Thursday, May 31, 2012

"Unavailable" Does Not Mean "Easy Access"

On March 5, 2012, the City of Richardson launched a new design for the city's website. It's been almost three months since then? What's your verdict?

Personally, I find that whereas the redesign might look a little more modern (maybe), I can't find information any more easily than before. One of the goals of the redesign was to make the website friendlier to mobile devices. That's good, but I can't comment on it as I don't access the website except on full-sized screen connected to a desktop computer.

After the jump, what is a killer issue for me.

I tend to look at documents associated with city council meetings -- agendas, handouts, minutes, videos. Follow along with me as I attempt to find them in the new design.

From the home page, click on the pulldown menu "Government." From there, click on "City Council." Your subsequent choices include "Meeting Minutes" and "Watch Live Council Video," but I'll be d*mned if I can find agendas or handouts.

Let's try another tack. Again, click on the pulldown menu "Government." This time, click on "Boards and Commissions." One of the subsequent choices is "City Council Regular Meeting Documents." Eureka! Why this is under "Boards and Commissions" and not "City Council" is an unexplained mystery.

I made it this far because I really want to locate the handout used at the October 3, 2011, city council meeting to show the plans for the transit-oriented development around the PGBT DART station. (For why I might be interested in that, re-read the items on DART stations and walkability from two weeks ago.) I know the handout is there because I linked to it last October. Re-read that article and click on the same link today and you reach an error page.

OK, maybe it's moved. Sigh. So, scroll down the list of city council regular meeting documents to find its new location. You hit a brick wall at January 23, 2012. Everything before that is "unavailable."

If I were a suspicious sort, I might accuse the city of using the website design as an opportunity to create a memory hole. But I'm a trusting sort, so I'll give the city the benefit of the doubt and write it off to innocent oversight.

In either case, I consider it a showstopper. At the time of the launch of the redesign, Mayor Bob Townsend said, "Our new site continues our tradition of providing easy access to information and services." Well, no it doesn't. "Unavailable" is not a synonym for "easy access." Fail.

1 comment:

Nathan Morgan said...

I suppose the city hall gang designed it to augment their new mobile communication toys. But, you are correct.

In fact, it seems a little more difficult to do any kind of research and compile reports based on tracking activities of our public servants. Try tracking down any given subject activity of public interest outside the select list of those promoted by the composers.

For example, try searching for any history of any agenda item.

They'll have to do better than this to get my seal of approval.