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City's new Web site aims for elegance, utility

Original post made on Aug 1, 2007

Visitors to the City of Palo Alto's old Web site encountered an outdated design and often struggled to find information. Starting Thursday, the city will launch its revamped site, the product of two years work and about $240,000, according to Administrative Services Director Carl Yeats.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, August 1, 2007, 4:33 PM

Comments (94)

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Posted by friendly correction for you
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 1, 2007 at 7:01 pm

Becky/Jay/whoever --
Please use the correct URL at the end of your article:
Web Link

There are two problems with the one you included at 4:33:
a) There's a typo -- "http" not htpp

b) You put in the 1994 style URL -- still technically functional but please, please point people to the easier to remember and less likely to have typos version that the city switched to at least 4 years ago.

Also:
* Next to last sentence should read (changes in CAPS so you know what is changed): "a comment FORM is available at the bottom of EVERY web page." [I realize you may have had to write the article before the site went live at 6:00...]
* There isn't a "sustainability icon" -- I think you meant to say "Environment in Palo Alto"

Cheers!


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Posted by karen
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 1, 2007 at 9:33 pm

Why oh why are they using white type against a grey background. Is there any user interface person on the planet who doesn't know that's hard on the eyes, esp. elderly eyes, and a dark type against a light background is better?


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Posted by Giraffe
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 1, 2007 at 11:45 pm

I'm sure there is much to like about the new website.
However, many of the pages don't render properly in my Firefox 2.0.6, eg
Web Link

Also, I agree with Karen that in many places, the letters are hard to read because of the font size and foreground/background colors. EG, the tabs that appear on many of the pages are in a small and fine font that is a light grey on a darker gray background.


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Posted by Elaine
a resident of University South
on Aug 2, 2007 at 12:54 am

We are not "customers" of the city. (on the opening screen). We are residents, or citizens. We are customers at Macy's and at the supermarket. Calling us customers creates distance between citizens and the government that represents them.


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Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 2, 2007 at 8:28 am

Did anyone test this new, expensive website for W3C compliance? These pages don't render under anything other than Internet Explorer.

Web Link


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Posted by Robert
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 2, 2007 at 9:41 am

Karen/Giraffe: Get some glasses or increase the font size in your browser. It's perfectly clear to me.

Anonymous: everything works fine in Mozilla . . .


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Posted by Max
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 2, 2007 at 11:02 am

I tried to increase the text size and it did noting! I am currently running IE 6.

-Max


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Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 2, 2007 at 12:26 pm

Here's the W3C validator output for the front page. It's not pretty.

Web Link


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Posted by The Out-of-towner
a resident of another community
on Aug 2, 2007 at 1:04 pm

Where's the maps?


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Posted by Matt
a resident of Santa Rita (Los Altos)
on Aug 2, 2007 at 1:06 pm

Max,

You can force IE6 to ignore font sizes on web sites by going to the Tools menu, select Internet Options at the bottom and then click the button named Accessibility on the General tab. Click the checkbox to 'Ignore font sizes specified on web pages'. This will allow you to increase the font size. It does mess up formatting on some pages, but I use it all the time to prevent eye strain on my large high resolution monitor.

Enjoy!


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Posted by resident skeptic
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Aug 2, 2007 at 6:37 pm

One of the promises of the city's new website is that residents will finally be able to find things using the search function:

"No longer do you have to know anything about the structure of the City organization to find the information you need. Thanks to a powerful new search function and a database that serves up information whenever and wherever you look for it, you will spend less time getting to your subject of interest, without knowing which department handles a particular program."
For more on what the goals of this website upgrade were, see:
Web Link

My question is, can YOU find what you might want to look for on the new website? Please share your experience!
Click on this link to go to the city home page and try it out:
Web Link


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Posted by Disappointed
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 2, 2007 at 8:07 pm

Two words that do not come to mind in looking at the new website: elegance or beauty. Often when visiting a new website, I experience the attractiveness and beauty of the design. That is not the case here.
Those squares seem so boring. And they are so business oriented -- this is a municipal website.

What is a Know Zone? Is that a concept to appeal to children? Do the designers have any familiarity with the kind of people who live here?

The picture of part of a woman's body in running pants is in poor taste. How could anyone think that was an appropriate choice?


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Posted by karen
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 3, 2007 at 9:54 am

Robert, I do have a larger font size set - by the way that trashes some of the web pages on the city's site, it clearly isn't designed to live with that. That's not the same thing as reducing eyestrain. I wouldn't say they're orthoginal, just not the same.

And that doesn't enlarge the "type" in some areas, since they have made the error of some type actually being an image, not text.

$240,000, be still my heart. I wonder if they put this out for bids.

The search feature seems quite slow, I wonder if these pages are indexed.

And they even have an Internet Explorer icon on the front page, although it's impossible to read what it says about Internet Explorer in the icon. That's embarrassing, what is this Redmond, WA?

Also, i see the detailed info about the city heritage trees is gone. The old site had photos of them in the records for each tree.

It's disappointing that with this amount of money and time spent, they didn't come up with something smashing. The old site was easier to read and faster to find things with.


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Posted by joyce
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 3, 2007 at 10:25 am

Hmm, I went to the site to send an email directly to Carl Yeats, who is mentioned in the article, and I still can't find his email address.

If I click on city departments, I get those icons with tiny unexpandable type and have to guess which one he's in, no luck with a few tries at that - where is the employee listing by name?

So I search for yeats, does that turn up his email addess, not in the first several results, apparently.

Why the heck is it telling me about links that it says he isn't in, what does that do expect make this even more unreadable? Imagine if google returned a bunch of pages and said, sorry what's you're looking for isn't in this page.

Ah, there's something in Filebank items, wait I click on the link multiple times, but nothing happens, it isn't a link. Not to mention the eyestrain of dark green against dark grey. Oh, the link is further down below a line, how counter intuitive. Well, after waiting for that pdf document to load, yeats isn't even in it.

Also none of the results have an excerpt so you can tell if it might be what you're looking for without loading the result.

Ah, I see it turns up a Phone List link, athough search results says he is not in it. Can I find the Phone List on the site to see if maybe I can deduce how to reach him? No, I cannot. Ah, some more peering at those semi-unreadable icons (I have a headache by now), turns up Phone Directory, the very last icon. But, no employee names in there.

Ah, there is a promising thing under administrative services, so I click on that, do I get him email address? No, I get a generic email address, so who know who it goes to. By the way, why was this not ranked first in the results? Does this search feature rank?

Note that this was just ahead of phone list in the results, but skimming thru trying to read something easily, with my eyes wearing out from these impossible pages, I missed it the first time thru.

