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Norwalk website refresh waiting on new marketing director

Norwalk Common Council 102213 002
Will Norwalk’s next marketing director wear a bowtie?

NORWALK, Conn. – It’s time to refresh the city’s website, Norwalk Information Technology (IT) Director Karen Delvechhio said last week. But no progress can be made until the city hires a new marketing director, she said.

Delvechhio made the comments at the Planning Commission’s public hearing on the 2014-15 capital budget. NancyOnNorwalk could not make it but obtained a recording from the city.

Vocal Norwalk critic Diane Lauricella, a faithful attendee of the sparsely attended hearings over the years, began the conversation by asking that money be withheld from the IT Department until there is a plan developed to update the city’s website, including deadlines and a time schedule, which she also suggested last year.

“It’s not as user friendly for some simple things, including an important thing, which is finding the city council. There is no icon on the homepage,” she said. “The city council people will be asked, and many of them have said, that they think that this is not a user friendly website. Everyone on both sides of the aisle nods their heads. The time has come. It’s not just me.”

“As I mentioned in our workshop, we did not request funding for the city website, which, after three years, does need to be refreshed,” Delvechhio answered. “At this point, with the new administration, we are also waiting for the new director of marketing to come on board, as I also explained. It would not be, I think, prudent at this point to move forward with the refresh of the site until we have that marketing person on board so if there is an advertising or branding image plan put together for Norwalk we want to make sure that we are consistent with that.”

She went on to explain that the city invites feedback through the website and through customer service. There have been 60 entries since the site launched three years ago, she said. Everyone of the comments, ideas or praise has been answered.

“Sometimes we are not able to make changes because it requires special software for the user to download,” she said. “Sometimes the changes that are suggested will make it difficult to translate to another language. Sometimes what is requested for changes makes the site less ADA (American Disabilities Act) compliant. Our site is a 508 federal ADA compliant site which not all sites are and as a result they are a little bit more simple to use because they aren’t translated.”

The city’s website was designed by Civic Plus at a cost of $76,000, she said. She did not know how much it would cost to redesign it.

“I have no idea. My sense is – there’s two sides, the front side and the back side. We wanted to make changes, particularly on the back side, because there’s new technology available,” she said, referring to the proliferation of smart phones and tablets.

IT just worked with the Health Department to create an app, which will be available on iTunes, she said.

“On the front side, my sense is that before we leap forward – I am not an advertising/marketing person, I’d really like to have the marketing person on  board so that we can work with that person,” she said.

That brought a comment from a commissioner – the visitor’s tab is “atrocious,” he said.

“There’s nothing there, frankly,” he said. “As a brochure for the city it’s ridiculous. I take your answer that you’re waiting for the director of marketing to be hired because you’re thinking about redoing the brochure part of the website.”

Absolutely, Delvechhio said.

“As an IT Department we had attempted to engage the former director of marketing on a number of occasions to work with us on developing that whole piece of it,” she said. “Before the site went live we did work with the Chamber of Commerce to give us their feedback on the business part of it, doing business in Norwalk. We got some really good feedback from the chamber prior to release of the site but in terms of developing the tourism piece of it I think all of Norwalk would benefit from ‘What is our brand image?’ That’s across all aspects of Norwalk and the website is part of that.”

She was asked if the department would get to work on a website refresh once a new marketing person is on board.

Absolutely, Delvechhio said.

“It’s high on my list,” she said. “I can’t speak for what’s on that person’s list because they don’t report to me but certainly that’s my goal.”

Comments

18 responses to “Norwalk website refresh waiting on new marketing director”

  1. jlightfield

    Good luck Mayor Rilling, you have an incompetent IT department that not only can’t figure out how to operate a web site, but thinks the City is hiring a marketing director.

  2. EveT

    The city website is an embarrassment, a relic of 20 years ago. If Del Vecchio doesn’t acknowledge that, one has to wonder about her competence. It sounds like she is just trying to defend the status quo. How come Del Vecchio says she has no idea of the cost to bring the site into the 21st century, but Matt Miklave quoted a solid figure during his campaign for mayor? Shouldn’t it be a core part of Del Vecchio’s job to stay on top of these things?

  3. Independent Voter

    Did someone miss out on some gravy? Methinks the odor of sour grapes is wafting through the air.

  4. Suzanne

    With all of the unemployed out there or under employed, it would seem hardly a difficult task to find the staff they need in the Norwalk IT department. This is supposed to be the cutting edge of our culture – surely it cannot be too difficult to join the profession in which they work by creating an up-to-date, user friendly, information filled WEB Site. Just to write that feels a little facetious and embarrassing – for them.

  5. dlauricella

    The recognition that the City web site is in need of reform has been discussed for years. It is time for action with a proactive approach. Include public input with more open and effective methods. Hold staff and consultants hired to account.

