Wilmette, News

Following registration snafu, Park Board hears improvement recommendations

Nearly five months after the Wilmette Park District’s website crashed during summer-camp signups, causing numerous residents to express their frustrations, the results of a follow-up survey and discussion were presented to Park Board members.

The results, which were shared with the Park Board at its committee of the whole meeting on Monday, June 24, offered both praise and criticism and suggestions for the park district.

Jackie Rachev, with Chicago-based public relations firm Public Communications Inc., which conducted the gathering of feedback, led the presentation.

Rachev said the feedback was gathered this past April, initially through a 13-question survey sent via email, social media and on the park district’s website, and through two follow-up discussions held on April 18.

In total, there were 218 responses to the email survey, which Rachev called “a really good response rate,” while eight people were at the follow-up discussion, with four more later participating via email.

While the number of participants in the discussions was low, Rachev said their feedback was consistent with the information that was gathered in the survey.

In terms of positives, respondents praised the variety of programming offered by the park district, pricing, and the presence of both Centennial Pool and Gillson Park Beach.

But the biggest “pain point,” according to Rachev, was the registration process, with the other main concern being a lack of program space.

On Feb. 6, the day the Wilmette Park District opened up registration for summer camps, a glitch in the online registration system caused it to crash. It reopened with an external host on Feb. 24, but not before residents took to social media to criticize the park district and process.

It was that external host, according to Rachev, that those who participated in the discussions had issues with.

“When a resident comes to your website to register, the website itself is helpful,” she said. “But when they get to the RevTrac registration portal, which we know is a vendor portal, that is where our area of improvement can be made. It’s difficult for residents, it’s hard to read, it’s hard to navigate.”

She also said another issue for users was the registration time slot. Historically it has been on a weekday morning, but Rachev said participants mentioned that time often causes stress for them. When asked which day and time they would prefer, she said most participants said they would like to see registration begin on a Sunday evening.

“The reasoning is dinner is done, dishes are cleared away, kids are winding down for the evening, and parents are turning their attention to planning the next week,” she said. “This might be a good time for them to register.”

Additionally, Rachev also offered suggestions for improvement, many of which she said the park district is already working on implementing.

They include providing more “one-click program options,” improving the filtration process by age, date and time (it’s currently organized by category and sub-category), and adding an option to “like” or “favorite” a program so it can be saved for later, similar to how many online shopping websites operate.

Other “more robust” changes Rachev suggested include looking at automatic payment methods, adding a section for if a child needs special support, such as medications, and moving registration to January.

She also suggested that the park district work on communicating any changes to the public, including maybe creating a video showing the step-by-step registration process.

Rachev further put forth an idea of creating a “resident recommendation task force” of eight to 10 people who would test the registration website before it goes live and provide feedback for improvement.

“They’ll sit through the process, give you the AOK forward,” she said. “And then they’re your ambassadors.”

Superintendent of Operations Lindsay Thomas added that she’s been working with the park district’s marketing and communications team and RevTrac to implement any changes and make sure the public knows about them.

The first new test of this, she said, will be July 16 when the early fall programming goes live. Registration for that, according to the park district’s website, will be July 30 and Aug. 6.

Commissioner Allison Frazier stressed the importance of the six-digit code that is needed for registration, but said if people are unaware of that, it can cause stress.

“If you’re new to the community, if you’re new to trying to sign up, that process of trying to filter is time wasted that can get you waitlisted,” she said. “And that’s where that panic ensues.”

Board President Kara Kosluskus said the Park Board will continue to follow up on any changes to registration and asked that the board be updated on any progress.

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Peter Kaspari

Peter Kaspari is a blogger and a freelance reporter. A 10-year veteran of journalism, he has written for newspapers in both Iowa and Illinois, including spending multiple years covering crime and courts. Most recently, he served as the editor for The Lake Forest Leader. Peter is also a longtime resident of Wilmette and New Trier High School alumnus.

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