I defy anyone to look at these search results and compare them to how google presents them, and tell me they aren't pitiful.



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Posted by resident skeptic
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Aug 3, 2007 at 11:10 am

Joyce --
Amen to all the points you made. I was really hopeful that at least there would finally be a search engine that worked on this site. Originally, I thought that anything would be a step forward from what was on the previous site, which was worse than useless. But whatever alternative to Google the web gurus chose is clearly inadequate, and does NOT help the site users sort out useless results from what you are really trying to find. Here we are in the heart of Silicon Valley and we have to put up with this???

IMPORTANT: Please, please forward your comments to city.council@cityofpaloalto.org !! This is the best way to put them on record.

Other hints:
* Standard format for city staff email = firstname.lastname@cityofpaloalto.org

* There actually is a clickable link to an official "comment form" on every page of the website, but only those with eagle eyes and lots of patience are going to find it. The secret: go down to the very bottom of the page, get out your magnifying glass, and click on "comment form." **
But remember: unless you send your comments to the City Council address above, you can't be sure that it will reach someone who will actually respond.


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Posted by resident skeptic
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Aug 3, 2007 at 11:11 am

Joyce --
Amen to all the points you made. I was really hopeful that at least there would finally be a search engine that worked on this site. Originally, I thought that anything would be a step forward from what was on the previous site, which was worse than useless. But whatever alternative to Google the web gurus chose is clearly inadequate, and does NOT help the site users sort out useless results from what you are really trying to find. Here we are in the heart of Silicon Valley and we have to put up with this???

IMPORTANT: Please, please forward your comments to city.council@cityofpaloalto.org !! This is the best way to put them on record.

Other hints:
* Standard format for city staff email = firstname.lastname@cityofpaloalto.org

* There actually is a clickable link to an official "comment form" on every page of the website, but only those with eagle eyes and lots of patience are going to find it. The secret: go down to the very bottom of the page, get out your magnifying glass, and click on "comment form." **
But remember: unless you send your comments to the City Council address above, you can't be sure that it will reach someone who will actually respond.


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Posted by Palo alto mom
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 3, 2007 at 2:41 pm

I tried to find the hours of Rinconda Pool, got to the facilities and parks which contain no maps or other info.

A simple spell check would have been good before going live - Palo Alto is spelled wrong under the search engine description.


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Posted by Curious Observer
a resident of Mountain View
on Aug 3, 2007 at 7:13 pm

Curious Observer is a registered user.

Why is there a picture of the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center on the "Know" page? Doesn't make a lot of sense considering it's located in Menlo Park.


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Posted by joyce
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 3, 2007 at 11:02 pm

That photo on the living page, just what I want to see on the city's web site, someone's belly button.

And who are those demented women "shopping" in the Visiting section? Does anyone in real life act like that about a store? You'd think they'd just spotted the Second Coming.

So, we're in the Visiting Palo Alto section, and click on Visitors FAQ. It starts out "What's the weather like? How do I get there from San Jose?… and other questions visitors ask." So, is there a link for weather? Not that I can see. Well, where would the get there directions be, I guess in Transportation, certainly not in the only two other categories, Free Shuttle and Crime. Crime, that's always a first question about a place to visit. Some people might ask about restaurants, but not our visitors. So, I go to Transportation, are there directions? No, there are not. It isn't even oriented to visitors, but has stuff like traffic calming and running stop signs. And "are marked crosswaks safer." Who was this written for, idiots?


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Posted by Customer
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 5, 2007 at 1:02 pm

Could somebody give me the name of the City Arborist and his/her e-mail address; I can't find it on the website? Or should I call the front desk and get the information from the receptionist who isn't there on Fridays?

This website has been deliberately designed to cut down on e-mails to City staff, and therefore make contact with the City almost impossible for Palo Alto customers.


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Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 5, 2007 at 1:22 pm

There are many other comments about the new city website at Diana Diamond's blog: Palo Alto's new web site is user unfriendly
Web Link

When sending emails to the city council, also copy the following:
Frank.benest@cityofpaloalto.org; Emily.harrison@cityofpaloalto.org; Lisa.Mainarick-Bolger@cityofpaloalto.org; carl.yeats@cityofpaloalto.org; chris.caravalho@cityofpaloalto.org.

Mainarick-Bolger is the IT manager quoted in the Weekly: The new site features a chic grey background with green lettering and large, engaging photographs. It has information classified by category, rather than department, and a redesigned search engine that goes even beyond a Google-style search.


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Posted by Disappointed
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 5, 2007 at 8:25 pm

The web site is a total joke...the emperor has no clothes. Dump it ASAP.

I agree that the pictures are a distraction and totally sophmorish. It looks like a trendy teenager designed the site..They have no realtionship to the city of Palo Alto....

I agree that the text is meaningless...better to place in a marketing brochure - are we the cities customers? if so, they certainly are doing a poor job of treating us as customers.

I agree the grey background is hard to read, dirty looking, and certainly does not have the right feel for a city web site...why should anyone have to increase their font size...give me a break...especailly if they are cosnidering us customers.

The search is not useable. period

The links do not logically flow....

What is the know zone...this is too cutesy.

I could go on and on...Let's not spend any more money with this firm or on this site....Let's back to the old one. WHAT A MISTAKE.


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Posted by bruce
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 6, 2007 at 4:37 pm

Joyce,

By now you may have found Carl Yeats' e-mail address, but in case you haven't...carl.yeats@cityofpaloalto.org

Your comments about the site - as are those of all the others is right on.

Everyone. Be sure to send an e-mail to the city council voicing our complaints. city.council@cityofpaloalto.org

The city manager is frank.benest@cityofpaloalto.org


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Posted by Resident
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Aug 6, 2007 at 10:52 pm

At the end of tonight's Council meeting (8/6) members of the City Council commented on the many e-mails they had received critical of the City's new website. They all felt criticism was premature and that as people learned to navigate it's many pages they will like it and use it.

Bern Beecham commented that some e-mailers had complained about the font size. He suggested that you simply use the enlargement function on your computer to enlarge the font size.

The city does plan to review it's content and make any necessary changes in two or three months.






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Posted by Webster in Waiting
a resident of University South
on Aug 6, 2007 at 11:05 pm

I got an idea--don't let this turkey beat us, let's crack this egg.

Let's build a community-based website of tips on how to use the official city website, plus a collection of well organized links to any useful information found buried in it. Of course only a few web authors would actually build and maintain the site, but we'd all participate in hacking out how to use the city site and digging up its links, sharing the info on the site's blog.

