Website Redesign as a Public Service

http://www.wikinomics.com/blog/index.php/2007/01/28/
toronto-bloggers-swarm-to-redesign-ttc-website/

OK, a little off topic, but this post from the Wikinomics blog kind of caught my eye because it resonates with a situation I’ve recently come across. The post talks about a group of bloggers getting together in Toronto to redesign the unbearably unusable Toronto Transit Comission’s website. Maybe the TTC will listen and adopt some of the design, maybe not, but creating an alternate (usable) interface to a terrible public service site like the current TTC one strikes me as an example worth emulating.

In my case, the dismally designed site is my local Victoria’s school board website. Now in the pantheons of bad information architecture, this might not rank right at the top, but it’s got to be pretty close. Designed by a bureaucrat, for other bureaucrats, not for parents, students or teachers, the people who actually need to use the site. I work online all day, and consider myself a reasonably savvy web user, yet every time I need information from the School District I am left scratching my head. For instance, this week I’m trying to find out more information about what’s going on, as they just announced 2 days ago that they are closing my son’s school! (oh wait, there’s a PDF of some sort of meeting announcement in the “Media Releases” section of the site titled “School Consultative Process” – oh yeah, that makes sense -?!- and then no times or locations given for the meetings!) I wrote the school board a few weeks back, before the whole business of the school closures, and got a pretty standard response about how they had consulted stakeholders in designing the site, never had any complaints, yada yada. Pretty well “blow it out your ear.”

So, what to do. Well, maybe the above is an example to follow. Any parents from Victoria out there interested in joining forces on this? To start with, how about a real self-interested exercise – identify all of the things as parents we’re looking for, and then design an alternative interface to the site that speaks to those needs, not the school board administration’s.

Indeed, why not take this a step further (and bring it back to ed tech, a bit). Redesigning your college’s website? Your departments? Why not solicit mockups directly from your users, take user-centric design a whole step further to user-designed design (yeah, I know, how passe of me – why not deliver everything as RSS and portlets and let people organize it how they want! Or make everything a wiki! Uh huh?). With tools like Sitekreator, Google Page Creator and Synthasite, to name but a few, this isn’t even really a technical exercise anymore.

End of rant. Back to work. But would love to hear your personal targets for redesign! – SWL

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Website Redesign as a Public Service

4 thoughts on “Website Redesign as a Public Service

  1. Lynn says:

    Hilarious – just went to the SD61 website, clicked on a link to schools, which takes you to a list of links, picked a school off the list, got a page that has a link to the school website, clicked on it and got a message that said “No web page available”. Hah! All those clicks and absolutely NO information, nothing, no photo, no description of the school. This is not rocket science. Why would you put a link to someplace that doesn’t exist?
    Just went back and tried with a few more schools – same thing. Their noweb.html page must get more hits than any other!

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