GovFresh WP: building a government WordPress theme

GovFresh WP

Despite the fact that millions of websites around the world today are powered by low- and no-cost open source content management systems, nearly all small city governments remain trapped in the 90s.

It’s not that they don’t want great websites to serve their citizens. They just don’t have the technical prowess to understand what their options are and how to deploy and manage them.

A typical scenario for small city web management starts with a local web vendor or the “town techie,” who builds a static website and then turns it over to the city to manage. Often, the city isn’t equipped to do this effectively, so the site’s content remains static and sits there inadequately managed for years. If it’s vendor-managed, there are hourly charges for basic updates and , typically, cities don’t have the budget, so they hold off on making even small updates that could be done within minutes through a CMS.

This situation is creating a major digital divide between the larger cities who can afford technical advice and support and smaller cities who have none.

For those of us familiar with modern, mature, open source solutions now available on the market, we know that small cities are “this close” to a great website and CMS. To date, however, this need hasn’t adequately been served, and we need to change this. We can change this.

That’s why I started developing the GovFresh WP government WordPress theme.

I began this a few years ago and a number of governments and agencies deployed it, but I didn’t have the bandwidth to manage inquiries or updates, so I took down the theme and moved on. Since then, with the rise of GitHub and the social coding movement, as well as a growing brigade of civic hackers across the world, I’m more compelled to move this project forward.

Here’s what I want to accomplish with the theme:

  • Mobile-friendly, responsive
  • Simple, clean, elegant design
  • Custom theming dashboard

We have two pilot cities, (De Leon and Ferndale), and a growing interest in getting holistic support for small city web operations (more on that later), so we’re off to a great start.

What we need now is help from the WordPress developer community.

I developed the new theme in Bootstrap, set up a demo site and posted the code to GitHub. I reached out to Devin Price, who has since started helping and really gets the vision behind this and suggested we rebuild much of the code (I’ll accept that I’m not the world’s greatest coder.).

If you’re a WordPress developer interested in helping small cities better serve their citizens, here’s more about this and how you can get started:

If you have questions or want to get in touch, please email me at [email protected]

Luke Fretwell is the founder of the civic innovation and technology blog GovFresh. He advises civic leaders and businesses on how to best leverage digital strategies to create more effective, collaborative governments. He has written about government IT for Federal Computer Week, NextGov, FedScoop, StateScoop and FierceGovernment, and has been referenced by the Washington Post and Fast Company on civic technology issues. He has worked with a number of government-focused companies and media, including CivicActions, NuCivic and FedScoop and has been involved in broad-focused community efforts, such as GovPress, CityCamp, CivicMeet, Agile Government Leadership and Open Source for America. Connect with him on Twitter and LinkedIn.


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