I'm withholding my name until I see what the response is, but I'll volunteer if a critical mass forms up.


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Posted by Annette
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 7, 2007 at 8:35 am

A good start - run a spell check on the entire site.


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Posted by What a shame
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Aug 7, 2007 at 9:57 am

There used to be a nice map in color of the city's parks. Now it is a pdf file that downloads and it is black and white, has all kinds of other things on it, and is unreadable.

Who else defended this thing? Beecham and Barton, anyone else?


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Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 7, 2007 at 10:08 am

Beecham isn't near the techie he thinks he is. His rather condescending recommendation to press the CTRL and + keys together just enlarges the whole page on the screen and makes big parts of it disappear off the viewing area. You have to use the scroll bars to move the page around the screen to see the rest of it. A primitive workaround for a lousy web layout.

I think some real techies got in a sly mood over pizza and beer and set out to embarrass Palo Alto, always a tempting target because of its techie pretensions, by selling it the worst joke of a website they could concoct: lots of cheap glitz and no substance. They succeeded big time and fleeced our naive city hall more than a quarter million dollars by way of dessert. I can hear them laughing down the Valley right now. The (alleged) fable of the emperor's clothes comes to mind.


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Posted by What a shame
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Aug 7, 2007 at 10:18 am

I just tried a couple of searches with regular concepts used in Palo Alto. The results were ridiculous and useless. The picture in the Know Zone is of an overpass from some mountainous place.
The real shame is that it isn't novices who are mostly critical, and who need to get used to it, it is experts and experienced people who are shocked.


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Posted by Mr. Usability
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 7, 2007 at 1:02 pm

Becky Trout is an excellent reporter, but here she - and the Weekly - fell victim to the oldest tech product promotion trick in the book. It's a trick that's meant to dazzle the eyes, and impress with potential.

How is this trick performed?

1) Get the user looking forwar to something that is going to increase - in this case - communication, and control of information for functional purpose. Tout the upcoming tool in way that holds promise.

2) When production is done, have someone who is intimately familier with the end product - and very capable at navigating its interface - demonstrate said product (in this case, website) to a naive user.
Wow! ou can do all that!", the user exclaims - forgetting that the person who just took them through the product's features know it better than the back of his own hand.

Voila! SOLD!

"What a shame" has said it all. Palo Alto keeps congratulating itself for being "first in this and first in that and blah, blah, blah...", so here's another case where otherwise well-meaning and competent people have put too much faith in outside contractors to do something right. Sad.

The contractors who didi this work CANNOT have known very much at all about website design.

To those Council members - including Bern Beecham, who is usually more thoughtful than his comments revealed last evening - I suggest a look at the following - i.e. Jakob Nielsen's classic site on usability

Nielsonn'sWeb Link

Today (that's AD2007), NOBODY shuold be confused, or puzzled, or have to "figure out" a website! Period.

Do you have to figure out how to use a book? Use that as a guide, and think - ALWAYS - lowest comon denominator when engaging in interface design, and content depth.

There are probably 1000 people in our city who could have done a better job with this. I suggest staff begin looking to small, ad hoc, *expert* citizen committees **that have specific professional experience** for help on initiatives like this in the future.

In the meantime, GET OUR MONEY BACK!, or make the contractor do this thing right. It's about 50% done, and that's being kind.



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Posted by Beecham's booboo
a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 7, 2007 at 2:16 pm

Not only was he defending the indefensible at last night's meeting, he was 50% wrong. His keystrokes to increase font size aren't correct for the Macintosh.
I think he and Barton were defending the city manager. Maybe they owe him a lot. (Did I say maybe?)


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Posted by $240k?
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 7, 2007 at 4:36 pm

The site has quite a few flaws; quite a few violate long-espoused rules of usability; the prior poster's link to Nielsen is spot-on!

Offhand, it appears the City may have purchased a 'pig-in-a-poke'. Some quick questions:

In the private sector, would the key contact -- here, Mainarick-Bolger -- be called to task?

In such sector, would not the responsible manager be required to remedy a fix quickly? And at no cost to the private entity?


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Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 7, 2007 at 5:03 pm

To Beecham's booboo:

Beecham said PC. But his tech-tip would be no less useless if it did work on a Mac.


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Posted by bikes2work
a resident of another community
on Aug 7, 2007 at 7:44 pm

As far as I know, [CTRL] & [+] only works with Firefox and IE7. You have to change the accessibility settings in IE6 to allow larger fonts, and after that you can only increase the size via the menu. From what I've heard, City employees are still only allowed to use IE6. They are prohibited from using IE7 or Firefox.

The worst feature of the new site is that the hyperlinks are not distinguished from regular text. For instance, right on the home page, some bold green text are links, while some are just text. You have to hover over everything to find out if it is a link. WTF??? The links should be a different color and they should be UNDERLINED per standard convention. Who thought this was a good idea? Is that their idea of "reinventing" the web? That is just annoying.



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Posted by bob
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 8, 2007 at 8:40 am

I agree Bern Beecham was very patronizing and defensive when he talked about the new city web page. However, ignore his attempts to defend the use of $240,000 to make a crummy web site.

To increase the font size using Mozilla Firefox go to "View" in the tool bar, click and go down to "Text Size" and choose either increase or decrease. The only unusual feature is the font size stays the size you've chosen for all future pages until you change it again. Probably an advantage for most seniors because you don't have to keep changing it when you next access the site or a new page.


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Posted by joe
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 8, 2007 at 9:13 am

As I noted on the other thread about this, increasing the font fails in various cases, such as where the $250,000 people made "text" actually an image or didn't code for it so that stuff then overwrites and obscures its neighbors. Plus it doesn't help the various things causing eyestrain like the lousy colors.


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Posted by Tom
a resident of Professorville
on Aug 8, 2007 at 9:40 am

Why can city hall find $240,000 for a turkey like this, but can't come up with a few bucks to build a playground for the kids at Heritage Park? The neighbors had to raise the money for a playground themselves.

Where are the priorities in this town?



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Posted by Joanna
a resident of Menlo Park
on Aug 8, 2007 at 1:01 pm

$240k???????????????????????????????????

That is just stupid! Content management systems like Drupal are open source, code compliant and free. The value added aspect of a designer on this backbone is certainly not worth $240k, $140k, or even $40k.

It is a city website. Is this an e-commerce website? Does it attract any businesses or residents who otherwise wouldn't have considered Palo Alto?

Somebody has been "had." The person(s) responsible for paying such a ridiculous amount should be fired. This is an outrage!!


