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Whether your fire department already has a website or you are considering building one, serious thought should go in to what features you will include on your site. Just throwing together a website with cool fire engine pictures and action shots from various scene responses without taking some time to consider every angle of your site and who will use it won’t cut it.

So what features are important for a website? These important things do not just apply to a fire department website. You can insert your industry and it will apply to your website. In this article, I will share five features that I believe are extremely important to incorporate into your website. There are definitely more than five things you should include, but these features I have found to be very beneficial for a fire department to have.

1. Responsive (Mobile-Optimized)

How often do you visit websites on your phone? Probably close to or more often than on an actual computer. So it’s safe to assume that people visiting your website are quite possibly doing so from a cell phone or tablet. That being said – your website should be optimized for use on a mobile device. This is called responsive design.

For the most part, all websites these days are built using a responsive design. Be sure you confirm with whoever is building or rebuilding your website that they are using a responsive design platform. There are quite a few companies out there that “specialize” in fire department websites who are still not using responsive design as a base platform for their sites. AVOID THESE COMPANIES! Every website that Maltese Solutions build’s is responsive and looks amazing on both desktop computers, laptops, tablets and phones.

2. Simple Navigation

Ever visited a website and found it to be extremely confusing to navigate and find the information you are looking for? Simple navigation is crucial to making it quick and easy for people visiting your website to find the information they need.

Simple navigation is simple to achieve. Your navigation menu should be a font that is easy to read (consider popular Google Fonts like Montesarrat or Roboto), colors that don’t clash with each other and background colors that don’t make it hard to read the text.

Since your website will be responsive, the menu specific to mobile devices should also be easy to read and navigate. We design our sites to include a mobile menu that is easy to navigate, looks great on mobile devices and features the same look and feel of desktop version of the menu.

One final navigation consideration – keep menu items simple (short) and relevant to the needs of your community. If backyard burning and recruitment matter the most to your department and the community you serve – they should be included in your navigation.

3. Home Page Alerting

Your home page is the first page most folks will see when they visit your website. Aside from ensuring only the most relevant information to the people you serve is found there, you should consider some way of incorporating a home page alert.

In the unfortunate event of a natural disaster, large-scale emergency or some other incident requiring the need to alert a large number of people, a home page alert feature should be considered.

While this may sound like it is geared towards fire departments, this will apply to all websites. If you have important information to share regarding your business. You want to make this information easy to find on your website, more like in your face as soon as you visit the website depending on the severity or importance.

4. Simple, Relevant URL

This is a feature that isn’t always thought about but is very important for folks being able to find your website. This applies more to fire departments who need to purchase a URL (www.myfiredepartment.com) as compared to those who already have one. However it can still apply to both. More on that in a second.

When deciding which URL to go with, consider how you are known to the public. Some agencies will purchase a site based on acronyms thinking that shorter is better. It is also to keep in mind the top level domain.

The top level domain is the .com, .org, .edu. There are many other top level domains that include names such as .cologne, .dad, .movie, .us etc. As you can see you can just about get any domain that is available. Be sure to select a domain that is relevant.

5. Powered by a CMS

Early websites were built from scratch using tons of code. If your site was created by a web design company, if you wanted to update your own site, you couldn’t do this unless you knew how to code.

CMS allows users who aren’t as familiar with code to do updates on their own. Ignis Web Design creates websites using WordPress – the most popular CMS in the world (link to market share). If you want to update your site, we can show you how in a simple training session.

So there you have it! Those 5 features will help give your fire department website a great base to build from. Your site should be built with content and features that are geared towards the people you serve. Ensuring these features are integrated will help you do just that.

Post Author: Mike Lessar

Mike earned a B.S. in Fire Administration while working as a career firefighter where he retired as the Fire Chief. Still active in the Fire and EMS community where he serves on 3 NFPA technical committees and is still active as a Paramedic. Mike has been writing code since he was first introduced to his Apple IIe in 1985. Today Mike is a web developer and designer.

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