Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Tarentum's new borough website

Sometime last week, Tarentum Borough unrolled its new website at www.tarentumboro.com. I have been waiting for it for a while because the old website went down sometime last year.

I visited the website and saw that it is a site in which the borough can take some pride. The website uses photographs well to reassure someone searching the site that they are in the right place. The masthead on each of the pages features four small pictures of scenes showing some of the best aspects of Tarentum: a burst of fireworks; a flag-waving toddler watching a parade; the George D. Stuart Bridge; and the Tarentum Station. (The photos of the starburst and the toddler may not be from Tarentum, but they do suggest some things that are important to Tarentum.) Beyond the masthead, most of the pages include photographs specific to their subject matter. This is very helpful to anyone searching for information.

The navigation of the site is well-designed, with multiple ways of getting to the different pages within the site. The horizontal menu below the pictures in the masthead leads to eight pages related to public officials and functions of the borough. In the right-hand column on each page are sections with links to other information about the town and an events calendar. On the home page the right-hand column also includes sections with links to latest news as well as links to the most viewed pages of the site.

The "Did you know" section of the site offers pages with the text of various ordinances that state the norms of behavior for residents of the borough with regard to such matters as safety, pets, sanitation, garbage, snow removal.

The downloads section offers links to PDF files for various forms one might need for making applications to the borough.

One of the nice features on the site is that both the "Did you know" and the "Downloads" sections show how many hits the various pages have had. It is one thing for the borough officials to know which parts of the website are getting the most use and attention from the public; it is even better that those pages are designed to share that same information with the public.

calendar_06-07.JPGOne odd thing I noticed on the site was the unconventional layout of the Events Calendar. Although most of the people in Tarentum use calendars on which the weeks begin with Sunday, the Tarentum Borough calendar makes Monday the first day of the week, and Sunday the last.

There is no rule that requires a calendar to be layed out by the weeks with the days in a particular order, but having presented the calendar in a way that looks superficially like other calendars, it is somewhat confusing to have changed the position of the columns for the days of the week.

On this young website, it is obvious that there is still information to be added to the content management system. For example, the Calendar of Events includes some of the regular borough events, but does not include Summer Concert Series (which has its own news story on the site) or the Summit Hose Company Street Fair that opens tonight and will run through Saturday. This will only improve as the Borough lives with its website and keeps adding information to the database.

Tarentum's website was designed by a small Pittsburgh web design firm, Data Blueprints, and it will be a useful tool for getting the word out about what is happening in Tarentum.

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