Gone But Not Forgotten

Hello, you've landed on DATA eh? - Open Data Toronto's original blog space for data discussions. This is not an active blog at the moment but legacy posts are still here. Have a read ... you can still provide comments.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Tells us what's right or wrong with toronto.ca

NOTE: This is content from the web re:Brand posts going back to November 2010. We have kept the re:Brand posts as a legacy archive but, on a go forward basis as of October, 2011, the new DATA eh? content takes over this space.

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dansblv said...

The biggest thing for me in any website is easy of use, which is determined by how well the site is organized (info architecture) coupled with a great user interface. I think toronto.ca does relatively well in the I/A department, there could be minor tweaks here and there but generally speaking I like how the from the get go the user is directed into one of four main buckets: Living in Toronto, Doing Business, Visiting Toronto and Accessing City Hall. On the user-interface front however, there’s still a lot of work to be done. I think the site doesn’t use the space of a browser window well (there’s a lot of dead space and don’t get me wrong I know white space is important, but there’s a difference between white and wasted space), font size is too small, and generally speaking navigating the site isn’t a pleasurable experience.

Another aspect of a great site is it’s interactivity, on this front toronot.ca also gets poor marks. There’s very little way for users to contribute to the site, I strongly believe that commenting, discussions, user-generated content and even wikis would be of an enormous help to people who visit the site. No one knows and cares about a neighbourhood more then the people who live there. The site could also go a lot farther in allowing people to customize the way they experience it, everything from setting what kind updates you want and on what topics to maybe even how the site looks when you visit it.

Let me know you thoughts, cheers

dexter said...

In addition to dansblv. The interface should be a lot more exciting and inviting for the users. The 4 main sections of the website is very good in terms of organization.. but it comes down to how well the design elements should be. I also agree on focusing on the neighbourhoods that make up the city, there should be mini sub pages dedicated to each neighbourhood to show our multicultural colors. I cannot stress enough that the DESIGN of the site has to be a lot fresher and more clear.

There are a lot of creative talent in our city and it should be recognized when visitors or residences try to look for information on the toronto.ca website. Get local designers involved in the process... yes it might not be a never ending process.. but come up with a more solid design rather than the "usual suspect" design elements.


Keith from the TO web re:Brand team said...

Thanks Dexter ... sooner than later I hope to be presenting links to new design concepts for reactions. I want to remind readers they can have direct influence on where we are going by becoming testers for toronto.ca. See: toronto.ca/participate

I think I'm going write a post about "usual suspect" design. Lots of material there to talk about for sure.

dexter said...

Hi Keith.. no problem. The most challenging part of this re:Brand project is to think about how to brand the entire city instead of just the website. The whole re-brand should go across the board, from simple signages to perhaps a new logo for the city. re:Branding the website will only be the beginning... your team might consider inviting some designers that can collaborate on the project.

Toronto needs a strong identity.. establish that and it will attract more people, business and tourists. Contact me if you are interested in some ideas and collaborate.



Keith from the TO web re:Brand team said...

dexter ... you may be interested to read Beg to Differ.

Have you signed on as a tester with us? That's the ticket to going further with in-person contacts - including our ace team of hungry-to-get-it-done designers.

Legal requirements are such that we can't initiate contact without prior consent - hence the handy dandy, Corporate Access and Privacy approved, participation agreement.

dansblv said...


I completely agree with dexter in terms of branding going beyond simply the website, and the post on Beg to Differ makes some strong and valid points. I always thought the current Toronto logo, and brands in general, was a very dull representation of the city. As if we coultdn’t come up with a better, more descriptive and interesting symbol for the city then the new city hall. Certainly that’s not the fist thing that would pop-in to most Torontonians’ heads when they think of of the city.

Along with the examples that Lauren Hughes here’s another example of a great re:branding for a city: Melbourne (http://www.underconsideration.com/brandnew/archives/pieces_of_melbourne.php)

Also, Keith I believe I’ve signed up to be a tester twice, what have never gotten any response, do you know when you’ll be contacting people. And please add my name to the list of people interested working with your team of hungry-to-get-it-done designers.