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Posted by where your money went
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Aug 8, 2007 at 1:07 pm

From a newspaper that shall be nameless:

In January 2006, the council approved a $132,695 contract with Civica Software of Newport Beach for the new content management system. A separate $92,400 contract was awarded to Creative-werks of Sausalito to engineer the graphical interface.

In addition, the council agreed to set aside $25,000 annually for ongoing maintenance of the site. Yeats said Tuesday there were no cost overruns.

While not ready to say definitively whether it was an investment worth making, Palo Alto Council Member Bern Beecham said he was impressed by what he saw during a demonstration of the new site Tuesday morning.

"It makes City Hall much more accessible to our citizens, whether they're looking for planning department packets, reports or news events," he said. "I think the new Web site is a home run, content-wise. It's a vast improvement."
..."I think this puts us back at the top," said Beecham.


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Posted by Marvin
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Aug 8, 2007 at 1:21 pm

Beecham is clearly living in some kind of parallel universe where Palo Alto is the greatest city in the world and the city council members are all knowing or else beecham is in a state of denial. i vote for the latter--clearly Beecham's folly ( as the website should be called) is a major embarrassment to the city and a clear waste of $250,000. obviously councilman Beecham will never admit that once again the council has blown it.
Amazing how they find money for Beecham's folly, a environmental coordinator, a wide array of consultants and other nonsense but cannot find money to keep our libraries in any decent shape, repair our rotting storm drains or maintain our failing infrastructure.
I am sure that Benest, Beecham and Kishimoto, among others, are sitting in their homes/office and patting themselves on the back for another job well done (kind of reminds me of the self-congratulations that were going around after the opening of the useless Homer Avenue pedestrian tunnel).


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Posted by Casey
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 8, 2007 at 1:49 pm

Are we living in Idaho? Considering all the tech-savvy professionals we have in Palo Alto, how do we end up spending $240,000 for this?

1) The website is S-L-O-W.

2) The search function is S-L-O-W. This is a real shame because they could have just used Google. Google is fast and returns highly relevant search results. Instead, they use some other search engine that segments results by News Details, Filebank Items, Minutes/Agendas, Reports and Resolutions, Calendar Events, Press Releases, Other Search Results and Phone List. How about a unified search interface? This certainly wasn't designed for residents. Take a poll around Palo Alto and ask people what a filebank is. I think you'll get a puzzled response in return.

3) I agree with the earlier comments about the Know Zone. For a quarter million, surely they could have put more thought into this. Know Zone? And the other links are for the Don't Know Zone?


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Posted by Joanna
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Aug 8, 2007 at 2:15 pm

That's it. I've had it.

I tried calling the admin office (Web Link) but no one can give me a straight answer.

Who is behind this project? Who voted for it?

I think the people deserve to know who wasted, yes... wasted, our money.


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Posted by Karen White
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 8, 2007 at 3:04 pm

A look at the website for Civica (Web Link), the content management company, shows that that they have indeed built and managed websites for a number of cities. It's instructive to look at these. They seem user-friendly and functional -- but not so high-style as ours.

So perhaps it's the graphical interface that's the problem. Did a search; the website for a "Creativewerks" in Sausalito is Web Link (I'm assuming that this is the company the City contracted with -- but someone please correct me if this is not the case.) An excerpt from their company profile follows:
-----
CREATIVEWERKS has twenty years of hands-on experience in marketing communications. The principles, Robert Johnson and Tom Joyce, have independently worked as creative directors over the past two decades, first pooling their talents in writing, radio broadcast, video production, graphic design, and art direction in 1985.

Creativewerks has demonstrated expertise in the strategic and tactical positioning and branding of our clients' products, services, and events, developing shrewd and appropriate messaging for a wide array of communication assignments. Our work for Crystal Geyser Water Company, JBL Speakers, Citibank, and Orban Electronics demonstrates that strength.
-----
From my perspective, the graphics seem over the top(also can contribute to slow information retrieval). With a view to improving the site, perhaps we can eliminate some of the graphics and focus on getting the content and search function squared away.


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Posted by Joanna
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Aug 8, 2007 at 3:39 pm

Thanks Karen,

I guess I meant, who was behind the approval process, the project funding, etc...

I'm looking for public officials who are responsible for this egregious act.

Thanks


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Posted by Not A Fan of Beecham or the Web Site
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 8, 2007 at 4:02 pm

Beecham is a pompous control freak, regretfully. The other wonderful legacy Bern left us with is the $20M settlement with Enron, due to his fine leadership in working with the Utilities Department. There are many who have known him for a long time (and worked with him on various City matters and on various Boards and Commissions), who are only too glad to see him go. He has his answer for everything - and a solution for nothing. His support for this web project is entirely consistent with his other misteps and failures in leadership. His only comment was 'this puts us back on top'? On top of what? Since when was putting you on top more important than serving the citizens of this City? Bern, you are a bright guy, but you've turned into someone more concerned about justifying your actions than doing the right thing for the City. I guess that means it is time to move on.........


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Posted by Joanna
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Aug 8, 2007 at 5:07 pm

If Beecham is the top person responsible, let's pass around a petition for resignation. Seriously.

Anyone else in charge at Palo Alto?


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Posted by Emily
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 8, 2007 at 6:11 pm

The city should have paid some Stanford kid to do it. Probably would have done it for $1000 bucks and done a much better job.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Marvin
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Aug 8, 2007 at 6:14 pm

Don't expect the mayor to step in and do anything about this fiasco and/or do anything about Bern.
Fortunately Bern will be term-limited out this year. he can then retire and spend time with some of our other "sucessful" former councilmembers--they can pass around the rose-coloured glasses and tell stories of how much they accomplished for the city during their tenure


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Posted by Tom
a resident of Professorville
on Aug 8, 2007 at 6:26 pm

A citizens' petition to retire Beecham is a waste of time, even if 90% of Palo Alto signs it. Beecham regards ordinary citizens like most of us regard the dead leaves on the sidewalk. Now if you could get someone like Jim Baer to give him the word, you might get results. But Beecham has been Baer's loyal servant on the council, so forget that too. Besides, he terms out this year.

Beecham may be a lightning rod, but he's not the problem. The problem is a city government that seems to work mainly for itself. This costly clunker of a website is only the latest symptom. The seat of the problem is the real power in this town -- the city manager -- and the city council members who lurch and stumble over to the dark side after they get into office. (There are exceptions, but they have no real influence.)

This is an election year. Check the candidates out thoroughly, and get your friedns to do the same. Let's try to put some people in city hall who will work for us, and who will hire a city manager who does likewise.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by joe
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 8, 2007 at 7:36 pm

Re: And the other links are for the Don't Know Zone?


