Howard County Executive Calvin Ball today announced the launch of the County’s new online Service Catalog. Accessible from the County’s homepage, the Service Catalog is designed to help residents, business owners, visitors, parents and older residents more easily find services offered by Howard County Government. From the site, users can register for programs, report issues, apply for permits and licenses, make payments, contact the County and so much more.

“Traveling our community and listening to our neighbors, I’ve frequently heard complaints that our website is too difficult for residents to navigate. Many find it overly cumbersome and confusing to locate information or do online business with the County,” said Ball. “We’ve listened to their suggestions and acted by creating this ‘one-stop shop’ to provide easier and more convenient access to all County information and services. I appreciate those who offered input and those who worked so hard to bring this catalog to life.”

The Ball Administration’s Transition Team report, identified “excellence in customer service” as an area of opportunity to improve, with a goal of ensuring that when interacting with government, individuals, businesses and organizations are able to do so effectively and with a positive experience. To achieve this goal, the Transition Team recommended creating a single management and issue tracking portal for employees and constituents.

A cross-departmental team of more than 20 service liaisons analyzed the County’s website and identified 800+ services. With the goal of automating all 800 services over-time, Phase I of the catalog organized all services into constituent-friendly categories, separated by user type: Resident, Business, Visitor, Parent and 50+. Services include everything from reporting down trees to requesting a recycling bin repair to applying for an animal license.

Under Phase 2, services currently requested by phone, email or PDF will be automated and the catalog integrated with the County’s website and departmental pages.

County Executive Ball’s effort toward the new service catalog is part of the “Innovative and Efficient Government” pillar – an intention to make it easier for residents to interact with government, and understand and access government services and programs.

To view and/or use the Service Catalog, visit https://services.howardcountymd.gov/ .

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There is a lot to this new service catalog and having information in a location that is easy to find is a step in the right direction. That being said…some improvements could be made in the organization of the information. Here is my example:

Under Home -> Resident -> Police and Fire there are more than 108 options to choose from on that page. The website loads 50 at a time (then you hit more at the bottom of the page to load another 50 items then hit more to load the other 8 items). While on your desktop it is somewhat annoying to look through that much information to find what you are looking for…on a mobile device, not many people are actually going to scroll through that much information on one page.

I do like the “search” feature at the top of the page which one can use instead of browsing through the entire system to find the item you may be looking for in the system. That is without question the way to use this system (in my opinion).

Maybe phase 2 will bring more improvements to the overall navigation system as well as the items noted in the press release (services currently requested by phone, email or PDF will be automated and the catalog integrated with the County’s website and departmental pages).

Just my initial suggestion after viewing the new service catalog.

Scott E

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