Comments on the F&F Website
Comments Submitted to the Village Clerk
About the Farlow & Farenthold "Official" Aurora Website
FROM KARIN W., 5/24/06: Wish I had had time to look up this kind of stuff sooner -- this would be very useful for tonight's special VB meeting:
"Untangle the Web: Delivering Municipal Services Through the
http://www.ctg.albany.edu/publications/guides/untangle_the_web?chapter=6§ion=2 from the Center for Technology in Government
"Designing the Site -
Take the high road
Citizens want solid, factual information presented in an unbiased
manner. Give people the information and services they need to live, work,
and do business in your community.
Communities can become emotionally divided over contentious hot-button
issues. For example, communities along the Hudson River have debated
heatedly over whether or not to dredge for PCBs. Other communities face
similar contention over the environmentally sensitive land use and site
development issues. Your municipal Web site is not the place to take
sides, but can be a helpful source of factual information such as
hearing dates and legal references."
ALSO: Ideas for the kind of info appropriate to have on a Cayuga County village or town website: http://www.co.cayuga.ny.us/sara/pegi/deliverables.htm#websites
Note 5/15 on revised site from Karin Wykoff: "Quick peek @ revised Aurora site; photos edited in iWeb; wont work, must edit in some other program. No way to reduce load times enough; too many photos. Should be separate gallery."
The site was revised around 5/12, but problems remain:
- Although reduced in size, the home page still takes over 10 minutes to access on a dial-up connection; other pages take even longer.
- Misrepresntations on the home page include: conventional visitor access to the lake (for swimming or boating) is not available via public parks or docks; MacKenzie-Childs is not located in the village, so it does not "bookend" the village.
- In a blatant example of inapproprate use of tax money for promotion of a privately owned and operated commercial enterprise, an entire photo page is devoted to MacKenzie-Childs, the "north-end" of the village.
- While some --not all-- of the inapproprate "Chamber of Commerce" promo material has been removed from the home page, it re-appears if you click the "learn more" link.
- The government page, the only page of any real use to residents, takes several minutes to load even on a high-speed connection. It is poorly designed, and lacks much important information.
- The links list for visitors also takes a long-time, even on high-speed.
- Suggestion: build an archive of Shelia's bits as they change and link to it off the history page.
The name of our village is NOT "Aurora-on-Cayuga." ESPECIALLY on an
official, municipal website, such pretentious putting-on-of-airs is
unacceptable, and frankly makes the village look laughable. People I
know -- from outside of Aurora -- who've seen that have burst out into laughter.
If we want the village to be taken seriously, then let's not have such
mickey mouse nonsense on the official website. It's pathetic.
Nancy, here are some additional comments on the new village web-site.
MINUTES should be on the site as down-loadable .pdf files, as is standard practice on good government web sites. That way, minutes can be obtained online appearing exactly like a copy from the clerk’s office, with no possible omissions or alterations. These are legal documents, and must be treated with care.
CONTACT link at the bottom of all the pages to “Email Me” should be eliminated. The unidentified “me” is inappropriate. The only email link to Jacci Farlow should be a link for questions to the web-master. Contact links for all other information should directed to the clerk, mayor, treasurer, or other village officials.
ERRORS should be eliminated immediately. (Has anyone else noted that the College Boat House is not on the East side of Route 90? That’s where Jacci has placed it.)
MISREPRESENTATIONS, gross exaggerations, and private commercial promotion are really out of line on a government site. I could make a list....
AURORA is a place to live, not just a place to visit. Its municipal site should serve its residents, not its tourists. That, too, is a standard good government practice.
Below please find my comments about the village's new web site, which I think is a horrendous mistake.
1. The site as created is extremely difficult to use.
2. It is very poorly written. The ungrammatical, awkward, and flat out inaccurate statements, coupled with the navigation problems creates an overall impression of extreme unprofessionalism. Its an embarrassment.
3. The site does not offer a straightforward presentation of necessary public information which should be the sole purpose of a municipal site. Any other material -- entertainment opportunities, dining experiences, etc., -- should be restricted to a single list of links to other sites.
4. The set-up probably could have been done better by Wells students as a lesson in both civics and web design, and it certainly could have been done better by Wells faculty or other local internet technology professionals.