Ha, ha. ha ha ha :-) That's a good one.


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Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 8, 2007 at 11:23 pm

FRANK'S WEEKLY MEMO
August 3, 2007
City Unveils New Website
Web Link

Excerpts:
"From hardware to software to protocols to graphics to text, the web site has been built with our customers in mind."

". . . a graphic designer was selected to give a bold, high class and high touch look and feel to the site. Photography plays a large role, exemplifying a very personal, warm and helpful tone."

"Thanks to a powerful new search function and a database, less time will be spent getting to the subject of interest."

". . . it is expected that the most-requested information is easy to find and even the most obscure fact is discoverable through our search engine."

"The City of Palo Alto's new web site is an exciting accomplishment and we look forward to its natural evolution."


 +   Like this comment
Posted by User Experience Professional
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 9, 2007 at 11:15 am

Sadly, one only needs to spend a minute visiting Web Link to see that this firm was not an appropriate partner for redesigning the City of Palo Alto web site. CreativeWerks specializes in "marketing communications" and virtually all of the work samples shown on their site are for printed materials -- brochures, ads, posters, books, etc. -- not web sites. Even though the CreativeWerks site contains only eight pages, it is difficult to navigate because users need to keep returning back to the home page to access the links for the different pages. Shame on the city for spending our taxpayer dollars this way, especially when there are so many highly qualified experts and firms within our own city limits.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Who's responsible?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 9, 2007 at 11:24 am

What does it take to fire a city employee? Whoever managed this website redesign should be looking for work.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Lisa Is the One!
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 9, 2007 at 12:05 pm

Lisa Mainarick-Bolger. The Palo Alto IT Manager. Check out her LinkedIn profile, where she takes credit for this (managing a $1M budget among other things)! [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]


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Posted by Herb Borock
a resident of Professorville
on Aug 9, 2007 at 1:11 pm

I have located the city staff report and the contracts on the new web site, but I don't want to take the time to explain what I had to do to find these addresses:

The staff report, CMR:102:06 (January 23, 2006) is at:

Web Link

The contracts with the two consultants are at:

Web Link

Civica's corporate name is Pixelpushers, Inc. and its Chief Technology Officer is Mark Kelly. Their address is in Newport Beach.

Creativewerks is called a sole proprietorship in the contract, but is signed by a partner of a Partneship, Tom Joyce, who was the person assigned to the Palo Alto project. The other partner is Robert Johnson.

Look at Web Link for a portfolio of the kind of work they actually do.

Their contract says they "shall conduct two off-site focus group sessions looking at basic site usage questions for sites similar to City of Palo Alto web site." That language appears to mean that the focus groups did not look at Palo Alto's web site and were not held in Palo Alto.

Civic's contract appears to assign Palo Alto staff the responsibility for choosing the data to place on the different pages in the site.

About half the cost of the contract is for standard modules Civica has used elsewhere.

I did a Google search on the terms "Civica" and "Mark Kelly" and found the term "civic" included in URLs for a number of local governments, including the cities of Hawthorne, Mountain View, Redondo Beach, Martinez, and Visalia; the Orange County Great Park Corporation, and the California CUPA Forum, an association of Certified Unified Program Agencies, whose board includes Dan Firth of the Palo Alto Fire Department.

A discussion of Civica's product is discussed in a Visalia staff report at pages 29-32 of 73 at
Web Link.

If all this leads to the conclusion that Civica is capable of producing usable web sites for local governments, then the problem must be with either the other contractor or with the City staff.

One clue to who is the responsible party is in the Scope of Services for the Creativewerks contract, where is says the City's web site "does not posses a clearly recognizable visual identity, branding or message."

Is that concept an original idea from the contractor or did they get that idea from the City staff?

This gets back to the fundamental question of what is the purpose of a local government web site. I don't believe it is to possess a "clearly recognizable visual identity, branding or message", unless the message is the City does not want the public to use the web site.

I don't believe it is the responsibility of the public to redesign the web site for the City by our comments on this forum or our suggestions to the web master. The redesign needs to come about by first having the City Council give clear direction to the staff.

In the meantime, it is important for the Council to direct staff to presrve all of the information on the old web site and make it accessible to the public.

If you do a Google search for City information you get a lot of links that now lead to a default page with no information.



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Posted by Anonymous Coward
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Aug 9, 2007 at 1:46 pm

What does all this come from? A FUNDAMENTAL misunderstanding of - and conflation with - corporate marketing. What we have here is one more attempt to "market" Palo Alto, without any fundamental, underlying DEVELOPMENT of new local or regional(cooperative) business opportunities.

MARKETING and BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT go hand in hand. Municipalities - the oners that prosper, going forward - are going to HAVE to innovate in ways that literally begin to change the nature of municipal government operations.

What we have with this website is a repeat of the lame idea that existed during the Web 1.0 days - that branding can be accomplished through imaging, and other bells and whistles. The latter os a mistaken notion that died a horrible death a few years ago.

Rather, branding is the over and over again satisfactory fulfillment of promises that the brand has made (and will make).

Palo Alto doesn't need to brand itself with its own citizens; that's already been accomplished. Most of our citizens are happy with the way our city is managed.

What needs to happen is DEVELOPMENT, with the latter FAR exceeding the typical kind of development maintenance efforts that muncipalities engage in. We're talking "go out and get some business" kinds of development that involve high level talks with powerful commercial interests, as well as leveragingn what assets we have in innovative ways (by thinkinf "inside" AND "outside" the box.





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Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 9, 2007 at 8:28 pm

Herb,
Focus groups were held in Palo Alto. I participated in one and many good ideas were generated by the invited residents – including, "Use Google for searching." We talked about problems with the old website and what we'd like to see in the new one. I don't think any of our suggestions were used.

I disagree with you about having the city council give direction to the staff. I doubt that any of the council members have any real knowledge of how to create a great website. In fact, John Barton and Jack Morton are defending the site and Bern Beecham is still telling us we can enlarge the font size. Web Link

From their comments, it's clear that these three council members have no idea about what makes a good website nor about the depth of the problems with the new city site.

The website should serve residents, so it makes sense to have us provide input. Also, we are a highly knowledgeable community, given that so many of us have years of experience in high tech companies.

Chief Information Officer Glenn Loo is naturally defensive, and "suggested that visitors use the on-site search engine, rather than external ones, and he urged visitors to send in comments." The onsite search engine is a dog – and a very slow one. If he's looking for comments, I hope he's reading this blog and Diana Diamond's at Web Link

City council and staff always say they want to hear our comments. But does anyone listen? Seems like it's a closed system mutual admiration society – just look at the embarrassing hype on the home page of the website. Anyone who criticizes is perceived as disgruntled, frustrated, a naysayer or all of the above.