Keith from the TO web re:Brand team said...

@dansblv The re:Brand should be as big as everyone involved in communicating Toronto can make it!

We've done several test sessions but there are a lot of names yet to be contacted. We plan another series of discussions in the Spring - maybe before. I'll T-up with the "keeper of the list" and make sure you are on it. Now that we have a blog, we can also promote sessions here. Thanks for the interest on this.

An interesting place to throw into this discussion (and also in relation to their use of Social Media to push out and in) is Manor, Texas. It's a small place but way ahead of us in many ways. This is their blog: http://cityofmanor.org/wordpress/

Everett Zufelt said...

The greatest barrier faced by persons with disabilities when trying to access information and services online is poorly accessible web content.

Since 1999 the W3C has recommended Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 1.0) to help guide web-site developers in producing web content that is accessible to the broadest possible audience of consumers. In 2008 these guidelines were revised as WCAG 2.0 to reflect changes in technology and how people use the web.

Toronto.ca fails to conform with a number of the checkpoints in these guidelines, making it more difficult for persons with disabilities to obtain information from Toronto.ca. As a completely blind resident of Toronto, and a web accessibility consultant, I find it completely unacceptable that I should even have to raise this concern with the City of Toronto, since the guidelines are a decade old.

When web sites are poorly accessible my time and energy are wasted, and I am denied the ability to be an equal participant in society, culture and the economy.

Keith from the TO web re:Brand team said...

Everett, I am so glad you also came to the blog from our Comments Wall. Our team is engaged in accessible web as part of the rebranding. I would be very interested in hearing specific details of the areas still not accessible to visually impaired readers.

We have tested with many volunteers and have been correcting items that still fail. These seem to be much less than you are indicating in your comment.

The web content management tool we are introducing means we are moving to templates that will eliminate all coding issues from the current templates. We are also seeing our Clerks and Archives offices tagging PDF documents. This is a long process with hundreds of thousands of legacy docs. All of our areas are prepared to accommodate any issues with materials that may not be on the immediate list for tagging. We are also educating staff on the fundamental issues with PDF files.

This issue is of paramount importance to us and I invite you to make direct contact with us at webdevelopers@toronto.ca.

Everett Zufelt said...


Thanks for the response.

You can see an example of one of the ways that Toronto.ca fails to conform to WCAG at http://wave.webaim.org/report?url=http%3A%2F%2Ftoronto.ca&js=2

As you may be aware, automated testing tools are a useful, but not a sufficient method of ensuring the accessibility of a site. Testing a site's content with a user group is also useful, but cannot ensure that the site conforms to the guidelines.

Keith from the TO web re:Brand team said...

@Everett - I welcome this discussion. For readers not familiar with accessibility issues, it is important to bring the subject to prominent attention. It is not just toronto.ca that is not at 100% levels.

We discovered the pitfalls of accessibility testing tools some years ago. We have gone to user testing but it too leaves gaps and we do get conflicting reports from users. Not everyone is in agreement about all pages as to what is wrong or right.

We are also exploring tools to offer users such as Browsealoud (Ottawa offers this). We have discussed tools such as this with some of our contacts. All are not in universal agreement of the value in offering a tool vs. ensuring our pages are up to standards wherein all reader tools would be able to read the pages. I'd love to hear your opinion.

You are also the first to present a comment about the issue and I would like to deal with this more prominently as a separate post to the blog.

We have a member of our re:Brand team dedicated to accessibility and I can assure you it is something he wants to see resolved (as do all of us on the team).

That being said, if any visually impaired reader of toronto.ca has difficulty reading our pages we do ask that they bring it to the attention of our web team by mailing us.

I will be bringing your comment to the attention of our designers to review our front index page. The last word we had on the page was that it is in fact up to W3C standards (note I am referencing the front page only in this).

Everett Zufelt said...


