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Design Notes

Questions, answers, and discussion about the design and initial operation of this web site

This is a collection of notes from the CMS Design team:

  • Sandi Marchbanks, Vice Mayor, City of Gustavus
  • Paul Berry, Council Member, City of Gustavus
  • Nathan Borson, Member, Corvid Computing
  • Phoebe Vanselow, Member, Corvid Computing
  • Sean Neilson, Member, Corvid Computing

General

Paul's definitions: City = local government, Community = encompasses city and includes all activity including that which is not directly related to local government.

Focus of the Home Page

Paul: Regarding the following (from the draft site plan):

The Gustavus Home Page, http://gustavus-ak.gov, a replacement for the GCN home page and city home page, is intended to be a portal to all things Gustavus (not just city government). We encourage people to set this as their home page. Http://gustavus.ak.us would redirect here.

Paul: A new city home page that is intended to be a portal to all things Gustavus? I see this as a little too much for a web service I see as serving primarily the information needs of the city. How about continuing this on GCN's homepage? I don't want to see the city (again by city I mean our local government) maintaining a one site stop for web access about Gustavus because of the work that is needed to maintain all the information that site will link to. I want to see a site that is easy for the clerk to add city information to. If this is not the case and we do end up with a super site for all things Gustavus then there needs to be designated volunteer, or professional support for maintaining the site.

Nate: Paul, you are right that "portal to all things Gustavus" is ambitious but that is what the GCN site attempts to be now and I'd be sorry to lose that as the alternatives (i.e. Gustavus.com or topix.net) are poor substitutes. We can't just leave it there because GCN really belongs under services and the current GCN site will be deleted when the migration to the CMS is done ( http://gustavus.ak.us will redirect to some part of the CMS). Your point about the effort to maintain the community information is well taken but it will be easier in the CMS than it is on the GCN site now both because the authoring is easier and because the work I now do alone could be shared with other volunteers. I can commit to continuing the same level of volunteerism with respect to community information that I do now. Lately that isn't much but should be sufficient to maintain a presence and framework for others to work in. I don't think this would make Kapryce's work any more difficult as her efforts could be confined to maintaining the city government portion as she does now.

There is a place in the proposed site plan for a community home page NOT on the CMS home page, and that is the community section. If the city decides, as you suggest, that the home page should be primarily about city government, I propose the community information from the two left columns of the current GCN web site be moved to the community section of the CMS (much of it would go there even if the proposal were adopted "as is" to make room for more city government information on the home page and keep it uncluttered).

The proposed site plan also has a place for a city government home page NOT on the CMS home page, that being the Governance section.

So IF you all agree that there is a place SOMEWHERE in the CMS for non-city community information, the remaining question boils down to:

What should be the focus of the CMS "home" page?

This deserves a lot of thought. A related question that might help answer it is "what is the name of this web site?"

  • Paul, your suggestion might be "City of Gustavus" with "Community" being a section of that.
  • I have been trying out "Gustavus, Alaska" and "Gustavus Community Web" with "city" being part of that.

The difference is one of tone, emphasis, or focus, not of function. Either way it will be very easy to get to both community and city government information. And either way there would be a mix of both on the home page. The question is how prominent city government vs. non-city community information is on the home page. Again, either way both city and community would have their own sections with their own "home pages" in addition to the overall CMS home page.

In other words:

Draft Site Plan
Or
City Oriented Home Page
Community site with city information

City site with community information

Gustavus, Alaska (All things Gustavus)

  • Governance (city)
  • Community (about Gustavus, etc.)
  • Services, etc.

City of Gustavus

  • Governance (city council, law, etc.)
  • Community (All things Gustavus)
  • Services, etc.

Naming the site and choosing its focus is an important policy decision Corvid Computing cannot make for you. I can only say that in my view neither a community nor a city orientation is wrong. I have a preference for the former, as shown by what I did on the GCN site, but the latter would work fine should you choose it and I have no problem supporting it. It is worth getting it right the first time as it will be costly and disruptive to change the overall focus of the site after it's full of content.

I leave it to you city representatives to make that decision. Please let me know if we can help in any way.

Content

Paul: As far as the map goes, it looks good to me. I assume that each committee can have it's own sub-folders below the ones listed. [Nate: Yes; there is no practical limit.] Some committees have no content or little content so if it's possible I'd rather only see directories/ pages added as needed. As I understand it the pages exist but are not visible unless you log-on, I guess that would work.

Nate: The idea of the empty (but unpublished, visible only to logged-on users) pages is

  • To minimize effort by copying an entire pre-made "template" for each committee rather than creating individual pages

  • To encourage a standard structure for common information so it is easier for the public to navigate. If only a very few designated webmasters familiar with the site map are contributing to committee pages this isn't much of an issue as they can be expected to conform to the standard without this guidance but it becomes important if you "turn loose" committee members on the site.

Paul: I like the distinction between “services” and “governance” as they are two sides of the same thing. Presently all access is through committee's page and I like having the two paths that share many common links. A citizen who wants to know the hours for the Chest or the DRC doesn't need to go through the DRC Committee.

Appearance

Font and Paragraph Formatting

Sandi: City's standard style is Bookman old style 11 pt.

Nate: We will see what we can do with that. Not every computer has Bookman Old Style and those that do not will "degrade gracefully" to a similar font. This is done through cascading style sheets (CSS) using alternative font choices. Include a font that displays on Unix. A good example (not for Bookman Old Style) would be "arial, helvetica, lucida sans, sans-serif" . See also this.

Paul: The strawberry should be the actual city seal. Kapryce or Sandi should have a copy of the seal (.gif ). Perhaps Sean could sharpen it up so the text is clearer.

Nate: I used the seal from the old web site's municipal code page, see what you think. I don't know if there's a better copy of the image but you won't be able to read the text on it (except maybe "SEAL") unless it's much bigger.

Paul: I would like to see the emphasis on content rather than presentation at the beginning of this project especially in regard to the members of our community who have dial-up access. By this I mean that any photos should be small and serve as links to galleries. No slide shows (is that what you mean by rotating?). I'm not a fan of busy web pages with images flashing by – stuff happening on it's own. I like clean, quiet presentations with maybe one photo that can link to many photos.

Nate: I agree about focusing our resources on the content now; the presentation can be improved later. I do want the site to be attractive because to many people that makes more of an impression than the content, but Plone is quite nice out of the box; some minimal modifications are all that's needed to satisfy my aesthetic sense. I also agree about gratuitous bandwidth-wasting graphics, especially the annoying flashing and changing ones. I will not be proposing any of that, especially for the most-visited parts of the site. By "rotating image" I meant a photo that changes each time you visit the site, not a slide show that changes while you are there. For an example see any of the Glacier Bay National Park pages: http://nps.gov/glba . However, this is optional in my view and not something I intend to spend much time on for the initial design.

Function

What does the site do and how does it work? This is under development by Corvid Computing at this writing. See the integration page

for a peek into this area. When Corvid has a plan or questions it will be submitted for the city's consideration.

 

CMS Policy & Procedure

Paul: When Corvid in moving the DRC committee's files

to the new CMS I ask that you contact me and talk about layout. I have been maintaining these pages and would like to be a party as to their organization and layout. I would like to maintain the present directories: Planning & reports

Nate: No problem. We'll get ahold of you when we are ready to copy DRC and train you in using the CMS at the same time; any assistance from city staff and volunteers will make your Corvid dollars go further. I have looked at the DRC site and it looks like straightforward formatting that should be very easy to transfer to the new site (nice use of header styles for structuring the information).

 

 

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