Almanac

News - May 11, 2011

Design upgrade coming to Woodside's website

by Dave Boyce

A makeover is coming to improve information access on the town of Woodside's website. At a cost not to exceed $32,500, a contractor will upgrade the appearances and usability of the web pages, town staff told the Town Council recently.

The design of the current website is, at the very least, old, and can be hard to use, particularly for first-time visitors. Within background shades of dark green, for example, are links of deep blue that turn deep purple and all but disappear when they're clicked on.

Such awkwardness will be gone, Assistant Town Manager Kevin Bryant assured Mayor Ron Romines.

Heading up the redesign will be aHa! Consulting Inc. of Lake Oswego, Oregon, the vendor recommended by an ad hoc subcommittee and approved by the council in 5-0 vote April 27. Councilwomen Anne Kasten and Deborah Gordon were absent.

The redesign and launch are expected to take three to four months. The project will include a four-hour design workshop for a volunteer advisory team from the community to "ensure that users of the website are represented," Mr. Bryant said.

There will be limits. While changes may be extensive, they will be cosmetic. The depth and breath of the website's information is and will remain a responsibility of Town Hall staff, but without the now-needed assistance of an Internet technology consultant, Mr. Bryant said.

But the changes should be empowering. The new design should make finding information easier for visitors and updating the information easier for town staff, he said.

Twenty-one design firms with estimates ranging from $6,000 to $88,000 responded to the town's request for proposals, Mr. Bryant said in a staff report. The winner was chosen in part because the website will be rebuilt using a foundation of open-source software.

This is advantageous because an open-source foundation tends to be more stable and have fewer bugs than what brand-name corporations sell. Why? Because it's supported on a master website by what is usually a wide base of programmers who tend to a) be enthusiastic and talented, b) work well in groups, c) give willingly of their time, and d) work for free.

If a subsequent maintenance contract with aha! or some other vendor were to go south, it should be no problem finding another contractor familiar with the foundation software. "Within 50 miles, there (will be) probably 100,000 people" who know the software, said Councilman Dave Burow, an entrepreneur and member of the ad hoc subcommittee.

The clients of and references for aHa! were uniformly positive in complimenting the company on its performance both before and after the launch of the clients' websites, Mr. Bryant said in the report.

Links

• Go to woodsidetown.org to see the website as it is now.

• Go to tinyurl.com/WS-website and turn to Page 73 to view the staff report and the winning proposal.

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