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Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 9, 2007 at 8:43 pm

Cant believe it: You're absolutely right about the whole design being wrong. But Bern Beecham continues to tell us we can increase the font size. Web Link

I agree that the IT manager, Lisa Mainarick-Bolger, is in a tough situation. From her resume, she sounds too junior to have been responsible for the site and managing the agencies. Perhaps she was only brought in to do the demo. But because she talked to the press, her name is known and she's taking the flak. We need to know who hired the agencies, what direction the agencies were given, who approved work at each checkpoint, what testing was done, and who signed off on everything. There's got to be some accountability on this.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 9, 2007 at 9:26 pm

Everyone can make a mistake, but where maturity comes in is having the courage to admit it, and to listen to your customers and fix it!

I think what is discouraging and what gets everyone more angry is the denial and the defensiveness from the city council members and the city management.

Listen to your users - that is business 101, and if the city council likes to compare the city manager to a "CEO" of a large company, then he ought to get on the ball and start listening.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Leo
a resident of University South
on Aug 10, 2007 at 2:29 am

As a web developer myself, here are just a few of the glaring mistakes that I noticed (some have already been mentioned):

Coding Problems:
-Inline styles instead of external stylesheets (which your browser caches for faster page loading)
-Inline javascript instead of external scripts (gets cached, speed, etc.)
-ASP server code is likely not optimized or cached

UI Problems:
-Gray background with white lettering makes for terrible readability
-Confusing navigation involving multiple-level menus (and too many sub categories)
-Navigation is in multiple places
-Page content (what you actually came to the site to read) is pushed down and to the side by large graphics
-Many text areas (menus mostly) dont survive a single font-size increase without breaking the layout
-logo is too big and takes away space from real content or better navigation
-search results are hard to decipher
-links are not distinct from regular text.
-usability for older folks (who comprise a non-trivial part of palo alto's residents) seems to have been ignored outright


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Joanna
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Aug 10, 2007 at 8:36 am

Most users that I have polled also think that the site is terrible.

The $220k+ price is insulting.

The thing we all have to remember is that the website is done. It has been completed. They can't and won't do anything to change it without spending even more money.

Before any changes to the website, we need to do something about the accountability of those government officials who made this terrible mistake.

Can someone here with observations like Leo's write some sort of article? Can someone find out who should be held accountable? I can't seem to get a clear answer. I want to call them out on this. I don't want them to hide. This is a SERIOUS misuse of funds!


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Posted by spin machine
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 10, 2007 at 10:11 am

Frank's Weekly memo

'New City Website Generates Public Interest and Feedback
Over the last week, many members of the public have explored our new
website and weighed in with their impressions. Some like the sleek new look
while others like the move towards classifying information into "themepods"
such as Living, Visiting and the Environment. Many are pleased that we
retained the department listing for those familiar with locating information
that way. Others find the phone directory to be helpful. As with any change,
whether to a new website or way of doing things, we also have received
some constructive feedback. As a result, we are reviewing our search
application's methodology and functionality to help ensure that users obtain
the results they expect when searching for common terms. From the staff
side, we are still working on indexing all of the many documents, pages,
news features, etc., that were a part of sifting through outdated webpages
and converting relevant information into the new content management
database system to enhance search results. We are continuing to make
updates to the site on a daily basis as City departments provide their
feedback and alert us to missing content. In the near term, we are focusing
on the following enhancements:

• Refining search capability
• Increasing interactive functions, including more online forms
• Continuing to update the site to fix incorrect or missing content
• System tuning

Our new City website is a "living" site that will evolve over time as we better
leverage its capabilities, enhance its existing features, add new content, and
refine our information categorization. This is an exciting change for the City
and we look forward to continuing to "grow" our new site.


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Posted by Marvin
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Aug 10, 2007 at 10:20 am

Clearly Frank is living in another universe or else he needs to take off his rose-colored glasses
PA Weekly reported today on feedback regarding the new ebsite:

Web Link

The opening sentence of the article states:

"Aiming for elegance, the city of Palo Alto's new Web site has been nearly universally decried."

I guess Frank considers the self-congratulatory feedback from our esteemed concilmembers Beecham, barton and morton as positive feedback.

Let's give Frank another big, fat raise and also give him the deed to the home he lives in as a reward for another job well done.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Tom
a resident of Professorville
on Aug 10, 2007 at 3:41 pm

The new website does not represent Palo Alto; it represents Palo Alto city hall. Sadly, its visitors won't know that.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Herb Borock
a resident of Professorville
on Aug 10, 2007 at 4:03 pm

The City of Palo Alto web site contractor Pixelpushers, Inc., doing business as Civica, has been the contractor for many government web sites.

Click on Web Link to find the links to 36 other government web sites and compare them to the new Palo Alto web site.

For some reason, Pixelpushers, Inc. (Civica) has not included Palo Alto in the links to web sites it has helped build.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 11, 2007 at 5:47 pm

Believe me, City Staff are NOT happy with the web site.
Meeting a pre-defined schedule came before content and function.


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Posted by common sense
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 12, 2007 at 9:19 am

What strikes me is the of the city staff, management & city council is their defensiveness and inability to at least address some of the more quantitative issues with the web site. For example, it should be a relatively small effort to address the color scheme, font color, etc.

I think that this article in the other Palo Alto newspaper is also instructive on how the city should have investigated their change. The author points out that some very low cost alternatives:

Web Link

I find his article full of data, and is very constructive in its feedback.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Garbage In, Garbage out
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 12, 2007 at 9:50 am

We Palo Altan's are loud mouth IDIOTS.

:-) :-) :-)

Our City staff has given us such a gem of a website ... beauty is in the eyes of the beholder (read .. Beacham) How can anyone justify it without losing credibilty themselves.

The entire city is in a mess.






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Posted by Resident who should know
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 12, 2007 at 10:00 am

Quick! Is the dump open early Sunday morning??? It was tough to find out on the city's new website. Lazily, I first Googled "Palo Alto landfill" and got, in addition to some Goodwill and hauling ads, random links concerning recycling and composting but nothing about dump hours. I then clicked into the city's website and on "departments." So where is the dump? Community Services? Public Works? Utilities? Maybe I missed something, but I did not easily find it there either. Luckily I keep a copy of the Palo Alto Weekly's annual "Info Palo Alto" at my kitchen desk. And once I consulted that I had the answer within seconds, right there on page 91. The dump is open 7 days a week, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.