    Ms. DelVecchio now has a new reason why she cannot even make reasonable adjustments that every one feels is necessary and many of these adjustments have nothing to do with “branding”. Is her method of finding out where improvements should be made effective? I think not, in that many do not know that there even is a mechanism to do so because she has not effectively communicated the exercise. She has also refused to hold a community/public forum or focus group which could have been done when invited to collaborate years ago with the LWV and at public hearings. Even after CivicPlus was hired, she had different reasons for why that did not happen as well. My point is that we should consider several ways for taking feedback from the public so that the taxpayers feel that they are valued. Now she is blaming Mr. Diesel. Hmmmmmmm.

    Three years ago, when Common Council began their “Council Conversations” series, I raised the issue and asked for their help. Both sides of the aisle nodded in agreement that the web site needed to be tweaked so that it became more user friendly. Now that several of those Council members have been re-elected, I would like to ask that they step up and work with our new Mayor to make this happen. I hope that the Council will resume a similar program like Mayor’s Night Out in order to make the taxpayer input feel valued.


    One Example that has been suggested in public and private for years: A prominent link or icon on the city web Homepage that clearly shows the contact info for the Council, including their photos so that the public can recognize and communicate with an important arm of government.
    In the “How Do I?” section, an item also should be added that states: How do I… find out my Councilperson’s contact info? Right now, it is not so obvious.

    Lastly, I have attended the Capital Budget Hearings for the last three years about this topic as a citizen and “Good Governance Advocate” trying to suggest ideas. Please taxpayers, review the Capital and Operating Budgets online and come speak or email your concerns. The Council Finance Committee has a public hearing about the Operating Budget this Thursday at 7 pm at City Hall.

    Your silence means tacit approval to those who govern you.

  6. diane c2

    This would almost be funny if it weren’t true – instead, it’s pathetic, and illustrative of the mentality at City Hall.
    To add to Diane L’s comments, the Coalition of Norwalk Neighborhorhood Associations also reached out to Ms. DelVecchio to lend FREE help in identifying the public needs for the website, and also to do end-user testing before they launched.

  7. Joe Espo

    I see here that under the new administration, Norwalk is waging it’s very own war on women. Del Vecchio is, I think, one of only two or three woman department heads, yet she’s being vilified by…other women! And by political supporters of the Mayor, to boot! So much for civility: let’s just pile-on!
    .
    That the website has to wait until a new marketing person is hired is not unreasonable, given that it should reflect whatever marketing strategy, graphics and themes that are developed with the Mayor’s very own input. I’m sure the “Norwalk..On the Water..On the Move” motto and graphics are toast; as they should be. And I’m sure that if the I.T. department were allocated sufficient funds, we’d have a website to rival amazon.com .
    .
    But it seems that I.T. isn’t a high priority with the Council. DPW has been trying for years to get a modest sum of money to do basic, rudimentiary digitizing of records for a searchable database- and the latest request was rejected.
    .
    The BOE black-hole money pit is the exception: when, this year, it wanted to upgrade its website- abracadabra it happens!

  8. spanner

    The progress is we are reading about it here and nowhere else.With that in mind why can’t someone who is on the council and is reading this step up to the plate and get the ball Rilling oh I mean rolling?

  9. Debora

    Having the site function for marketing purposes is a “nice to have”, but the asks from the public are largely “must haves” since the city does not have the money to do mailings to inform the citizenry.

    In corporate America, the two needs are recognized as having two different audiences and are often handled by separate teams. There is no reason to hold one up for the other.

  10. Audrey Cozzartin

    I think the city website it pretty good, actually! For the amount of information it is managing, it is handled well by those currently in charge of the site. I would say it could use some updating, but the above comments are critical in an unfair way. If the current city website was really “hip,” “slick,” and au courant, I would be suspicious of big funds being spent on it.

    I suggest a team of Norwalk citizens be assembled to weigh in on revisions, to update the current site without a total overhaul–let’s be efficient and take things one step at a time. I am happy to volunteer my time to work as part of a team to make priority items more apparent, eliminating perhaps too many layers in accessing the city council, committees, and other info deemed “priority,” and making the site more engaging, to illicit more enthusiasm and participation in city life by citizens. To me, that is the goal, and the city’s site does a good job. Rather than criticize the existing site and its administrators, especially when good info such as the current guidelines for snow removal (and our duties as citizens to help out when we have a snow emergency as we have had lately), let’s work with the current web administrators to make pertinent info more readily apparent, and also encourage citizens to participate in the life of the city–towards peace and goodwill towards all. Norwalk is the “Best City on Earth” and I believe we can work together to keep it that way.

  11. Piberman

    A competent IT Head would periodically survey users for improvement recommendations, make comparisons with similarly situated city websites and occasionally hire an experienced consultant all for the purpose of securing a top flight City web site. But this is Norwalk and we understand that we pay the salaries but await the superior services in the heavens above. Another opportunity for Mayor Rilling to make a significant upgrade in City competence.

