After years of tweaks, complaints and frustrations, the City of Palo Alto's website finally received a dramatic and long-awaited overhaul Tuesday morning.
The redesigned website, which remains at www.cityofpaloalto.org, includes a host of new features, such as videos, slideshows, colorful departments pages and an increased ability for users to organize information and customize their homepage. It also includes a heavier social-media element, allowing users to easily share information from the site with their Facebook and Twitter networks (among others); and a homepage that prioritizes links by popular usage. The prior website was a topic of derision within the famously tech-savvy community for its bland layout, static interface and heavy use of stock images.
The redesign was spearheaded by city officials in collaboration with a Website Advisory Committee composed of citizen volunteers. The city "soft launched" the beta version of the new site two months ago to solicit comments from the community before the new look became official at midnight Tuesday. City Manager James Keene said in a statement that the city's collaboration with the citizen committee and community feedback during the beta period made the "great initial redesign" even better. Nearly 5,000 users tested the beta website, according to the city's announcement.
"We handled the transition from old site to redesigned site with this 'beta' site approach to ensure ample opportunity for community comments," Keene said. "We were delighted to get so much useful feedback from the public during the 'soft launch' period."
The redesign process, according to the city, included officials from 13 different departments and a dozen community volunteers with expertise in Web design, management and analysis.
"We set out to make the website more visually engaging, more interactive and easier to navigate. We feel we achieved those objectives," Bob Harrington, a member of the website committee, said in a statement.
Even though the new site launched this week, city officials emphasize that it remains a work in progress. The city plans to continue to update content and navigation and to make further changes in the future to keep the site consistent with the latest changes in technology and city programs.