5. Operation should be in the hands of Village Staff with oversight exercised by the Village Board. Control should not be turned over to a private, unqualified individual with a publicly pronounced personal agenda which she doggedly pursues in all village matters.
6. The Incorporated Village of Aurora is not synonymous with the Aurora Foundation, LLC. These two entities are not one and the same thing. In this new web site, it appears as though they are.
7. I cannot believe that Village taxpayers are expected to foot the bill for this site, which clearly exists not to inform village residents but to promote private commercial enterprises. Why should tax money be used to pay for publicity for the Merchants Association and the LLC?
8. Is it true that this project was not put out to competitive bid? Is it true that it was launched without approval by the full Village Board? Is it true that costs of nearly $2,000 were incurred without Board authorization? If the answer is yes to any of these questions, the Village Board should act to remedy this fiscal fiasco immediately.
Thank you for your attention to my concerns.
The new Village of Aurora website (http://www.auroranewyork.us/AuroraHome.html) is a terribly designed, cluttered mess. It took 5 minutes and 37 seconds to load over dial-up from my home on Sherwood Rd. The message sent is clear if you arent wealthy enough to afford fast Internet from home (and DSL isnt even available in Aurora), the Village has no interest in giving you convenient access to information about your own home town.
A quick environmental scan of neighboring towns websites reveals a focus on useful government information and services for residents. But the focus of the new Village of Aurora website is all on promoting upscale businesses. Again, this is a clear indication that wealthy tourists are more important than local residents, particularly those residents who dont have lots of disposable cash to spend in those fancy, expensive Aurora Foundation / Wells College businesses.
As an information professional with graduate level training in web design evaluation and both personal and professional experience in the same field, I can tell you this site was designed using iWeb software, a templated drag-n-drop Macintosh Web Design for Dummies software and the code has not been cleaned up in any way. The website is not ADA-friendly nor is it friendly for users with older machines, slower connections and less-than-the-latest software, such as those available for Aurora residents who cant afford their own Internet from the Aurora Free Library. I could bore you with a whole list of technical and design flaws, but the bottom line is that the designer clearly has no understanding of HTML coding or good website design -- and it shows.
But worst is what I have heard about how the website came into being. I have heard from a number or Aurora area residents that Village Board member, George Farenthold, took it upon himself to use public money to create a homepage for the village without input or approval from the rest of the Village Board.
This website does not meet the information needs of the residents of Aurora. It is not representative of the views of a large segment of the community, many of whom are uncomfortable with the influence of Pleasant Rowland on Aurora. It is the latest example of questionable backdoor deals associated with the Aurora Foundation LLC. This website is an embarrassment as well as an insult to the community, and the manner in which the deal to create it was carried out is near-criminal. No fees should be paid and the site should be removed from the Internet immediately.
Here are a few thoughts about our villages new official website.
1. Its outrageous that the link from our municipal site directs email not to the Clerk's Office, but to Farlow.. of all people! (Government sites always link to official civic email addresses: always!) Really, when I tell people about this they are astonished and say things like, Has the Village Board has lost its mind?, or worse.
3. Its unjust to force the "digital divide" upon Aurora by creating a Village site that can be viewed only with expensive high-speed internet access.
2. Its highly inappropriate to have a municipal site which does not exist primarily to serve residents, but clearly intends to promote the Foundation & Friends to the wider public in an attempt to lure wealthy tourists into area commercial establishments.
4. Its an abuse of public trust to spend our limited tax dollars in this way. Our village property taxes should pay for public services, not private advertisements.
5. Its unwise and unethical to contract for such expensive, on-going services without putting the job out to bid.
6. Its irresponsible not to pattern our site on other established, well-run NYS village and town sites which primarily provide necessary civic information, such as: water rates, billing dates, tax rates, payment info, dump site hours, transfer sticker fees, yard waste collection schedules, parking regulations, public meetings calendar, board minutes, zoning information, municipal code references, etc.
7. Its foolish to employ an amateur (especially ones with an ax to grind) to create and maintain this site. A simple set-up could have been created using the existing county template with routine maintenance done by the Village Office. Everything that goes up on this site will have to be filtered through Farlow. That is a huge mistake. (Didnt the Board learn anything from the mess with Dave Wharton and his Aurora site?)
Thanks for your willingness to compile a list of our concerns for the board.
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Page last August 19, 2006