Metro government Friday morning launched what Mayor Karl Dean’s office billed as a “new and improved” Nashville.gov website.
The new site, Dean’s office said in a release, will be faster, more convenient, and easier to navigate. But the redesign, the site’s first full makeover in five years, came with a few hiccups.
Individuals who use a search engine, such as Google, to find a particular department or individual in Metro government will find that clicking on the resulting link leads them to an Internet dead end — a message on the Nashville.gov site reading “Sorry, we could not find the page you were looking for."
That’s because with the new look came new URLs — essentially, a new address — for each of the sites thousands of pages. Search results on engines such as Google or Yahoo, however, are ordered based on the prevalence of a particular link. For that reason, the link produced for a search of “Diane Neighbors Vice Mayor,” for instance, will lead one to a URL for the old site, which no longer exists.
As a result, five years of links to various sections of the Metro site are now broken.
“It’s what happens when you move from one platform to another,” Keith Durbin, Metro’s chief information officer and director of Information Technology Services, told The City Paper Friday. “You expect that.”
Durbin said automatic redirects were put in place for the most frequently visited pages, like those for employment opportunities and the police department. As for the rest of the site, he said it’s just a matter of waiting for links those pages to unseat the old ones in various search engines.
“This was expected and we’ve done what we think is reasonable to fix it until the Internet catches up,” he said. “If we see things that are persistently problems we can address those kinds of things at any time.”
The old version of Nashville.gov, Durbin said, contained approximately 19,000 pages. Ensuring that links to those pages all redirected one to the new site was “just not practical,” he said.
“Those redirects are all manual, so you imagine how time-consuming that would be to put them in place,” he said. “So we’ve done them for kind of major things, and major sites to make sure that there is consistency there.”
More time would also have meant more money. As it is, Durbin said the software, hardware and consulting for the redesign cost $360,000.
As of early Friday afternoon, the site as a whole had experienced intermittent problems loading.
This morning, in a release announcing the launch, Dean’s office highlighted various features of the new site. They include:
• Enhanced search capability, offering search results which improve and give prominence to popular search results that visitors select.
• Improved interactive calendar with community and local government events.
• Interactive maps to find community attractions and government locations like parks, greenways and offices.
• Subscription tools for automated delivery of government meeting agendas by email or text message.
• Combined social media center to centralize social media offerings from Metro departments, agencies and initiatives in one location.
• Combined newsroom allowing for centralized press and media releases from many departments and agencies.
• Additional and easier to locate on-demand online services, including an online form to report comments and complaints to the Metro 311 Customer Service Center.