Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Mayor Unveils New Format For City Web Site

The City's internet presence underwent a significant transition yesterday. In a press conference at City Hall, Mayor Giuliano said that the new site is a platform which will allow the city to deliver more services to residents through the web. The website address remains the same.

Bill Oliver, the Director of Information Technology for the City, said that the new site currently has the same information as the old site, but he said that everything should now be easier to find. He also said that departments would individually be responsible for updating their relevant information. According to Giuliano, this would "more seamlessly integrate IT into everything we do", everybody in City Hall would be thinking that they are a content provider.

The transition to the new layout was done in partnership with Qscend Technologies of Waterbury, and cost the city $19,000. Oliver indicated that most of the further work on the website would be done by city staff, but that there were options for hiring Qscend for some of the work.

The new website system allows for dynamic content derived from an underlying database. According to the press release, "The new site will eventually support RSS feeds, interactive GEO content, photo galleries, and dynamic email forms." Oliver described it as a gateway which would allow such services as on-line registration for Parks and Recreation programs, and on-line payment of taxes and bills, and more. Giuliano said that extensive use of the new system would require the support and commitment of the Common Council.

The new website currently leaves three very large and active city websites out. The Planning Department has maintained its own separate domain for some time, with extensive historical and current information including maps, property records, land use applications, and the agendas and minutes of Economic Development Commission, Planning and Zoning, and Inland Wetlands, and a few other commissions and agencies the department supports. The Police Department has also maintained a separate web domain, with extensive listings of departments and policies. The new city website links to both of these two separate domains, which retain a completely different format than the main city pages.

Oliver said that he hoped to integrate these two City departments into the new system soon.

Oliver said that there had been no discussions with the School System about integrating its extensive website, which is used by teachers, students, and parents. Indeed, the city's website does not appear to have a link to the school's website.

Giuliano said that the our city was one of the earliest municipalities to create a web site, and it was designed in an era of dial-up access. I thought it might be interesting to go back in time to the early pages. Fortunately, the Internet Archive Wayback Machine makes this easy. Click on images of the early web pages to enlarge.

The first appearance of our city's official information on the web was in October of 2000, when the following appeared on the Middletown's web domain:
This will be the location of the new City of Middletown Internet site. Please check back soon to see the site when construction is finished.
In April, 2001, the city's website was more complete. The primary home page seems to have been designed as a vehicle for selling Middletown to companies looking for a place to do business, "Middletown, Where Business Comes Together." The city retained this same home page for a number of years, but the main entry page evolved over the years.

In August of 2001, the main entry page featured a smiling Mayor Domenique Thornton, with the caption, "Middletown... It's All Here!"

In June of 2003, Thornton included information on the "National Terrorism Alerting Preparedness Notification System", indicating that our Preparedness Color was yellow (which it remains today).

In December of 2005, the terror warnings had disappeared from the front page, and a smiling Giuliano had replaced Thornton. More links to city departments and city information were clustered at the top of the page.

In October of 2006, the cluster of links was grouped into a small number of categories, and the blue background changed to white, but the basic layout remained the same.

The website of earlier this year included a slide show of City scenes, with the clustered links at the top of the page.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You can put lipstick on a pig but it's still a pig