Dan Johnson: Web expert evaluates new city website

Dan Johnson: Web expert evaluates new city website

The following is guest blogger Dan Johnson's analysis of the city of Champaign's redesigned website. See below for a short biography on Johnson and his work and expertise.

The city of Champaign recently launched the redesign of their existing website. Most visitors to the site will immediately notice the new colors and styles available as options, as well as increased usability and ease of navigation.

As someone who has worked under the hood of websites for several years, I look at other aspects besides the obvious visual changes. My focus is generally in the areas of standards compliance and accessibility.

While websites are not required to comply with established standards, it is usually considered a good practice. The city has chosen to structure its site to the newest standard, HTML 5. Though still in development, this standard will help to ensure that the city's site will be usable by the widest variety of Web browsers and continue to serve its users well into the next several years, taking advantage of the latest technologies.

Most Web users have little need to consider accessibility issues, but for those with disabilities, navigating websites becomes a challenge. The underlying code of a site can be structured in such a way as to increase its usability by those with disabilities, using methods which will not even be apparent to the casual user.

Using analysis tools such as the Functional Accessibility Evaluator at the University of Illinois, Web developers are able to determine what parts of their site meet accessibility requirements, and what areas require changes. The city of Champaign has taken great strides in making all aspects of its site accessible to those users who might otherwise be unable to view it.

The city of Champaign's website, like others that provide dynamic information, will never be completely finished. Work always will be required to maintain and update software and to meet new requirements. The city seems to be well on its way to providing the best Web experience for all of its users.

The next step that I would like to see the site take is providing its content to users of mobile devices in a friendlier manner. Mobile telephone browsers are becoming more popular, and the city chould strive to take advantage of introducing itself to those users as well.

Dan Johnson has been involved with computers since studying at Purdue University in the early 1980s. Eventually moving to Urbana-Champaign, Johnson worked as a Web developer and systems administrator for Digital Media Group, an early starter in the Web business in 1996. Johnson has since performed freelance Web development work and focused on accessibility and Web standards through work with Webnauts.net and SEO Workers. You can follow him on Twitter @RelUnrelated.

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