Rijnwoude.nl Redesign

Today the municipal government of my home town released a restyled website (5 days too early). At the committee meeting a few weeks ago they were really proud of it. The result is something that makes a grown man cry.

Obviously, the URI without www. does not work. There are two certainties:

  • They paid too much (but hey, it’s government money, so it belongs to no one, right?)
  • They didn’t get what they paid for.

True, the site is now build with mostly validating html 4.01 strict. But this alone doesn’t make the site more usable. The navigation is still a jungle, the logo is the wrong colour (as is the rest of the site). Apparently someone made a mistake in the process of converting the style colours to RGB.

The photography used is horrendous. Both in quality and composition. In fact, any basic form of design is missing. This was explained by the PR-woman though: “We don’t want the site to look too flashy”. Well that makes sense. But she apparently forgot that there’s more to design then flying logos. There’s such a thing as ‘Usability enhancement through graphic design’. But I don’t expect her to know about such minor details.

The search facility doesn’t return useful results. It only shows a list of titles, but doesn’t provide excerpts, so you’ll have to click each result before finding if any of them correspond to what you were looking for.

The URI’s are once again hilarious. Example:

index.asp?nmoduleid=2&wgid=6&spagetype=21&nPageID=763&nCMSPageType=1

This all isn’t really that bad. But really. Since way before the launch of their first website in 2002 I have been offering to assist them, as even back then, they admitted they didn’t know anything about the internets. Since I’ve spoken to a lot of people in the municipal government of Rijnwoude, including a former head of the PR-department, who admitted the supplier of the site, Centric, is one of the most inflexible, incapable suppliers of websites in the country. Changes to the Content Management System are nearly impossible: every change request has to go through a users group; who then get to vote on which features have priority and should be fixed first by Centric. Besides this, Centric claims only they can build a website that works with the CRM software they supply municipalities with. The current Rijnwoude doesn’t have a link with this software, and if one would like to add this functionality, it’s quite easy, and no interference of the hugely expensive Centric is needed. When you look closely, this type of sale is prohibited by Dutch law.

As usual; the government doesn’t want people to talk negative about their services. Civil servants have a really hard time admitting failure, and will try everything to avoid doing so.

But as someone pointed out during the committee meeting: “there are only two government suppliers of websites.” I tried to point out the fact there are thousands of web designers in the Netherlands, and that his view of government suppliers is misinformed and flawed. They rather spend tens of thousands of Euros on flawed products, if only the name of the supplier is big enough. “Small companies can’t deliver that kind of quality”.

Let us be thankful that most web designers do NOT steep as low as Centric. Let companies like this be a reminder of how not to do business, and make the web a better place for everyone.