Commentary: City’s New-Look Website Not Ready for Prime Time


One of the biggest non-policy criticisms of the city has been that their communications system was hopelessly locked in the last century (sometimes I joke that it’s using 19th century technology).

The city has not updated its modes of communication appreciably to make use of electronic mail, social networking, or a new interaction and robust website.

So we applaud the new commitment to social networking both in last month’s launch of Nextdoor, the newly-revamped video system, and a new website.

In a press release sent out on Thursday, the city wrote: “As part of an overall effort to improve communications and reach out to the community, the City of Davis has launched a new website look and structure. The updated page will still be located at and provide the same information as the old site. The new site takes advantage of an open platform structure to provide the City a more powerful and flexible platform to integrate with social media and other applications. This, in turn, will make the site more functional to users, whether they are residents, business owners, visitors or others.”

They continued: “One feature that will be enhanced and made more user-friendly is the online bill-pay function. Need to pay your city services bill for water and sewer but don’t want to have to come in to City Hall or send a payment through the mail? The new site makes it easier for users to pay bills, deal with a parking ticket or sign up for recreation classes online.”

One of the things that I liked when we hired City Manager Steve Pinkerton is that he had done a blog in Manteca.  Clearly this was a guy who was comfortable with new technology and communications.

Indeed, Mr. Pinkerton will have his own blog here in Davis, as well.  Writes the city: “As part of the new format, City Manager Steve Pinkerton will be sharing thoughts and ideas about municipal government in California through an online blog, located on the City’s webpage. Look for messages regarding issues that are of interest city- and statewide.”

The city is also intensifying its efforts to communicate through social media, having introduced a new Facebook page and as we mentioned, a partnership with

The city claims, “Several individual city programs have long had a Facebook presence, including pages for recycling, teens, seniors, police issues and events at the Veterans Memorial Center.”

The new page will incorporate these into an overall page.  Go to “CityofDavis” on Facebook.

The problem is that the website is not ready for public viewing.

The city acknowledges this: “As with any new venture, the new City website is a work in progress. Please be patient while staff transfers the information from the former page to the new page.”

Actually, it is a good deal worse than that.  Previous bookmarks and webpages no longer work.

There is information that is difficult to find or even no longer there.

We have had numerous complaints that information is difficult to find, and that this page needs to be more intuitive and complete.

For example, we went to the Water Advisory Committee webpage and it appeared it would have the agenda and the staff reports online – something that has been desperately needed for all commissions and special bodies.

However, when we got there, instead of staff reports there were pdf’s with bios for staff members and project descriptions, rather than the actual staff report.

Imagine if in 2009, when the Vanguard created its own, custom-built website, if instead of being able to read news stories, there were placeholding files for days?

To put things more simply – we like the look of the page, we like the ideas that are being considered,  we applaud the city moving to a more interactive and up-to-date format.  But what exactly was the rush?

We are in August, people are on vacation, the council is on vacation, why the rush to post the new website at the beginning of the month rather than waiting until everything was ready?

The most important part of a website is content, but the close second is accessibility.  It does no good to have great content without it being easily accessible.

As with everything else, the city is moving in the right direction with the website, but it’s obviously more than just a little work in progress.  There are apparently hiccups every step of the way to move forward here.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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  1. SODA

    Here’s my beef which is related. I have tried to access CC mtgs on iPad when out of town. No luck. Flash player not available on apple products, understood but when I tried to get help from city staff months ago they were initially unresponsive then completely unhelpful and seemingly disinterested. I searched around for an app that would help with it with no luck and finally ave up. But the need is still there. Any advice from VG folks?

  2. Matt Williams

    SODA, can you access the Yolo County Supervisors’ videos when you click on the video link at [url][/url]

    The reason I ask is that the City will be moving to that same platform shortly.

  3. E Roberts Musser

    I don’t think it is reasonable to expect perfection. I suspect no matter when the city decided to do this, there would have been hiccups. And I also suspect whenever the city decided to do this would have been considered the wrong time by some. I also suspect the city chose August because that is when most citizens are on vacation; the CC has the least number of meetings bc it is usually when it is on vacation; and all the commissions are on vacation as well. To choose August as the month to start this thing and work out the glitches makes perfect sense to me.

    Just as an aside, I joined NextDoor, and am supposed to receive a post card via mail to confirm my address. Have not received the confirmatory post card, which is necessary to log in to the site. Anyone else received that confirmatory post card?

  4. hpierce

    [quote]I don’t think it is reasonable to expect perfection. [/quote]Interesting observation… City IS employees are facing unfilled staff positions, negotiations to reduce their current compensation by 10-22% (by several accounts), other demands for service from internal & external customers. On the water supply choice issue, we see similar demands for absolute certainty in costs/rates before making some basic decisions. We in the community seem to demand highest level services, ever increasing, and demand reductions in costs to those services. Perfectly human. Is it realistic?

  5. Ryan Kelly

    I sent a message to the website team about missing information and the information appeared within 24 hours. If you see something missing that you use, let them know.

    Re: the postcard. Some of my friends received theirs. I finally used a credit card to confirm my address. If they are using bulk mail, it could be weeks.

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