New City Website Arrives Monday

Below is a message I just posted to the Austin Neighborhoods Council mailing list:

The City of Austin website is going down for maintenance Sunday. When it returns Monday, the historic "Austin City Connection" will be replaced with the first public release of the new city website.

This will be what they call a "beta" release, made available for public shakeout and testing. The full release is scheduled for January 12.

The press release is linked here:

http://www.ci.austin.tx.us/news/cnews.cfm?nwsid=4338

(I wouldn't normally do this, but due to the impending downtime I'll include a copy below.)

As some of the most engaged users of the city website, it's very important that we all get involved during this critical time. This rollout is a massive undertaking. It's likely going to be similar to the final phases of a kitchen remodel. There will be some dust and hiccups, but as the pieces go into place for completion, it (hopefully) will be beautiful -- so long as we pay careful attention.

I attended one of the public test drive sessions earlier this month. I was very impressed with the platform design and the opportunity for new capabilities. I saw, however, several navigation glitches and needs for content ... which is not unexpected at this stage of the project. I'm anticipating some happy surprises come Monday, but I'm also anticipating that
there will be a way to go before we're all satisfied.

We've been told there will be significant feedback opportunities provided in the new site. It's very important that we use them to let staff know what works, what doesn't, what needs improvement, and what we want more of. I'm hoping that sufficient feedback will give staff the information they need to make sure the January 12 release is excellent, and provide direction for website development and improvement over the coming year.

Not speaking for any organizations here, but just so you know ...
North Shoal Creek Neighborhood Assn, President
Community Technology and Telecommunications Commission, Vice Chair

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City of Austin to launch improved website Dec. 19

For immediate release
December 16, 2011

Visitors to the City of Austin’s website will soon have an improved and more user- friendly experience. On Dec. 19, the redesigned AustinTexas.gov will be released as a “beta” test site. This will give users an opportunity to provide
feedback as the City refines content, monitors performance and identifies any “bug” fixes that may be necessary before the site officially launches Jan. 12.

The site features a new look, improved search capacity and easy navigation. Unlike the former site, AustinTexas.gov has been specifically built for easy viewing on mobile devices.

“It’s been long time in coming, but I’m glad the public will have this new resource,” Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell said. “I feel it’s the kind of site the people of Austin deserve and it reflects our community’s technology focus and savvy.”

The site is organized by user interest topics, each with its own home page. This allows more direct access for users who are looking for a specific type of content. There are specific user-centric home pages for residents, businesses, development interests, those interested in environmental or sustainability issues, and users looking for more government-specific information like meetings or Council pages.

The site utilizes an open source content management system incorporating best-practice design, services and content strategy.

During the public beta period, every page on the website will feature a feedback tab that allows users to immediately share any problems they encounter or ideas they have to improve the site. City staff will implement fixes as soon as possible and evaluate suggestions for future improvements.

After the official launch on Jan. 12, The City will continue to gather feedback and ideas for continual improvements at www.austingo.org.

Major expansions in the site’s functionality are expected throughout 2012, including new options for online payment and custom applications resulting from the City’s partnership with Code for America. (www.codeforamerica.org)

“This is more than a website,” City Manager Marc Ott said. “This is a platform that will evolve and grow to meet Austinites’ future online needs and offer a level of communications and service delivery that we’ve never had before.”

A planned outage of the current City website is scheduled to begin at 8 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 18, and last until the site launches at 9 a.m. Dec. 19. During the outage, the City’s social media resources will remain online, as will the
City of Austin’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management’s website at www.austinhsem.com.

Residents needing access to City services or with questions during the outage can contact 3-1-1.