Easthampton city website will be redesigned with more online public documents coming soon
By CHRIS LINDAHL
Tuesday, January 12, 2016
(Published in print: Wednesday, January 13, 2016)
EASTHAMPTON — The city will launch a redesigned website in the coming months that officials believe will be easier for residents and visitors to use.
Mayor Karen L. Cadieux said that officials will also try to increase the number of public documents available online as part of a related effort.
Cadieux on Jan. 7 signed a $6,140 contract for the design and maintenance of a new website with Web-tactics Inc., the 83 Main St. firm owned by Janel Jorda. The work is projected to be completed by the beginning of February, according to the contract.
The new site will replace the city’s current aging one at www.easthampton.org/, which several residents interviewed Tuesday said is difficult to navigate and hard to find important information.
While the website’s plans do not directly call for making more public documents available online, city officials say they are working to rectify the absence of meeting minutes and other documents on the web — which is largely due to staffing constraints.
Barry Small, the city’s systems administrator, characterized the new website as a refresh.
“We are redesigning what we currently have in our website, not adding a host of new functions at this time,” he wrote in a document supplied to the Gazette by Cadieux.
Web-tactics will move all existing material onto the new site, which will include an improved meetings calendar, expanded FAQ section, expansion of some department sections, a citizen feedback box and information on “what our city has to offer as a destination location,” according to Small. The site will be optimized for mobile devices.
Online bill payments will be offered, as will assessors’ property information. Officials are also in the process of rolling out a streamlined permitting process, aided by new software. Applications for permits eventually will be able to be completed online.
The city currently posts meeting agendas on its website, but does not upload minutes or other documents, including the mayor’s proposed budget. Small said he’s working on increasing the number of documents available online. “That’s a high priority,” he said.
Small now stands as the only member of the city’s computer department after a part-time staffer was laid off. That person used to post agendas online, but now the task is up to Small.
And Small said he is talking with city officials about collecting meeting minutes in a more uniform and timely manner, much as agendas are collected. Agendas are due in the office of City Clerk Barbara LaBombard by 3 p.m. Wednesday and then handed off to Small.
The $6,140 website contract includes $5,000 for site design, $120 for a year of hosting and $1,020 for a year of maintenance, which will be paid for from the city computer department’s annual budget.
The contract was awarded to Web-tactics after Small considered a $12,298 proposal from Kansas-based firm CivicPlus, which specializes in government websites.
Web-tactics offered the city a 50-percent “nonprofit” discount, cutting its $11,140 price in half. According to state law, city contracts under $10,000 do not need to be advertised or go out to bid.
Cadieux said she celebrated the choice of Web-tactics because it saves money and allows the city to “buy local.”
She said that the website upgrade is minor compared to the $35,000 initiative undertaken in Northampton in 2013. That process included the formation of a special advisory committee, the solicitation of bids and a final design by CivicPlus.
“This is a day-to-day operation,” Cadieux said. “The funding is just part of (the computer department’s) regular budget, in the same way that he (Small) is over at the Public Safety Complex doing software upgrades.”
Councilor collects comments
While no public forum was held on the site redesign, City Councilor Jennifer Hayes informally collected comments from residents, according to an email she sent to other officials in December.
Among the suggestions included in Hayes’ email were posting weekly construction updates, the full mayor’s proposed budget, meeting minutes and city news.
Residents interviewed Tuesday at Tandem Bagel and Shelburne Falls Coffee Roasters were not concerned about the lack of documents. Several mentioned they were frustrated by the site when trying to find answers to simple questions.
“It was really, really hard to find who to call to get my trash taken care of,” said Heather Salazar, who moved to Easthampton last fall.
Salazar eventually figured out who would haul her rubbish after consulting “several people.”
She added that she would like to see a section on the new website highlighting the city as a cultural destination, an idea that is in the works.
Resident Elise Swinford, who has lived in the city for five months, said she remembers being frustrated navigating the site to find information on local utilities, such as which power company services the area.
“That was really difficult to determine,” she said.
