Twenty-first Century Technology Unlocks 18th Century Town:
City of Williamsburg Debuts Wayfinding App for Citizens and Visitors
As part of its ongoing effort to improve performance and accessibility, the City of Williamsburg has launched a new smartphone app – WILLIAMSBURG WAYFINDER – that transforms the way residents, businesses and visitors interact with City government, local attractions and businesses. As with CITY 411, the app introduced in 2011, residents can submit and track non-emergency service requests, photos, and text messages, but WILLIAMSBURG WAYFINDER adds many new functions seamlessly and easily, from mobile Property Information Service (PIS) and Economic Development resources to the restaurants and shops closest to you.
“With this new app, we’re providing a single pane of glass into the City,” said Information Technology Director Mark Barham. “The WILLIAMSBURG WAYFINDER replaces CITY 411 and enables users to reach across all departments – from planning and permitting to taxes and facility rental. By capturing, routing and managing service requests, the system will create a convenient form of communication among departments, resulting in faster response times.”
The City has offered some of the same functionality before, but there’s even less distinction now between who the user is — resident, visitor, business owner – and what kinds of functions are most accessible. WILLIAMSBURG WAYFINDER provides links to the City’s online Shop & Dine map (connecting to restaurants and retail shops,) the Williamsburg Regional Library, Williamsburg Farmers Market, Colonial Williamsburg Foundation and WADMC’s VisitWilliamsburg website. WILLIAMSBURG WAYFINDER is also geo-location based, allowing the user to customize the experience whenever and wherever it’s convenient.
“Information technology helps the City connect with citizens to improve service delivery and operational performance, and we’re always seeking methods to engage our residents that are efficient, convenient and easy to use,” said City Manager Jack Tuttle. “More and more residents are using smartphone apps for everything from travel and education to banking and shopping. WILLIAMSBURG WAYFINDER allows citizens to communicate with the City the same way they’re communicating and interacting in all areas of their lives.”
For instance, a visitor to Williamsburg wants to take her morning run, so she uses the app to access a map and description of the William & Mary Loop, a 2.1 mile route through the campus, which is one of the Great City Walks. Around noon, she’s walking downtown and wants to find the closest restaurant, so she uses the Shop and Dine list and find out what’s nearby, how to get there, what’s on the menu, and place a call. If during her visit she wonders if it might be possible to relocate her business to Williamsburg, she goes back to the app to get a list of available properties, with descriptions, photos and links to the real estate broker. If she’s wondering about a house she’s just driven by, all she has to do is use the app to access the Property Information Service to find out the most recent sale price.
The Great City Walks component of the app is a smartphone version of the printed walking tours produced in 2006 in cooperation with the Greater Williamsburg Chamber & Tourism Alliance. William & Mary alumnus and Triangle Business & Innovation Center client Lance Zaal, provided his iTourMobile technology for the Great City Walks, enable geo-location, photos, audio and text descriptions of the area.
“The Great City Walks project was such a success, and the iTourMobile software enables us not only to update the information, but also to make it more convenient and cost effective than our printed version,” said Jodi Miller, Assistant City Manager.
WILLIAMSBURG WAYFINDER can be downloaded for free from both the Apple App Store and the Android Market.
The cost to the City for the app was $6,000. Because the technology is a content management system, it can be continually updated and adapted to respond to changing needs and user feedback.
The City worked with GovQA Systems to develop WILLIAMSBURG WAYFINDER. GovQA, a division of WebQA, is the nation’s leader in citizen request management for municipalities up to 1 million citizens. WebQA’s service products lead the country by servicing over 30 million citizens and 80 million people worldwide.