out of site, out of mind

Clr. Buck has informed us that Last Tuesday Council received a report about the new website ,describing it in superlative terms. You can read her post here: http://evelynmbuck.blogspot.ca/2014/08/ask-and-you-shall-not-receive.html
In her post she said she wasn’t comfortable with the self-congratulatory tone of the report and preferred to let people tell council what they think of the service rather than tell them what to think of the service.

That seems to be 180 degrees from Mayor Dawe’s position on the town’s new website as evidensed in the July edition of crap’d Aurora :

“Kudos to the town’s Communications department on the completion and successful launch of our highly anticipated new aurora.ca website! Our 40,000 monthly visitors will enjoy the site’s new, bold graphic interface, streamlined navigation and powerful search capability. I invite you to experience it for yourself.”

The same gushing is also available on his own website here: http://geoffdawe.ca/snapd-aurora-july-2014/

Those taking the mayor up on his offer just 2 weeks ago would have been met with disappointment, even the Mayor had to re-tweet a town announcement of a service outage of the site:

I commented on the pathetic launch previously here: https://wattstrending.wordpress.com/2014/05/31/town-of-auroras-website-roll-out/ which was not even close to being considered “successful”.

Supposed to launch in March ( http://www.yorkregion.com/news-story/4196735-new-aurora-website-to-launch-in-march/ ) the website got shoved out the door as the minutes clicked down to the end of May: https://wattstrending.wordpress.com/2014/03/08/webslight-of-hand/

I’m also unsure how the mayor could claim the website is in anyway complete. Here are a couple examples:

1.) The Agenda and Minute Archive page: http://www.aurora.ca/TownHall/Pages/Agenda-and-Minute-Archive.aspx links to documents as far back as 2010.

The town’s old site had archived documents back to 2004.

How does the removal of 6 years worth of documentation provide greater service?

2.) Under a primary navigation menu found on the right side of the landing page are weekly links that reads “Aurora Votes 2014 “. I have included a screengrab from Thursday July 24 here:

If selected that link takes you to a barren page that has empty fields and a single link to a Vote 2014 site:

Don’t believe me, try the link yourself: http://www.aurora.ca/TownHall/Lists/News%20and%20Public%20Notices/CustomDisplayForm.aspx?ID=22c

WTF?

Why wouldn’t the link resolve to the Vote 2014 page directly?

3.) An entire and substantive heritage section of the old website has been struck.

The new site has a bare-bones Heritage section including a list of heritage properties of interest condensed down to a 20 page .pdf here:
http://www.aurora.ca/TownHall/Pages/Advisory%20Committees/Heritage%20Advisory%20Committee/Heritage-Planning-.aspx

None of the links in the .pdf resolve to details regarding the properties, they simply return one to the landing page of the site.

Effectively the town of Aurora’s new website does not link visitors with any details regarding heritage destinations.

Strange considering a rather extensive online Inventory of Heritage Buildings was compiled and produced under contract by Barry Bridgeford between 2003 – 2006.

Again, how is striking large sections of data from the website in the town’s best interest?

4.) There is absolutely no connectivity between aurora.ca and businessaurora.ca.

Businessaurora.ca was the $30,000 website launched by the Economic Development Advisory Committee last term. I commented on it previously here:
https://wattstrending.wordpress.com/2009/12/08/click-to-add-website-business-as-usual/

Why would a new site roll out not fold in this property in the redesign process?

Complete? not by a long shot.

And that’s not the Mayor’s only gross exaggeration, he goes on to tout the site’s “bold graphic interface”.

There is nothing “bold” about the rather cheesy template style framework that esolutionsgroup provided.

Navigation is not “more streamlined than before.” In some cases it is worse.

The town’s site does not conform to the principles of Responsive Design, an overview of which is available here: http://paths.ioninteractive.com/10ResponsiveDesignBestPractices

In plain English this means the site does not load effectively across multiple devices or platforms as evidenced when you test the site here :http://www.browserstack.com/responsive

There are even navigation issues on desktops with resolutions of 768 high because the contents of the drop down boxes for both “Live” and “Town Hall” exceed the screensize and items cutoff cannot be reached.

Another disconnect is that the link provided for General Committee streaming is not compatable with the iOS platform, meaning those with iphones, ipods and ipads are out of luck.

The mayor’s “powerful search capacity” claim is also a joke.

Trying to locate documents from the old site using the current search engine brings up no results.

In fact, if you are searching for items to deal with the town you are better off using a search engine like Google than the one provided.

If searching wasn’t bad enough the content of the site is also problematic.

Back on July 6th I commented on how the town misrepresented Prince Andrew’s visit:
https://wattstrending.wordpress.com/2014/07/06/the-fresh-prince-over-there/

They of course fixed the error, but it makes one question exactly how material is approved for release to the town website.

If you bothered to select one of the years available in the archive of minutes you’ll get some interesting results.

Apparently in 2013 Aurora had a “Heritage Accessibility Advisory Committee” ?:

Another example is the page for the Doors Open 2014 event this past weekend: http://www.aurora.ca/Thingstodo/Pages/Doors-Open-Aurora-2014.aspx

The webpage details are so out of date they still reflect a call for applications due at the end of March:

Lastly the mayor claim the town website boasts “40,000 monthly visitors”, as though that is supposed to be some impressive number.

How many of those visitors are unique?

It appears Mayor Dawe simply extracted this number because it fit his narrative of a new town website that is better and used by many.

What other metrics of the towns website and other properties have been released to council or the community as a whole?

I’m particularly interested to know what the bounce rate is of those 40,000 visits.

I’m also interested to know the findings from both the $9,000 web satisfaction survey conducted back in 2009, and the survey and two focus groups that were used to guide this redevelopment as reported on in the Error:
http://www.yorkregion.com/news-story/1935466-aurora-seeks-ideas-for-website-design/

How can anyone claim a success unless the output is framed in context of the original objectives?

At a cost of $90,000 in addition to staff time what has been delivered is a sad mess.

Compare Aurora’s efforts with Markham whose website www.clickwithmarkham.ca had nearly 5,000 participants earning the Willis Innovation Award from The Canadian Association of Municipal Administrators back in 2008:
http://www.yorkregion.com/news-story/1419689-website-was-a-winner/

Or how about King Township which launched a mobile app that is directly integrated with their new website back in May:
http://www.yorkregion.com/news-story/4548802-king-township-launches-mobile-app-along-with-new-website/

WTF?

Where are the apps Aurora’s CAO assured council that apps would be released with the website?

We were informed through the service level review that taxes are commensurate with a high level of service, and as Clr. Buck repeated “The advantage of the new web site was better service.”

The reality is this:

The Town of Aurora’s website is a prime example of how this council’s lack of understanding with respect to matters of communication and engagement have failed our town.

Something we can aim to fix this October.

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One thought on “out of site, out of mind

  1. It think there’s a fairly good chance the Mayor didn’t write the statement attributed to him about the web site. It was more likely written by the communications division whose job it is to write speeches for the Mayor.
    The Mayor seldom has much to say on any issue. When he does,it might often have been better left unsaid. Part of the exchange between myself and the CAO referenced cancellation and re-start of one part of the contract.
    It was let in two parts. The first part had to be re-tendered because the first successful bidder failed to perform.
    When I asked for particulars , Council was informed the contractor wanted to be paid more because of the amount of work involved.
    The explanation passed without further comment. The fact is all bids or expression of interest are supposed to be analyzed for conformity prior to grant. How it got to be awarded and then cancelled is a matter of concen.

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