The town of Middlefield has upgraded its online presence. Since mid-June, a new website has served as a gateway between the town and the public.
Designed by PurpleDog, a web design and publishing company based in Killingworth, the latest www.middlefieldct.org is a clear improvement over the old version.
The former website for Middlefield did contain information such as a town calendar and contact listings, but was user-unfriendly and infrequently updated. That home page contained a statement that agendas and minutes were not required to be posted on-line and directed the public elsewhere for news.
The old color-coded calendar was frequently wrong and the names of several town officials were misspelled. The old website was a frequent target of jokes and criticism among members of the media and even town officials.
Peg Scofield, CEO and creative director of PurpleDog, said the previous version was “a little dated.” The old website had a lot of information, Scofield told the Town Times, but “You just had to keep clicking.”
The bare bones website became a minor issue in the last campaign for Middlefield First Selectman. Candidate Marianne Corona pointed to the shoddy town website in her announcement. “It’s very frustrating not to have a town website to access information,” Corona said.
The new version is sleeker and more professional-looking.
Scofield said she wanted to make the website “simple and easy to understand.”
“The goal with any website is to make the navigation intrinsic” so people can find what they are looking for, Scofield said.
Since the launch, according to Middlefield First Selectman Jon Brayshaw, “We’ve had a couple of nice compliments.”
Now visitors can find downloadable 2014 minutes for town boards such as the Board of Selectmen, Planning and Zoning, and Parks and Recreation. Town budgets dating back to 2010-2011 also are available under the Board of Finance page.
Brayshaw said he is reluctant to have meeting minutes up on the website until they are approved, which usually does not happen until the subsequent meeting. “If the minutes are approved, I think we can put them up,” Brayshaw said.
The calendar is larger and prints the names of the boards and commissions instead of using a color-coded system. More information, such as agendas, locations, and hours, is available by clicking on the calendar event.
The upgrade cost Middlefield $5,000, including design, domain registration, installation, and training. According to Brayshaw the ongoing costs will be “minimal.”
The website will be staff-maintained, meaning new content will be added by departments working through the Town Clerk’s office.
Content for the town calendar also has to go through the Town Clerk. “Unfortunately, when you open things up to the public, you open it up to the wide world of spammers,” Scofield said.
There are other limits to the Middlefield website, such as accepting payments. “Some towns issue dog licenses, hunting licenses on the web. I don’t think we’re prepared to do that quite yet because we don’t have a way to collect money,” Brayshaw said.
Other towns even accept tax payments through their websites. “In a perfect world you should be able to pay those things online,” Brayshaw said.