KFnet in T-Town

Mar. 19, 2013 at 11:39am

Historic Tour: City of Tacoma Website


We all know the City of Tacoma's website generally stinks for information access and for it's general 1990s-ness. But did you know the City still hasn't delivered on a new website that was farmed out to a Canadian firm in late 2011 for a Summer 2012 launch? That's right. Here's the timeline of web failure:

It's always good to get user feedback before embarking on such an endeavor but this time around experienced, local firms* may have an edge via a new ordinance reported on Exit133 just this morning. Does this all coincide with a new bid that'll be going out for Tacoma to finally get a website and access to services it deserves? Signs are pointing to yes.

I wonder, however, how much of that $70,000 was spend with that Canadian firm for nothing to come of it?

* Full disclosure: I work for one of the firms passed up by the City of Destiny who would rock the socks off a new City of Tacoma website. In general, however, I believe in good digital access to information and services but also to going local where possible.

comments [5]  |  posted under city, government, politics, tacoma, website

Comments

by NineInchNachos on 3/19/2013 @ 11:45am
update  blog.thenewstribune.com/politics/2013/03...


by KevinFreitas on 3/19/2013 @ 11:49am
Exactly. 'Bout time. But where'd that $70K go? How much of it was spent? Why no results?

by cisserosmiley on 3/19/2013 @ 12:05pm
Oh Tacoma, what next? Maybe we can have the state patrol sequester the city council, then have a body of local legislators & reps from Ruston, Fircrest, and U.P.  make an interim council.  

by KevinFreitas on 3/21/2013 @ 6:48am
Council member Ryan Mello chimed in on Facebook after I asked about the website redesign. Here's what he said:

"...expecting an early May launch of new city website. A survey is available for input..."

When asked if the Canadian firm is still servicing the contract and why the delay Mr. Mello responded:

"Yea I don't think the contractor changed. Not sure if it's a delay. I don't remember the original timetable."

Thanks for the response and updated info council member Mello!

This launch, for clarification, is nearly a year late compared to the original website redesign timeline. Plus, a survey only two months before a scheduled website launch is far too late in any thoughtful web building process to actually take user feedback into consideration. At this late stage, in my professional, web pro opinion, this kind of survey might only be used for basic content organization but won't have any impact on actual online services and forms the City should be focused on providing.

With the project running nearly a year late I wonder how that original $70K price tag is holding up or if this Canadian firm is now working for us on charity?

by KevinFreitas on 3/25/2013 @ 7:06am
I've obtained a copy of an internal memo (PDF) from Tacoma's City Manager T.C. Broadnax to Mayor Strickland, City Council Members, and others that details the City's version of the web redesign timeline with Canadian firm Intrafinity. Here's a summary:

October 2011 -- January 2012
Canadian firm chosen, project put on hold due to overall City budget woes.

Feb 2012 -- March 2012
T.C. arrives on the scene, final contract created by Rob McNair-Huff, signed.

April 2012 -- June 2012
RFP put out for project manager but internal staff tapped for role, Rob McNair-Huff leaves, project again placed on hold.

July 2012 -- August 2012
New Community Relations Manager hired, determined "...original timeline was set without a clear definition of the scope of the project..." $22.5K of $70K budget spent.

September 2012 -- October 2012
Project manager need revisited, contract awarded.

November 2012 -- December 2012
City determined new, full-time position needed to manage web content, to be filled by mid-April 2013; site design approved.

January 2012 -- Present
Project in content migration phase; citizen content input survey launched/promoted, website redesign schedule for April/May 2012 launch.

First, Tacoma has an awesome City Manager for such a thorough and thoughtful response to what appear to be requests for info from City Council re: this web redesign project.

Second, choosing a Canadian firm aside, it seems like, the delays are pretty understandable given the budget woes and staff changes of the last couple years. The lack of preparation both on the planning and personnel side though are troubling and lend to my concern over the quality of product that will be delivered upon launch. Given a budget ceiling of $380K it seems silly to go with the cheapest option when the quality of service this website provides for its citizens is at stake. I hope I'm wrong. Tacoma deserves better.

About

Although I have another home on the web I thought it might be nice to lead by example a bit and put this blog system up to the test myself.

So far, so good... Funny how I build web tools for other people that are far better than the one's I have setup over on KFnet.

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