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The New Website
Accessible, useful and timely. What is it?
Although highly touted, including the cover page of the January Spirit, it’s not exactly what was advertised—the association’s new website. On first glance, the association’s inaugural revision to its website has the appearance of being new, but looks can be deceiving. The website is certainly more user friendly, even glitzy and colorful, along with some needed improvements. However, on second glance, one quickly gets the impression that the new website is really the old website but with new, more colorful pages on top of the old pages to get you to the same information that was available before the change. As I relay below, this effort falls short of the major do over some were expecting to see.
Except for the glitz and color, including photographs, like that of the elusive Facilities Manager, Bruno Panek, just how helpful is the new website? The real test of any website is how helpful the site is in reaching the inquiring user, or in our case, homeowner and residents. While the site is more user friendly, just how helpful is the site in providing the user with new and relevant content?
So, how does the new website rate? I’d give it an A- on color and pizzazz. However, as far as content is concerned, I’m looking at a C, or needs improvement.
Here are some suggestions for improvement. You are invited to offer your own, either to me or to the Website Committee.
The “Planned Upgrade” page.
The “Planned Upgrade” page does not currently exist on the association’s website. While there are a number of areas that need improvement, it’s unclear whether those responsible for its new incarnation are in agreement with the need to make major changes. One possible addition would be to start off with an information page (or a drop down menu item) devoted to planned future upgrades. This would tell the user that specific, named improvements are in the pipeline and would also help in calming down those who might be anxious about this or that feature that is missing and that their message is or is not being addressed.
The unwelcome “Welcome” page.
The “Welcome” page is at best disappointing. While the creators of the new website are interested in hearing about problems with broken links, missing documents and unexpected errors, there appears to be no interest in getting any user feedback about how the website might be improved to meet homeowner needs and interests. Did the creators really want to send the message, “what you see now is what you’re going to get?” If you have an idea for improvement, keep it to yourself, at least according to what the website informs the user.
No such activity present in Sun City Anthem!
In the process of creating a new website, one can only wonder why those responsible for its implementation decided to ignore a growing segment of the community, those who might be interested in participating in an already available Sun City Anthem activity. Yes, indeed, “Clubs” is prominently displayed as a major menu item, but why does “Clubs” exists at all to the exclusion of identifying 50 other similar activities? Say you like to play Canasta and are looking for information about whether that activity is present in the community. A passing acquaintance thought she had seen Canasta being played in the Anthem Center. So, you decide to test out the new timely and helpful website. You log on and come upon the “Clubs” menu. You check the alphabetical listing of Clubs and see “Bunco” followed by “Ceramics,” but there is no listing for “Canasta” between the two entries, dashing your hopes for website information about that activity. But then you hit upon the site’s “Site Search” Link. With reasonable expectation of some success, you insert the word “Canasta” into the blank space and click on the “Search” button. Incredibly, you are quickly notified of the search result, “No Results Found!” How could that be? Surely, you thought, there are others in the community who enjoy playing Canasta.
Well, what happened? In actuality, the “Canasta” activity is just like 50 other similar activities and interests that are not recognized or reported in the new website. These 50 other interests fall into the well know category of a Special Interest Group, typically meaning that they do not meet the membership number qualifications for a chartered Club. One would assume that information about the Canasta group, among others, should be made available to all website users in the same detail that exists for chartered Clubs. Click here for a list of group activites not included on the website.
A proposed fix.
The menu item “Clubs” should be changed to “Activities” and under that new menu item, the user should be directed to Chartered Clubs and to Special Interest Groups (or Non-Charted Clubs), with appropriate definitions.
This is but one example of a number of other similar omissions homeowners will encounter in their use of the new website. Homeowners might assume that the managers of the new website would want to get it right before holding a series of training sessions. They would be wrong.
I have a question, but does the website help with an answer?
A user friendly website about the community should do three things: 1) make it easier to find information; 2) provide a guide to the community, its amenities and activities, and the services that are available; and 3) provide answers to an array of questions that residents might be expected to have. While the website appears to take care of making it easier to locate information (1), it seems to me that there is much to be done in addressing the needs of (2) and (3). That should have been accomplished before the announcement of the new launch date.
For example, in addition to leaving out the 50 or so non-chartered clubs, here are a few other things you will NOT find on the website:
What would you like to see on the website? If you have any ideas for improvement, contact the Chair of the Website Advisory Group, Gerrie Katz-Wolf at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ron Johnson, 2 January 2011