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Council Discusses Redesigning of City’s Website

CollegeParkMD.gov

For the past year or so, the City has been starting up a project to redesign its website. The website has been criticized in the past for being difficult to use and navigate. It also lacks some important functionality, such as social media integration and ADA compliance.

The City Council put money in the budget this year to hire a web design consultant to improve the appearance and design of the website and make it fully accessible for people with disabilities.

The City issued a Request for Proposals in December 2011, and received 17 proposals, 14 of which met the price limits for the project. Staff narrowed the applicants to six based on their applications, and of those, is now considering Revize Software Systems of Troy, Michigan as a possible candidate to award the contract. The company offered to redesign the website for $10,450 in the first year and update and maintain the site for $1,800 per year after that. The City has budgeted $15,000 for the website redesign this year.

In last Tuesday’s worksession, the council discussed the proposed arrangement with the staff in more details.

In the meeting, I raised a few issues with the proposed website development arrangement.

First , the CMS framework used by the proposed company is a proprietary one and is not a popular one per this list that ranks the frameworks by the number of users. I’m not sure if it is a good idea to have our website built on a proprietary framework as our decision now may pose risky and costly in the long run. Not only we’ll have to keep paying them year after year to troubleshoot a platform that only they understand and have complete control of, but more importantly, say, due to rapid change in dynamics in the CMS market, if they go out of business in future, we will have no other choice but to make an extensive effort to migrate the potentially large amount of our website data to another system.

As a software professional in the field, I find the number of themes, plug-ins and extensibility features Revize offers seem quite limited. The language that the developers of the framework will have to use is also not a standard one.

I also think that we can find other free help (including mine) in the city with a more open, popular yet powerful CMS system and thus at the end we can save a big portion of our initial $10K + $2K/yr. I know this is not a big amount, but after all this is our tax payers’ money and if we can all save this, I ask – why not?

Regardless of the framework we’ll choose at the end, the staff is now looking for: 1) Ideas for other websites that are user-friendly, and what people like about them, and 2) Residents who might be interested in serving on a committee to help review and provide guidance on the website.

If you have ideas of other website you like or are interested in serving on the resident committee, please let us know! Also, the staff is looking for photographs taken by residents to post on the website. If you would like to submit photographs, please go to www.collegeparkmd.gov/photo.htm to do so.

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