Facing the Sad Truth: UTOPIA's New Website Sucks as Much as the Old One

There really isn’t any nice way to say it. UTOPIA’s new website is about as bad as the old one. Updates are infrequent and hard to find. Some sections available on the old site have never materialized on the new site. And playing sound the minute the page loads violates Web Design 101. The new site is the same as the old site, just with a fresh coat of paint. I say this in an open forum not just to complain more loudly, but because I think UTOPIA could use suggestions from all of us. Here’s my list.

Get rid of the new website. Replace it with a real CMS like WordPress or Joomla. Custom themes for either rarely go over a grand and both systems are very easy to update. As a bonus, the built-in RSS functionality ensures that we stay up-to-date without having to go back and pick through the site a few times a month. That’s really irritating.

Update it frequently. Task someone with updating the site at least twice a month. More frequent is better, but I’m figuring you need to start with a low bar. An inactive website makes it look like you have an inactive organization. That doesn’t help the oft-repeated myth that UTOPIA is dead. Post anything. Press releases, maintenance announcements, success stories… it really doesn’t matter so long as it’s topical.

Purge the superlatives and marketing-speak. There’s stuff posted up there that’s either technically inaccurate or just plain loopy. Examples: “You also own your UTOPIA”, using “you’re” in place of “your”, “until the speed of light is surpassed”. It’s kind of sloppy and I’m sure that you can get a few guys in the office to cook up something a little better.

Be more open with data. Hiding data doesn’t help, it hinders. When the UTA, “Reason” Foundation, or any the other anti-UTOPIA entities speak up, we’re usually left with a bag of nothing in defense. Provo, for all of its failings, did a great job of providing regular and accurate data so that everyone (including myself) could measure the performance and offer up suggestions. On that note, I would strongly recommend getting it together on the service checking tool. It’s been well over a year since you started on it and plenty of other businesses have such features. The missing minutes from the board meetings are also a big black eye.

Get social. There’s no fan page on FaceBook and no Twitter account to proactively respond to complaints. This is 2009. Take the time to setup and use these tools. They may not reach the majority of your audience, but they make a world of difference in terms of image.

Have some suggestions of your own? Drop them in the comments section.

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7 Responses to Facing the Sad Truth: UTOPIA's New Website Sucks as Much as the Old One

  1. jasonthe says:

    I would definitely like to see updates from the UTOPIA crew(s) on facebook and twitter.

    I hope they take your advice.

  2. mlane says:

    Any online communication to residents goes a long way. I read from one of your postings,new provider Prime Time Communications set up a blog so customers have ability to stay informed.

  3. Paul Cutler says:

    Jesse — I couldn’t agree with you more. The UTOPIA website is the main face of UTOPIA. Because it never gets updated, and you can’t actively see & query where services is available (like other more mature municipals fiber sites), people think that UTOPIA is not progressing.

    Image is everything….and like it or not, the website is UTOPIA’s image….a little bit of flash up front, but no substance or details behind the flash.

  4. I was actually going to post on this, but you’ve beaten me to it. I wanted to see if my future residence is covered by UTOPIA, but even that couldn’t be done by simply typing in an address or etc. It’s really bad.

  5. Jesse says:

    VoU: If you fill out the form on their website, they’re likely to get back to you. It’s functional if quite inelegant.

    As a funny aside, I get a call about every other month from some random person looking for information on UTOPIA. The latest was today. That’s a pretty serious PR failure.

  6. Capt. Video says:

    Personally I believe PART of this failure (the overall failure to know how to present (web site, PR, advertising), position and sell voice, video and data services stems from a failure on UTOPIA’s part in hiring people who have had experience in doing this very thing while working for a cable or telco company.

    I also think it spills over to getting things done in the field. What better experience for getting UTOPIA installs done (cost effectively without having to fire all the union guys and face a law suit) than someone that has managed installs (scheduling crews, managing in home install problems, etc.), someone that has done that very thing (manage installs) for a cable or telco.

    There is no difference in the over-all process and little difference in the actual install. Running a phone or cable line is little different than running a fiber or cat5 line, to, or in the home.

    I believe they have few people with that type experience and perhaps none with actual video experience…thus the slow addition of video to their service offering? Perhaps too many data guys spoil the soup? Or at least they “flavor” the soup with one flavor when they need a variety of flavorings?

    But that is just the perhaps slanted opinion from an old cable guy? To be taken with a grain of salt?

  7. PersonaNonGrata says:

    Same old ‘Song & Dance’ from these jerk-offs.
    You do a great job here Jesse, but the brain-trust there @ Utopia are still gonna operate the way they want to , and that’s that.
    Half-truths, insinuation , finger pointing and complete non-disclosure are the only recipe these guys know.

    At some point, I hope the member cities finally awaken and demand Steak…..not just the Sizzle !

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