In addition, she suggested that the city focus on making the new website more user-friendly and having pages filled with information geared toward specific populations, such as the elderly and people with families.
Chris Lindahl can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Web-tactics, inc. owner Janel P. Jorda voted Outstanding Business Person of the Year
November 25, 2015
The Greater Easthampton Chamber of Commerce announced the winners of their annual 2015 Business Awards. Web-tactics, inc. owner, Janel P. Jorda was voted Outstanding Business Person of the Year. Other awards include Web-tactics' client Duseau Trucking for Outstanding Business of the Year, and Greg Malynoski, Look Memorial Park & Garden House for Outstanding Community Service Person of the Year. Awards will be presented on January 21, 2016 at the Chamber's Annual Meeting and Awards Dinner.
Northampton Police Department launches new website with focus on community outreach
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on August 27, 2015 at 2:30 PM, updated August 27, 2015 at 2:31 PM
NORTHAMPTON -- The Northampton Police Department has revamped its website for the first time in seven years with an interface much easier for visitors to navigate, according to Police Chief Jody Kasper.
The new site features drop-down menus, a carousel of photos and prominent information tabs that delve into the department's mission.
Kasper said the site caters to three main demographics: Those who are looking for quick information, like phone numbers and access to reports; people trying to learn more about the department, such as its history and mission; and prospective officers who may want to work with the force.
"They can really figure out if they could be a good fit with us," Kasper said of the last group. "We like to think we're a pretty progressive, excellent department, and leaders in the field when it comes to how to police today."
As a result, the "employment opportunities tab" is splashed in bright red at the top of the page, along with "department phone listing" and "forms & reports."
A drop-down menu titled "community services" delves into the department's efforts to connect with the community, with information on Northampton High School's new school resource officer, community outreach and liaison officers and the citizen police academy program.
Kasper said having an updated website that reflects the department's goals is crucial.
"It's our opportunity to say what we want to say about our police department, and provide the public with a detailed and thorough a glimpse of what we do," said Kasper, who was sworn in as chief in June.
Visitors will also notice a new tab called "commend an officer," which allows community members to submit positive feedback on employees.
The site was built by Janel Jorda, owner of Webtactics in Easthampton. Jorda, who also worked on the last redesign, took most of the photos featured on the homepage. The work was done for free.
Check out the new site here.
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Northampton PD launches user-friendly website with modern look
By EMMA KOLCHIN-MILLER
For the Gazette
Wednesday, August 26, 2015
(Published in print: Thursday, August 27, 2015)
NORTHAMPTON — The Northampton Police Department launched a new website Tuesday, which Police Chief Jody Kasper said is more modern and user-friendly.
The site features new graphics, drop-down menus and pictures, and reflects the new community programs and positions the Police Department is introducing.
“Our old site was good, but we wanted to have a look to represent the new leadership within the department, we wanted to make it more user-friendly, and we wanted to include a lot more of the new programs and new positions that we’ve introduced over the last few months,” Kasper said.
According to Kasper, the new site has much of the same information as the old one but is more user-friendly, with access to information of all kinds from the homepage.
Kasper said the site caters to a variety of potential visitors who may be looking for contact information, background on the department, program descriptions, and job opportunities.
Around four officers from the Police Department including Kasper worked with Web-tactics in Easthampton on the redesign, which took about three weeks. The redesign itself was free, Kasper said, though the Police Department pays the company $1,200 per year to provide network security, software upgrades and other changes.
Web-tactics also handled the last redesign of the department’s website, which was six or seven years ago, according to Kasper. Prior to that initial redesign, Kasper said the site was very old-fashioned, with fewer than 10 pages. The newest version of the site has over 70 pages, she said.
Visually, Kasper said the new site has a more modern look and has new pictures that reflect the current Northampton community and Police Department.
To view the website, visit http://www.northamptonpd.com/.
Web-tactics adds new "Value Added" Services to their long list of Web Development Services!