I am happy to hear that Toronto.ca sees making its site accessible as a priority. You are correct, many sites fail to conform to these decade old guidelines.

I really don't think that there can be any debate about whether a site should conform to WCAG, particularly as the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) will soon require this. That being said, a site that conforms to WCAG may still provide extra value to some of its visitors by adding accessibility tools. I would imagine that a site that conforms to WCAG will be easier to use with these tools. It would be interesting to know if Ottawa tracks the usage of the tool they use to see if it is ever used by any of it's visitors.

For the most part implementing accessibility is a rather simple task, that is technically simple, but possibly time consuming, especially if a site wasn't originally designed with accessibility in mind. There are of course more challenging issues, I actually wrote about the challenge of making modal dialogs accessible to screen-reader users this morning on my blog at http://zufelt.ca

I think that it is also important to point out, if not for your benefit than for other readers, that visual impairment is not the only disability to consider when improving the accessibility of a site. In actuality all users of a site benefit from the site being accessible, some specific groups are persons with hearing impairments, motor function impairments and cognitive impairments.

Thanks again for the discussion.

Amy said...

Sorry, this is more of a bug report but I couldn't figure out where to put it. Anyway, just signed up for summer camp - I got in yay! - and after you choose to "add" the selected course, you're prompted for a client number and family number - I entered my daughter's client number and our family number, because I was signing her up - but then I was logged on as her but I couldn't proceed - the "Go to Checkout" button was greyed out, presumably because she's six. I had to log out and go all the way back to the beginning of Online Registration again.

So, you need to make it clear, at the point where people are asked to enter the client number, that it should be the client number of the adult who is doing the registration, not the client number of the person taking the camp/course.

Keith from the TO web re:Brand team said...

@Amy - I'm sending the comment to the registration folks behind the program. A perfect example of how we can improve user experience by either explaining more about name and numbers or altering the submit.

Keith from the TO web re:Brand team said...

@Amy - I have a response from the Parks, Forestry and Registration people to pass on to you:

Can you pass this message onto the blogger ... It may help the client for future registrations.

Please accept my apologies for your frustrations with the Parks Forestry and Recreation on line registration.

We appreciate your feedback regarding the on line registration and have reviewed your concern with our IT staff. It shouldn't matter which client is logged onto the PFR account. You can register any member of your family. From my discussion with our IT staff the problem may have been due to the fact when you got to the 'My Cart' page there's a drop-down under the client name column where you may not have selected which family member you were registering. Until the family member is selected you can't get to the 'Checkout' page.

Wedensday March 10th, was the last day of our Spring/Summer 2010 priority registrations for the Toronto/East York District. During the one hour period from 7:00am until 8:00am a total of 17,390 registrations were processed. Of these registrations, 10,439 were completed through on line (Toronto FUN On Line) and 2,982 were completed through TTR (telephone touch tone). Overall, 13,421 registrations or 77.2% were processed through the two self-serve methods by 8:00 am on Wednesday. As advertised in our Toronto Fun Guide, access to and registration of internet registration is extremely efficient and I encourage you to use this method of registration in future.

I trust that you will continue to take advantage of the recreational opportunities that we offer. Please feel free to contact me directly if you have any other questions or concerns.

Pat Profiti
Supervisor of Customer Service,
Etobicoke York District
Parks, Forestry and Recreation

Ian Mackenzie said...

I'll tell you one thing that's right about toronto.ca's rebranding project so far: Moderators who engage in conversations happening elsewhere about their brand and who respond in kind.

Well done. And thanks.

Ian Mackenzie

lee said...

First off, great job for taking the initiative to get feedback!
From a design stand point the website is not making good use of the space of the website. There is not enough design hierarchy, meaning it is not clear what the site is about, and it doesn't guide me as a reader to the most important elements. A visitor should be able to know right away what the site is about with having to look for it.

I think a little restructuring, spacing, and images for the sub category will really help the flow and communication of the website.

Here is a site that I have designed renovation toronto