To NPA Coun. George Affleck the city’s new $3.2- million website is frustrating.
“It’s challenging when you’re searching for something and can’t find it,” said Affleck. “I’ll be sitting in council searching for a report and can’t find it.”
Affleck, who also builds websites, acknowledges launching a new site can be difficult and he’s optimistic the city site will get easier to navigate over time. “But I’m still concerned about the perception, because right now it looks like the city is trying to hide information by making it so difficult to find,” Affleck said.
He questions six new job postings dedicated to the website. Affleck wants to know why those jobs aren’t being outsourced. “I think that would be much more efficient than hiring six people,” said Affleck. “When you consider their wages and benefits, you’re looking at an extra half-a-million dollars.”
According to the city, its agreement with the employees union ensures jobs are posted and not outsourced. But the postings don’t mean an increase in staff. The new positions will replace the web development team, which holds temporary positions until Dec. 31. Those web developers were hired to design and build the site and will be replaced with an operations team.
The city’s media department claims the website has improved the public’s ability to access information and register for parks programs.
The Courier asked Brock Ellis, art director for Noise Digital, his thoughts on the new website. Noise is a Vancouver and Toronto-based advertising company, which includes specialization in website design. Ellis said one flaw he saw immediately was the “Google” search engine at the top of the page. He suspects viewers are reluctant to use it because they believe it will take them back to Google. “They should have a ‘can’t find what you’re looking for’ link,” said Ellis.
His other issue with the website? “The design is quite ugly,” said Ellis. “I had a hard time with the colour-schemed sections.”
Ellis was also surprised the website wasn’t designed to be more mobile friendly and less content heavy. “In my industry every single thing is designed for mobile first and desktop second,” said Ellis. “Mobile views are about 30 per cent, so I don’t know why they wouldn’t take more advantage of that.”
City manger Penny Ballem was unavailable to comment. Vision Vancouver Coun. Andrea Reimer, who’s pushed for greater online transparency from the city, did not return a phone call before the Courier’s press deadline.