The City of Madison has a brand new online face. Nearly six months after the website for the Madison Common Council was updated, the same has been done for the entire city government. This new online entry into city business was launched around 6 a.m. on Monday, September 10, replacing the antediluvian version that was anything but user-friendly.
"We've been working on it for over a year," says Dick Grasmick, director for the city's Information Services Department. "Our main goal is to organize the data better to make everything more accessible to businesses, residents, and city employees."
Generally speaking, the new site is a step up from its former self.
News -- be it a press release from a city agency, an incident report from the MPD, or a fire report from the MFD -- is front and center, something that Grasmick says befits the level of interest there is for this information. Other heavily-used features on the site, including the lookup for property assessments and the Report a Problem (non-emergency) notice are also displayed prominently, and in multiple locations. Then there's the space given to the Madison Public Library, City Channel 12, and the Streets department, useful for the heavy media-users apt to be online and the more general headache everybody faces with trash disposal.
The banner photo is even up-to-date, featuring the recent condo additions to the city's Lake Monona skyline.
"We've had quite a lot of feedback," says Grasmick. "A number of the alders have said that they really like the format, and we've had quite a few people respond saying that it's easier to find things." This looks to be the case, at least from a cursory trip through the city's tubes. One thing I've heard that's a more difficult is locating a specific item of city business in its legislation database, though.
Grasmick says they're looking for more feedback of this type. "By no means is this a finished product," he says, such as conforming the format for every entry page for city agencies. "We're also looking for recommendations on how to make it better."
It's also a first step towards more elaborate online applications that are becoming the norm for municipal websites around the country. In addition to plans for updating the online self-reporting system for victims of crime, the city and MPD hope to provide more aggregate information about life in Madison. "We do hope that we'll be able to tie on-demand maps with our website," says Grasmick, "but that's something coming in the future."