A user interface is like a joke. If you have to explain it, it’s not that good

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Over a month ago the Town of Aurora announced it launched a new website.

Proving that attention to detail is a huge challenge it appears the town’s communications department couldn’t even bother to spellcheck their own announcement:

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The claim is the the new website offers residents a cleaner, new look with updated features and more streamlined information. A meaningless word salad that echos the same claims the Town made when they updated their website in 2014:

“enjoy the site’s new, bold graphic interfacestreamlined navigation and powerful search capability.”

When the town sloppily rolled out that site, in collaboration with the Town of Newmarket, Aurora’s site was plagued with problems.  Fingers were pointed at the vendor.

According to this January 17th Auroran article the 2014 website had “multiple challenges” relating to not only usability and navigation, but also back-end technology.
Was not mobile device responsive and requires a third-party service to display website content in a way that is accessible to mobile devices.  This service does not work seamlessly for all devices and prevents many website pages and tools from being viewed and used in the appropriate manner when viewed on a mobile device.

The Town spent $70,000 on that in 2014.

It has spent another $70,000 in 2019. That’s a combined $140,000.

So what did the town get for this spend? Let’s explore how or even if this website is better than the previous one.

What are the increased ways to engage with the government exactly?  My experience has been the exact opposite, here are but a few of my findings.

1.) There is no integration of the town’s GIS capabilities.  Vurious given that Newmarket seems to be more than able to deliver given they share the same platform.

2.) The site is still not responsive.  When I view the Stream Meetings and View Archived Video page on an iOS device this is the interface that loads:

There is no way to access the list because the content has not been properly formatted, the links are off screen to the right.

Considering that “displaying website content in a way that is accessible to mobile devices” is one of the problems the town identified with the previous site, it’s embarrassing they were unable to get it right after throwing another $70,000 at it.

3.) All old links have been broken.  This means all previous links to pages and reports on sites an indexed by Google are broken.

Where efforts have been made to further circulate and engage the community by sharing access to the town’s pubic documents, now anyone following those links gets this 404 error:

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Why is it necessary to sever hyperlinks, now twice?  Some best practices are to identify the past links and make a redirect path on the new site to maintain past paths to content.

4.) The site is not fully functional.

The town’s announcement claims:  “Over the next few weeks, we will be working to ensure the website is up-to-date and all the final components are in place. ”

The site has been launched for over a month and this claim is invalid.

There is no excuse why it takes weeks after a launch to have all components in place.

Launching a site should have a roll-out plan so that this doesn’t happen. There didn’t seem to be a good one back in 2014, and it appears there wasn’t a better one this time out.

It’s not rocket surgery, components that have not been migrated from the old site to the new site can still be made accessible if you run the old site in parallel and link to it until they are migrated.

5.) The site removed content.  If you navigated to the Agendas and minutes archived section you got this:

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None of the links to Agendas and Minutes were active, instead there is a notice that the page was “Coming Soon”.

WTF?

If you start exploring pages like “Arts and Culture” this is what you see:

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There are no links, no call to actions, just meaningless boilerplate copy.  So what is the purpose of this page and others?

How is it the town failed so hard again when they had their previous mistakes to learn from?

Over a year agoin my January 24th, 2019 post I pointed out how the CAO claimed the 2014 rollout failing was the fault of the vendor:

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I also found it curious that council rubber stamped staff’s recommendation to sole source the very same vendor for this re-build citing that it would allow for easier transfer of existing data and content:

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Well that appears to be Bullshit.

This whole launch seems to have gone as well as the provincial government’s #licensegate

The problem isn’t with the vendor.  It’s not 3M or esolutionsgroups fault.  Town staff selected the vendor, set the parameters, and tested (or should have) the site and approved its launch.

Simply writing “hope you enjoy our new website” instead of testing it to see how it was used and what level of enjoyment, if any was had is a joke.

I’m curious to see how many members of council are laughing.

Watts on your mind?

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