City Launches New Website

As promoted on their website for months, Charlottesville launched a new website yesterday. The content appears to be basically the same as was up before — what’s changed is the design (it’s distinctly less hideous) and the content management system (out of the fire and into the frying pan). This replaced the site they launched in 2001 and will hopefully make it possible to link to pages on the site again.

Unfortunately, they’ve moved from URLs of Death ( to merely meaningless URLs (; there’s no RSS feed to keep up with city news; the code isn’t even close to valid; and no apparent effort has been made to make the site compliant with Section 508 (ADA) standards, despite the accessibility statement to the contrary.

That said, I can only assume that this CMS is better than their old one, so this hopefully puts them on a path that will make it easier to correct these problems. The important thing is that the new site integrates with CityLink, their new city-management software, which opens the door to things like paying taxes and making service requests on-line. The site was developed by a California-based firm, and runs on their proprietary CMS.

John Yellig has more in today’s Progress.

19 thoughts on “City Launches New Website”

  1. Holy Crap!

    That is a picture of me riding my bike on the banner (I kid you not). Hey, they never asked permission. What the hell?

  2. OK, upon further review, the banner changes with each refresh of the page so just FYI, I am the fat guy on the bike in the green shirt if/when you see it.

  3. That is a picture of me riding my bike on the banner (I kid you not). Hey, they never asked permission. What the hell?

    Legally they don’t have to ask permission to use your image, though it would have been polite. Ironically, their copyright statement says that you have to ask permission to reproduce any images or text from the website, the website that our tax dollars paid for. I have to wonder what the legal standards are for such a claim. Too bad they didn’t just release everything under the Open Content license.

  4. “Ah, cool.” I thought. “Maybe I can pay my Utilities on line…!”

    So I log on, click on Utilities Customers, then My Account, and get this message:

    “This address is restricted. This address uses a network port which is normally used for purposes other than Web browsing. Firefox has canceled the request for your protection.”

    Huh? So I fire up the site in IE, follow the same steps, and sure enough this time I can get to the page that allows me to login. On the bottom is this message:

    Please use Microsoft’s Internet Explorer Version 4 or higher when viewing this website. Due to technical issues this website might not function as desired when using other Internet Browsers.

    Ah, of course. This is why The City outsourced this important job to a California company … so they can use frickin’ use IE 4…!!!

  5. I cannot fathom the practice of developing websites that require a particular browser. I’ve been a website developer for over a decade, and I’ve never had to restrict a site to some particular browser. It’d be like building a shopping mall and requiring that people be driving Japanese cars in order to park. It’s just bizarre.

    I’m trying to figure out whether this is a feature, or a bug: by disabling JavaScript, I can freely access the password-protected Utilities Customers section of the site, which is oddly unencrypted.

  6. I can freely access the password-protected Utilities Customers section of the site, which is oddly unencrypted.

    Uh, I don’t think I will be paying my utilities online at this site (even if I used IE).

    They paid how much? To what California company? I mean the site is purty and all. But come on…

  7. The information page even contradicts itself:

    Under the Accessibility Statement:

    We do our best to support the following Internet browsers: Netscape and Internet Explorer versions 4 and newer.

    But in Disclaimer/Browser:

    Please be aware that our online applications are not tested in Netscape browsers.

    As Waldo noted, they don’t even meet basic accessibility standards, like image alt tags, or noscript equivalents for javascript sections.

    If the contract with the developer called for an accessible site, I hope the city hasn’t paid the bill yet, and makes them fix the problems.

  8. Using your link your site comes up with 8 errors with just a few pages and Albemarle with over 80 errors. What’s your point?

  9. The errors on actually stem from just two problems, both of which are matters of code validation on which intelligent minds may disagree. But even if the site had 1,000 errors, I have no duty to the public to have a site that operates on all browsers and fits modern coding standards; I choose do so out of common decency and a personal interest in having a site that’s widely accessible. Municipalities very much have that duty, and HTML that does not conform to World Wide Web Consortium standards is shirking that duty.

  10. It gets worse. I attempted to set up a Utilities Account for myself by entering my Billing Account number, creating a UserID and Password. First thing I noticed: TAB does not move me from field to field. Odd, but not important I suppose. But now when I attempt to login using my new UserID and Password, I get an error message that I either don’t have an account or I’m using the wrong password.

    “Idiot, you’re using the wrong password!” you may say. No, I’m not, and I have evidence. For when I created my account, a page was displayed that showed my UserID and Password in plain text!!! I printed it out!

    If you’ve gone to the site, you may have also noticed that the DNS redirects to an IP:

    The new site is like a supermodel: pretty to look at, but dumb.

  11. I went to the site last night and created a login account. I had no problem doing this and had no issues setting up an account to pay my utility bill. I always pay it online and I found creating my account to be just as easy as on the other site. The site looks good, I have ventured all through it. Thought it was interesting that it redirects and I don’t know why it does but I will probally still use it.

  12. That’s great, katsted — I’m glad it worked for you. It’s these sort of new features that I’m excited about. The prospect of things like paying all of our taxes online and downloadable video of Council meetings (though a podcast in an MP3 format would be better) is pretty exciting. Here’s hoping it works for everybody soon. :)

  13. .NET?

    Sweet Lord.

    I didn’t know anybody actually used .NET for anything. It’d be like discovering that the city’s new unified EMS communications system is actually just a bunch of CB radios.

  14. You would think searching “city council agenda” would give you the agenda for the next meeting. On the old website, a link to the agenda was on the main page. The link to the Council Agendas is but searching Council Agendas does not return this page.

    Now we know the search feature of the city’s new website does not function.

  15. Update: Clicking on any of the agenda links gives this error: The file does not exist.

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