Have to comment on the nice new websites created for the municipalities of Berwick and Argyle as was reported in yesterday’s Register [Too bad the photo in the online article is turned 90 degrees! Two days later and it is STILL topsy turvey ! Quality control anyone?]
A website isn’t anything new – well, not for most of the members of a co-op ready to launch the first in a series of revamped municipal sites this week.
“Some didn’t have them,” admits Bob Ashley, Berwick chief administrative officer and the chairman of a provincial co-op of municipal units working on a common website design.
“A lot of us – especially the smaller ones, with no IT department – shipped them out originally and the sites were one-offs, quickly out-of-date with nobody to maintain them.
“This is just way better.”
The municipalities – 14 in all – teamed up almost five years ago and came up with an early template for municipal information, contacts and calendars, but Ashley says there was a recognized need “to try and increase public engagement” – and bring municipal websites “into the 21st Century.”
In the last year or so, the co-op searched out web designers as far as British Columbia and then hired a project staffer and combined resources with Service Nova Scotia and the Association of Municipal Administrators.
Have to say they have done a very nice job. And we applaud their mission to have interactive sites so that residents can not only be served with information, but have input.
“I want people calling me, I’m inviting suggestions for content – and criticism,” he [Ashley] says, but he’s looking to the future potential for town videos, polls local advertising and a discussion site on local issues he can monitor for feedback to council itself.
The site will also allow visitors to submit their own community information and events, and it will be “simple enough municipal staff will be able” to add new information on their own, in-house. It will also track visitors – like where they’re from and what they’re looking at.
Wonderful. Just what we would like to see. But sometimes the reality doesn’t live up to the hype, so we were anxious to take a look at the sites and see if they lived up to their description. We weren’t disappointed.
We expected them to have a very similar feel but no, they each have their own character, as they should, have with some great photos. No clunky frames, jazzy joomla-based platforms, with great design. Search boxes on both sites make it ultra easy to find information, although the Argyle box is a little less obvious. But they both have nice, well organised, and logical drop down menus as well, especially on the Argyle site. All the Berwick municipal documents are accessed through one link on the main page, for example. Both have a place for a poll [Imagine!] and Berwick has one up asking “How important is it to pursue “Green” energy initiatives?” Both municipalities’ tax rates are easy to find. Nice readable print, lots of links and some interesting information and photos are enough to keep one browsing for a half hour or more.
Both make the Wolfville website look as dull as ditchwater in comparison, especially when we know how much we taxpayers pay for the Town’s IT and the all hype we have heard about e-government. Mostly talk it appears, as the Wolfville website leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to timely information, resident input and modern design.
Note the favicon on the Berwick and Argyle url line – that’s the little icon (picture of the Town crest) next to the addresses. Wolfville doesn’t have one although it is the simplest thing to do (Heck, even we know how to do that!)
We have been saying for some time that the Town website is outdated, not-user friendly or searchable, and offers little to residents or visitors. Someone in the Town Office here should do a little investigating and compare costs. Perhaps Wolfville should add themselves to the list of municipalities in this co-op to avail themselves of this expertise via Service Nova Scotia and Assoc. of Municipal Administrators.
Wouldn’t it be great to have an online forum to discuss issues like policing, student behavior, speeding, vandalism, tax increases, rezoning, etc, etc, etc. Ah, we can dream can’t we. Or maybe just move to Berwick!