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Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 12, 2007 at 9:55 pm

Check out the two articles in Sunday's Daily:

Too much cash for too much flash
Web Link

New Web site flamed
Web Link

Mainarick-Bolger said residents may come to like the new site once they adjust to its format.

"There is a learning curve and the new design is very different from the old," she said.

But last year in Mountain View, the launch of that city's new Web site won wide acclaim from the beginning.

"Almost initially we were hearing that people liked it," Assistant City Manager Nadine Levin said. She noted that the former site, however, was not user-friendly.

In fact, Mountain View used the same vendor, Civica Software, that Palo Alto hired. But Mountain View spent only $35,000 because it used its own employees to implement the software, Levin said.

Web Link


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Publicus
a resident of another community
on Aug 12, 2007 at 10:25 pm

Palo Altans complaining: what a surprise.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by 14k/yr
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Aug 12, 2007 at 10:48 pm

Major infrastructure problems, excessive city staffing, unaddressed long term financial problems, housing prices dependent on a school system that is under significant risk, and the issue that gets the population the most agitated is the aesthetics of a new web site?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Tom
a resident of Professorville
on Aug 13, 2007 at 12:07 pm

14k/yr put the spotlight right on the problem. Palo Alto has a long and growing list of shortfalls. But there has to be a last straw. Maybe this silly expensive website is it.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 13, 2007 at 2:27 pm

The point is that the website is a VERY public function, and one that - unlike streets, housing, etc. etc. - obtains "ownership" and "management".

For those who are wont to complain, it's a good target. It IS pretty sad, though.

As far as anything else goes, sure we have problems, but they're not insurmountable if we figure out ways to work faster, and more efficiently.

I like Sid Espinoza's suggestion about shrinking our policy-making body (city Council) as a start in the right direction. It will be fun to see how the other candidates respond to that.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Voter
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 13, 2007 at 5:52 pm

What did he promise aside from shrinking the council?
Would it require a Hewlett Packard seat? Seriously, is there anything else he favors?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by ADAPTUS
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 13, 2007 at 6:58 pm

Shrinking Council to seven would be a far more significant feat than anything else I have heard proposed, to date. Let's 'let the campaign unfold; [erhaps others will come along with good ieas.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Jon
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Aug 13, 2007 at 8:45 pm

$240,000?
Owch

Sarcasm from users is ANNOYING
Positive but cynical feedback: Helpful, attitude check?
Ranting about firing people: Annoying and immature.

HTML wise, ok 5 errors, just give them some time to fix it. My webpage is violating about 60 times as many as theirs is (xhtml) but its all minor things like spacing in a few lines of the code, and ultimately I have run my site on various browsers and it has worked fine. And yes, when I find the time i won't let such a crime on my part be kept unpunished. So about their site:


Organization: it looks great.
Color scheme: Why grey for palo alto?
For all those crying about it being bad on their eyes, go up to your toolbar, click "View" and choose "Text size" then choose "Increase" or "Largest" Grey = easier on the eyes. Black on white gives great contrast, but it is an eyestrain for those who don't turn their monitor brightness down...still an interesting choice.

Instead of shelling out $240,000 worth of taxpayer dollars, next time, the city should host a webpage design contest, and the winner should receive a massive shopping spree in stanford shopping mall/free meals downtown for a month...whatever! but still, why not make it a friendly competition, and let the city citizens vote on one?

Also, anyone who thought the old site should be kept needs a lesson on content design. It was cluttered and completely Web 1.0
Change is good, accept it.

Hint to commenters: this submission process is dumb, and the admins are not here/lazy, so don't click "submit" more than once or you get repeat messages, which are supremely annoying.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Karen White
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 13, 2007 at 9:04 pm

The thought to shrink Council is nothing new, but merely an idea that resurfaces publicly every few years along with other possible Charter amendments, such as having a directly elected Mayor.

There would seem to be some benefit from a smaller Council. On the other hand, with so many of our Councilmembers having conflicts of interest on Stanford and other key issues, we may seriously compromise the decision-making ability of the Council to shrink its size to seven. It may take nine to yield five eligible to vote.

Please take the time to elicit and weigh all the pros and cons before concluding that such-and-such problem would be handled more expeditiously or decisively "if only" we had a smaller Council.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by South of Palo Alto
a resident of another community
on Aug 13, 2007 at 9:15 pm

Does the new site have a webcasting feature (streaming internet video)? If so, could someone please provide the link? If not, you folks need to ask Frank why your money was spent on a "look and feel" upgrade with 1990's functionality. Where is the added value to the community?

A few years ago, the City of Cupertino revamped their Web site to include live webcasts and webcast archives of all City Council, Planning and Parks and Rec. Commission meetings (that can be accessed 24/7. keyword for the citizenry: flexibility). I do not know what the upgrade cost the taxpayers, but having slept through my share of meetings that ran into the wee hours of the morning -- it was money well spent.

Example: Web Link


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Posted by joe
a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 14, 2007 at 6:18 am

Jon,

Repeated postings have already pointed out that the larger font size does NOT fix things,due to the web site not being robust for that, the problem of some text being images, which will, of course, not be changed by the font size, and grey is not easier on the eyes.

Why repeated postings - Becaue folks like yourself come in and post without reading the discussions that have already taken place.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Joanna
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Aug 14, 2007 at 8:18 am

Jon: Who do you work for?

Anyway...

1) Someone should get fired over this. He/She/They spent public money recklessly.

2) This website fiasco was featured on valleywag today! Hopefully this widely-read website will bring some much needed heat.

3) Fixing the issue, highly unlikely now that the damage has been done, will not fix the problem. $240k people!! Gone! Just like that!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 14, 2007 at 9:54 am

Karen,

Perhaps Council candidates should be fully vetted realative to major issues that they may have to recuse themselves on. Although LaDoris Cordell is a competent person, how on earth did our voting populace let the fact that she couldn't vote on Stanford matters slide?

In fact, relative to Stanford issues, our citizenry *wasted* a vote when electing Cordell. She has been fine on most other issues (agree or disagree), but how did this happen? How did we elect someone who can't vote on one of the MAIN issues that faces our city (Stanford development, etc.)

Any Council member with a relative at Stanford should be considered as somewhat limited in his/her ability to legislate in our city. Power has its privileges, but also obligations. If a variable in a Council candidate's background prevents the full completion of responsibility, that should be considered by the voting public (and the newspapers) as a limitation.

There's something wrong when a city can't find a way to work policy with seven elected representatives (or five), instead of nine.

In fact, taking your argument to its extreme, why not have 15 Council members? That way we would be (according to your argument) even less possibility for having nfull blown participation on issue discussions that are otherwise limited by recusal.

