The Maryland General Assembly is previewing a revamped website for its Internet presence that has looked much the same since it was launched in the late 1990s.
The legislature’s information services staff plans on activating the new site next month, and is seeking comments and questions about the new site, using a feedback link at the bottom of the preview page.
MarylandReporter.com would like to publish your comments about the revamped site, although the site’s functionality is somewhat limited since it uses archived material from 2012 session. Send your comments to Len@MarylandReporter.com or post them at the bottom of this blog.
The preview says: “In developing the new site our goals were to:
- Make the site easier to navigate for all users
- Provide additional information
- Organize existing information so that it can be more easily found
- Modernize the look
- Make the site usable with all popular browsers and on all popular devices”
Important functions on home page
The site does appear to put a lot of important functions on the home page, besides adding a photo slideshow at the top. Many of these functions require multiple clicks to find on the current site.
These include the daily meeting times of House and Senate, the floor agendas, the daily synopses, the updated status of all legislation, and audio and video of hearings.
Two of the new features are a box for “highly searched” legislation – much like the “most popular stories” list on news sites — and a system that allows you to track specific legislation as it goes through the legislative process. But it’s difficult to assess how well the tracking feature might work because the new site is not live and the legislature is not in session.
There have been many complaints over the years about the Assembly website.
In another change improving the accessibility of legislative proceedings, wiring for audio and video streaming is being installed in the Joint Hearing Room in the Legislative Service building, now the oldest and largest of the hearing rooms in the State House complex. It is often used for some of the largest hearings on the most controversial bills.
I have testified at
great length on multiple occasions before the General Assembly’s transparency
committee on the proposed redesign of the website. My most recent testimony can
be found at http://isolononline.files.wordpress.com/2012/07/12-07-18-marylandgeneralassembly-testimonytojointcommitteeontransparencyandopengovernment.docx.
The basic flaw with the redesign is that it continues to give the General
Assembly too much control of the interface and the data. It’s also badly dated
in its data philosophy. For a more up-to-date philosophy, see
Other than that, it’s admittedly a great improvement. And if it were 2000 or
maybe even 2005, I’d say it was state-of-the-art.