  12. Diane C2

    @Audrey- Hi- For the record, during the last re-write and launch of the website Norwalk residents DID volunteer their time and expertise to assist with the web project. Ms. DelVecchio rebuffed the attempts of CNNA and also the LWV.
    And even when we citizens were promised the opportunity to review the website prior to its launch (waaaaay too late in the process to begin with), we learned of its completion by reading meeting minutes scheduling department training! What part of “prior to the launch” doesn’t our IT staff understand.
    Also, I’m not sure anyone is looking for “hip” and “slick” – we just want basic information to be readily available and easy to find.
    It appears that Ms. DelVecchio may be hopeful that the new economic development manager/director who “markets” the city will also fill the role of an actual marketing agency that provides branding, logos, etc.

  13. Diane C2

    Here is the result of collaboration between our IT department and Chamber of Commerce – the actual menu items that a prospective business would see when they are considering starting up in or relocating to Norwalk (apparently sans spell check…)

    Business

    About Norwalk (Video)
    Learn more about Norwalk in these short videos about Business & Industry, Real Estate, Planning & Development.
    About Norwalk

    Business and Resource Directory
    View entire directory of businesses, schools, attractions and events in the Norwalk area.
    Directory

    Chamber of Commerce
    Visit the Greater Norwalk Chamber of Commerce’s website.
    Chamber of Commerce

    Census Information
    Find the latest census information on Norwalk from the U.S. Census Bureau.
    Census Information

    City Purchasing / Bids
    View purchasing and bid information for the City of Norwalk.
    City Purchasing / Bids

    Codebook \ City Code
    Access the Norwalk city code book, city codes and regualtions.
    Codebook \ City Code

    Connecticut Conference of Municipalities
    Access services including management assistance, labor relations, policy development, and more.
    Connecticut Conference of Municipalities

    Norwalk Development
    Find details on neighborhood preservation, downtown revitalization, community development, and more.
    Norwalk Development

  14. Jlightfield

    At no time has the IT department ever solicited end user feedback on what features and content the site should contain. Further the IT department has failed to provide policy advisement on FOI and document retention issues. It’s as simple as not providing council people email addresses for official business. The IT department didn’t understand why the entire archives of zoning minutes should be text searchable going Babi the late 1990s. Nor did they understand why google earth is an important tool in land use, or why it is improper to instruct city staff to delete emails from the server because “they ran out of room” etc.
    .
    The arcane stuff that is requisite of a functioning IT department has never been a priority for the City. Some department heads have figured out they are on their own and the public continues to be ill served.
    .
    The issues are important not just as a convenience to citizens but also as part of the infrastructure required to actually run the City. Look no farther than the lack of online permitting, financial controls, and the inability to link the building, health, fire, tax and zoning records in a consolidated report so that enforcement of regs has a decent shot of happening. .
    .
    Good luck finding when issues affecting your neighborhood happen. Or that an interested citizen can know if a governmental meeting has been cancelled or rescheduled. Or if the history of all meetings and actions pertaining to an issue. I could go on, but rather than bore all non-techies with instance and example of key issues, I’ll end with the usual you can’t manage what you don’t know.

  15. Diane C2

    Is it time for Norwalk to establish an Information Technology Committee of the Common Council?

  16. Debora

    This would fall under the rubric of a communications and transparency advisory Council, which has been requested of the Mayor.

  17. Taxpayer Fatigue

    The IT director needs to be a department head that reports directly to the mayor, and has a committee from the Common Council. Buried under the Finance Director, the function is always going to be about spending the least amount of money on IT as possible, instead of finding ways to use technology to better serve our City by improving services and reducing the overall costs of running the city.

    We will probably have to wait for the next generation of politicians to take over the council and the mayor’s office for this to happen.

  18. the donut hole

    more money isn’t the answer. reporting into the CFO is a typical assignment and should be no excuse for gross incompetence.
    .
    that no one in IT can fix the navigational shortfalls on the website is an embarrassment. there isn’t one piece of software in the world that is fully 508 compliance which tells you they don’t even really know what it means. it is totally missing any type of hot key navigation which is the basic fundamental of 508. ridiculous comment by someone clearly in way over their head.
    .
    we have a mainframe era mindset in place at pay levels above market. they buy hardware we don’t need and neglect the needs of the end user.
    .
    the IT committee conveniently meets in the middle of the day when no real public participation (of people who work day jobs) can happen. it takes them years to get outdated tech proposals in front of the council, who then blindly pass them.
    .
    we have the library, the schools, the city, and other agencies all running their own websites without any coordination or care about wasting tax dollars on services that clearly should be shared and centralized. it is a 20th century approach to 21st century needs.
    .
    time for change.

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