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Chattanooga's website redesign

2011-06-23 18:50:33.830932+00 by Dan Lyke 8 comments

The Chattanoogan.com: Johnny Wilson: Wake Up Before You Sign The City Website Redo Check is a rant about Chattanooga paying $324k for a website redesign.

I admit to not knowing the particulars, but in the comments I'm going to toss my response to this that I wrote to the CHUGALUG mailing list.

[ related topics: Chattanooga ]

comments in descending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment Re: made: 2011-06-28 19:26:14.324417+00 by: Dan Lyke

Chattarati: Crowdsourcing: Where the Chattanooga.gov Redesign Began.

#Comment Re: made: 2011-06-25 11:09:04.20872+00 by: meuon

They have in-house developer talent, at least two heavies plus some..

#Comment Re: made: 2011-06-25 00:27:31.826707+00 by: mkelley

Meuon - Do we know if this graphic design company has a web developer who's local?

We got some work from them that was HORRIBLE. I'm looking through the RFP now and it's not that outrageous for a large company. Joomla is the only thing I'm balking at - it's free and php/mysql to boot - nothing like the cost would assume. The content migration shouldn't run more than $35k. I'm just wondering how much they're spending on usability and other testing(if they are).

#Comment Re: made: 2011-06-24 01:07:53.997933+00 by: Nancy

It's published, Dan - see same link above.

#Comment Re: made: 2011-06-23 21:57:11.268946+00 by: Dan Lyke

I cleaned that up and sent it off, we'll see what they do with it.

#Comment Re: made: 2011-06-23 20:06:12.573921+00 by: Larry Burton

Dan, please send that to The Chattanoogan. I've had a few organizations I've been involved with ask me to help them with a web presence. All of these should have been simple but had there not been love involved $300K would not have been anywhere near enough for the what I went through trying to get content. The technology is easy. Heck, even the design part wasn't that bad but trying to get the various people to jump on board and supply content was next to impossible.

#Comment Re: made: 2011-06-23 19:49:42.7865+00 by: meuon [edit history]

at least, unlike before.. they are spending it locally, on a fairly decent company (technical teams with people like Glen Austin don't come cheap) that is LOCAL.

#Comment Re: made: 2011-06-23 18:50:57.635356+00 by: Dan Lyke

So I've been looking at what it would take to rework the City of Petaluma's web site. I'd like to address a few of Johnny Wilson's complaints.

"...why not bring the technology up to date also and use a content management system which eliminates most of the pages and can be updated without any "training" and doesn't require 20 people to maintain it."

Great to bring the technology up to date. What's your strategy for dealing with legacy links on the page? Existing archives of scanned documents? How do those fall into your proposed content management system?

Have you looked at all the places you're currently actually getting city staff to publish data, and made sure that you know how to get that information out? Right now there's a Senior Engineering Technician who's printing PDFs from Word for project status updates. He's already generating these documents as a part of dealing with the bidding process, can you get him to do the data entry twice? Pull the data out of his workflow in other ways?

Which brings me to "updated without any "training"". Lemme tell ya, a phrase like that exhibits a huge lack of understanding how business and city workflow actually occurs, and will get your ass thrown right the hell out of the bidding process. The big part of reworking a city's web site isn't "hey, here's some HTML, let's throw it on a server!", it's understanding how city staff currently passes that information around and how to extract that information to put it on the web site. If you think there's no "training", then you haven't even begun to talk to the city staff, seen what the current procedures are, and figured out how to move this through.

So let's talk, for a minute, a little more about "training": Sure, there's copy and paste stuff from documents they're already using into a web application of some sort, but if you're going to get *more* information out of the various processes of the city you're also going to have to develop policies that people can follow that let them publish this stuff.

And then you have to change the departments' attitudes about publicity and transparency. Because they're gun-shy as hell about being the scapegoat for making some quick joke, or being perceived as wasting taxpayer dollars, or whatever, and losing their job over some set of assholes making political hay out of it. I spent a good bit of yesterday hanging out with a guy who's been a firefighter and is now a welder and heavy construction guy with our local water and sewer department. He agrees with me that more publicity about what they do, the challenges of fixing 80 year old leaking water mains while they're "hot", or the coolness of driving robots down sewer lines looking for stormwater infiltration, would probably do wonders for the public understanding the value of paying taxes for public infrastructure. On the other hand, years of getting kicked in the teeth means that the groups he work with have a rule of "TV means pizza, radio means beer", that is: If you show up on TV, you buy the pizza, if you're heard on the radio, you by the beer, for the job crew. Keep your head down, don't say anything, avoid the cameras, because someone's gonna figure out how to spin that to make the agency look bad.

So, how then do you get these departments to be *more* transparent about what they do? By writing policy, and by training. Both of those things cost money.

Sure, Johnny Wilson can slap up a "welcome to our city/contact us/our services" five pager for whatever the going rate for stupid five-pagers is. Really reworking a city web presence involves figuring out why the coordination between city departments over what streets are going to get dug up when is a once-a-year manager's meeting rather than an ongoing technology-augmented dialog between the various stakeholders that can actually adapt to things like emergency repairs.

Understanding *that* is worth a hell of a lot more than a third of a million bucks, and sniping from people who don't understand that web presences should be part of an overall process strategy, isn't really helpful.