You can see it here, or at www.le.utah.gov.
The page is the months-long work of several dozen legislative and IT staffers and the Legislature’s IT web hoster.
“The goal,” says Ric Cantrell, Senate chief of staff, “was to restore the broken functionality, take a complex site with multiple streams and make it easy.
“The new site is more intuitive; we have bills, laws, fiscal notes and audits” – or basically all the information that the Utah Legislature puts out and considers.
While behind the scenes the site is quite complex, outwardly it is simple to see and move around in, says Joe Pyrah, chief deputy of the Utah House.
While the pair helped oversee the redesign effort, they are quick to give credit to other staffers and IT employees who did the heavy lifting.
The redesign didn’t cost the Legislature anything over the time of their own employees doing much of the work.
For those who use various features of the Legislature’s web site already, you’ll notice that as you use the new web pages to move around initially, once you drill down to, say, the bill page, it will be the same page (with a few updates) that you have used for some time.
The key to the new site is that it flows and moves more quickly.
“The new site looks classy, it is modern,” said Cantrell, who is credited with bringing the Senate’s own site into modern look and capability eight years ago.
The new site was brought online now so that users, and the legislative staff, can have two interim days – October and November – to trouble shoot before January brings the 2013 general session.
In fact, at the bottom right of each page in the new site is a place for users – like citizens, lobbyists and the media – to comment on how that page, or any other, can be better presented and/or point out any troubles found.
“Some fixes can probably be made in minutes, or a few hours,” said Cantrell. Other issues – as long as they don’t cripple a page or function – will wait until “legislative site 2.0” is redesigned in a year or two.
While the new site may be great, and a real improvement over the old site, Pyrah and Cantrell say they won’t be satisfied unless the new site can be changed and updated.
“We don’t want to wait another five or six years” to implement a whole new look and function, but keep up with technology changes on a regular basis, said Cantrell.
Some regular legislative site users may recall that a workover early last year resulted in live streaming problems at the start of the 2012 general session.
While problems for folks outside of the Capitol were resolved rather quickly, it took several weeks before citizens using the Capitol’s own Wi-Fi could live stream committee hearings or floor sessions and/or get access to bills and other critical information.
“Nobody felt that panic more than Joe and I,” said Cantrell.
“We’ve done a lot of work to make sure that nothing like that happens again,” said Pyrah. “We’re pretty sure – cautiously happy – that it won’t.”
Said Cantrell: “The citizens own what we do here. We are responsible to them. This is a tool in their hand. They have to be informed (about the Legislature and its actions); we have to make this work.”
“We want as much feedback as possible,” said Pyrah. “It’s the people’s site, they should shape and refine it. We’re happy to hear any suggestions,” critical or otherwise.
“There’s been a revolution in technology,” said Cantrell, “in the way citizens can retrieve and share information.”
Cantrell, kind of a democracy/technology nut, added that it was the belief of the Founding Fathers that citizens be fully involved in their government.
“If this doesn’t sound too loony, (electronic web technology) will eventually be a full on win for the continuing American Revolution.”