The larger number (nine) mitigates against speed in decision-making, as it takes time, work, and far more tamping-down compromise to reach a majority of five than it would take to reach a majority of 4 (in a seven person Council).

Some will say that there'sno magic in any one specific number of Council persons, and that it's the quality of the Council as a whole that counts. There is actually some truth to that. But how does one guarantee quality? It's a red-herring argument.

That said, it's also true that individual initiatives and campaign promises that made by potential electees have to pass a higher (and longer, in terms of time) bar to move on.

Larger groups are also at higher risk for the introduction of maverick initiatives that gum up process. There are reams written in org theory and game theory about this.

The fact is that Palo Alto has a process that more than significantly emanates from too many people being involved in decision-making. Decisions take TOO LONG in Palo Alto.

As stated prior, the freedom to dally over decisions in Palo Alto was a *luxury* afforded us during a time when we enjoyed regional hegemony. The latter is no longer the case.

Morte than ever, we need a Council that is able to move fast, decide quicker, and spend less time endlessly deliberating.

We also need an elected mayor. We do ourselves no favors by peer-appointing our mayor. All that does is make a mayorial decision a popularity contest among Council members. It mitigates against bold decision-making, and handcuffs the Council in the face of the "strong city-manager model of government".

Consensus building takes time. Our current system requires the consensus participation of two more individuals than a severn person Council. That's too many, in this time of oneeded decision-making, monitoring of operations, and badly-needed inter-municipal policy cooperation.






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Posted by South of Palo Alto
a resident of another community
on Aug 14, 2007 at 5:02 pm

Mike,
This may be the wrong thread for this discussion, but I will agree with you that Palo Alto would be better off with 5 council members. I've been to your chambers on occasion and found it tiresome to sit through 9 CC comments. I won't name names, but it does seem as though some CC members do like to hear themselves talk without adding any substance to the discussion. However, I do not understand your motivation in singling out Judge Cordell when at least two other CC members are required to recuse themselves from Stanford issues. What's up with that? The Judge at least keeps her comments clear and brief; take note.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Mike
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 14, 2007 at 6:27 pm

South of Palo Alto,

I agree with you, re: the fact that two other members are required to recuse themselves form Stanford issues is unfortunate. I think those persons are Klein, and ???. (Barton occasionally teaches at Stanford, but I'm not sure he's the other who excuses himself from Stanford discussion).

I brough Cordell's name into the discussion because sh'e the most glaring example of "recusal due to connections with Stanford".

We need to pre-qualify individuals who have Stanford connections BEFORE the next election. Anyone having to recuse from Stanford issues should be out of the race, as we have some serious business coming up with Stanford in the next four years.

Otherwise, Council member Cordell, although I have disagreed with her from time-to-time (this is true of all Councilmembers), is a thoroughly competent and praiseworthy individual; she deserves kudos for her public service.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by disappointed
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 14, 2007 at 8:10 pm

Why did they have to change the Palo Alto Enjoy online site? It used to be great, now it's a mess.

I hate this grey background, so depressing to look at (and not very readable). It's not that hard to change -- please change it! (You paid WHAT for this?!!)

I'm actually happy for the little icons with different city departments. The old site was impossible for finding anything. However, that's the only good thing I can say about this new site. Hate it! And I'm usually trying to look on the bright side.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by pat
a resident of Midtown
on Aug 14, 2007 at 8:59 pm

There's a blog on downsizing the city council at:
Web Link


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Camelopardalis Jones
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 14, 2007 at 10:55 pm

Can somebody briefly explain how having fewer council members, or more council members voting on Stanford matters, is going to fix the Palo Alto website?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Hmmm
a resident of another community
on Aug 16, 2007 at 3:54 am

Wow. Best designed site ever!

It's still 1997, right? Oh, 2007? Why does your city website look like someone designed it in 1997?

Maybe the vendor can finally afford to send its employees to school. This has to be a joke. Tell me it's the Police Chief's kid who did this for a school project. Come on, fess up!

Too bad this isn't the Onion. If I get pulled over in Palo Alto, should I just tip the cop a little extra to help you guys fix this site?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Roger
a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 17, 2007 at 11:48 am

Accountability.

Please pool info -- about how our new City of Palo Alto site happened, who is responsible for it and what we can do to fix it -- on this Wikiversity page Web Link -- transparency is needed for effective civic action. Please help. Thank you.


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Posted by Roger
a resident of Green Acres
on Aug 17, 2007 at 12:08 pm

Wikiversity Web Link , it is like Wikipedia but for stuff like this. Add info please.


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Posted by Another Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 17, 2007 at 12:46 pm

Tried to use it for the first time today. Found it hard to read - had to take my glasses off and peer very closely. I have no idea how to change font size and don't think that I should mess around on my computer for one web page when everything else I use is fine.

Took me ages to find out what I wanted (details of a permit) and it didn't even show one for an address I knew had one (my own) let alone the one I wanted.

If the information I want is not in the phone book, then I will probably use the web site, but I don't relish using it.


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Posted by Alice
a resident of Community Center
on Aug 17, 2007 at 1:27 pm

Tried to renew a Palo Alto Library book online today. Old way: Google and right to the homepage with a super-easy button to renew. Now? Ohmigod. Shunted to the how-many-consultants-got-paid-for-this-monstronsity-City-search-engine, at least three more clicks to get to the library homepage - which opens in a new page cluttering my computer - then read the fine print to see where to log in for renewals.... and voila!!! back to the orginal renewal page. Time taken? Not soon enough for the "Capitol of Silicon Valley". But, certainly long enough for the "Capitol of Silly Valley."

I am so proud sometimes to live in the Republic of Shallow Alto. But, not now.

Looking forward to voting in the upcoming City Council election and reading in the local newspapers what the candidates would do for this latest example of efficient use of City money and time.


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Posted by aboyd
a resident of another community
on Sep 10, 2007 at 4:26 am

As a bookend to this discussion, I thought I'd mention that I've fixed a handful of the readability & usability problems with the city's site. If you'd like to see a list of the fixes and how you can enable them, you should check out the blog entry I wrote about it:

Web Link

Thanks.

-Tony


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Posted by resident
a resident of Downtown North
on Dec 24, 2007 at 9:21 am

sorry, looks like I might be unfashionable saying this, but I think that the new site really gives the feeling of our city. It's clean and easy to use as far as I can tell so far - and, as a world leader in innovation and technology, I think this is different from anything else I've seen out there for city websites- isn't that what Palo Alto is about? Innovation? As to the "poor taste" of the running woman's tummy, get a grip.


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