, accommodating all community members, even those with limited internet experience. It needs a simple, readable and obvious search and filter bar at the top of the site so users can search by category, organisation or key word to find everything from small volunteer groups to large service organisations. There should be links to useful services per category.
For listings, you need a simple membership form to sign up online at the front end of the directory. Members should be able to submit their information for free and easily manage their profile via their login details. The membership form should provide fields that list name, contact details including address, opening times, listing category and a brief description with links to website, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter accounts.
Each entry needs a small introductory profile, who they service, the areas they service, whether there is disability access and a list of key words. You could get fancy by having an add to favourites button so users can bookmark their most accessed services.
To maximise usability, email addresses can be rendered as a hyperlink that will generate a new email message for enquiries. Phone numbers can also be rendered to facilitate a click to call on mobile devices and websites can be hyperlinked to open in a new window in the browser. Address information can be rendered as a map and/or as a hyperlink that would allow the address to be viewed in Google Maps (preferably in an external window in the browser).
Directories are built to grow and therefore are scalable, expanding with new listings and information as needed. It should be able to be done inhouse by admin staff rather than outsourced to expensive web developers who charge by the hour to do minor updates.
A good SEO strategy will strengthen your directory, keeping up to date with keyword research and ranking high with search engines. This will increase traffic to the directory thus contributing to the connectivity of your community.
A centralised calendar of events can be incorporated into the directory so members can enter events, course dates, council meetings and announcements, and the public can stay informed of happenings and increasing participation rates.
Here’s a few of our favourite directories (click on the image to follow through to the directory):