After we design a website for a client, we are often asked to provide other (somewhat related) services, such as managing e-mail marketing campaigns, creating various reports, and updating online stores. With these types of additional service requests in high demand, Web-tactics decided to offer new Value Added Services so that we can offer our clients even more value for working with us. We know our new Value Added Services will only help with developing a long-term relationship with our clients - and that benefits everyone.
After Easthampton webcam gains fans, business donates two to police department; civil liberties lawyer says move raises questions
By CHRIS LINDAHL
Saturday, February 14, 2015
(Published in print: Tuesday, February 17, 2015)
EASTHAMPTON — Over the last few weeks, Easthampton people from down the street and across the country have been enjoying the view of the intersection of Main and Union streets broadcast from a webcam perched in the window of Web-tactics.
Janel Jorda, owner of the Main Street web design firm, installed the webcam in her window Jan. 26. The high-definition view shows Big E’s Supermarket framed by Mount Tom and quickly became popular after it was publicized on “Easthampton 01027 The Good News Page” on Facebook.
So popular, in fact, that Easthampton Police Detective Dennis Scribner came into her office just a few days after the video feed went live.
“The clarity on it is really cool,” he said. “It gave us the idea for monitoring problem intersections.”
After seeing how interested Scribner was in the camera’s possibilities, Jorda offered to donate two of the $400 Dropcam Pros to the department.
“I was so excited that they were embracing new technology,” said Jorda, who lives in Northampton. Donating the webcams “makes me happy, because I completely appreciate police.”
However, an attorney who works in civil liberties said the use of the cameras for such broad surveillance raises serious questions about privacy rights in Easthampton.
Jorda met with Scribner on Friday afternoon at the Public Safety Complex on Payson Avenue to install the webcam software on a department computer and to show the detective how to operate the units.
Scribner said he plans to place one of the cameras in an office at the Municipal Building aimed at the intersection of Cottage and Union streets and Payson and Williston avenues. The technology, he said, will be a great asset to policing.
“A lot of times with accidents, there’s two sides of the story,” he explained. “Having evidence to support the chain of events is always crucial to the investigation.”
The webcams can operate anywhere there is a Wi-Fi connection. Footage is stored temporarily on a computer before it is overwritten by new footage. Scribner said rolling back the footage will be especially helpful when there are no witnesses to an accident.
He said he was not sure where the second webcam will be placed.
Bill Newman of the Massachusetts American Civil Liberties Union said he wonders about the need for such broad, unrestricted surveillance over the busy intersection.
“How many accidents outside the Municipal Building with a serious question of liability have occurred?” he asked Saturday. “I am concerned about what appears to be the somewhat cavalier attitude with which we further create and accept a national security state in our local towns.”
Newman said even before regulations are considered, “the municipal government has to answer the question (of) what is the crucial public purpose being served for this invasion of privacy.”
He said it’s vital for the city to regulate how data collected from the webcam is used, who has access to it, when it will be deleted and how potential subpoenas for the information will be handled.
Service to the city
Jorda says she thinks her webcam gained popularity because people love Easthampton. “There’s no other place like Easthampton,” she said. In her view, the city’s blend of hard-working residents, artists and small businesses creates a friendly, vibrant community.
That affection lasts for people even after they leave.
Pat Brough, who operates the Good News Page, said people from Easthampton like to check in with the community long after they move away. Many of the 5,000 likes on his page are from people who no longer live in the city.
“This gives them a chance to see what’s happening live right on Main Street,” he said. “It’s a great view of the city.”
Jorda said she’s heard positive feedback about the webcam from people who have walked into her office or emailed her from far away. Some of those emails, she said, are from people who got the chance to watch the recent barrage of snowstorms hit their hometown from the comfort of their couch.
“It immediately became part of the community,” Jorda said. “I just did it as a service to the (people of) the city.”
As for donating two webcams to the police, Jorda said it was common sense. She said both her brother and father are retired law-enforcement officials, the source of her respect for policing.
“How could I not donate to them?” she asked. “I’m a big believer in karma.”
In celebration of her 10 years in business, Jorda said she has pledged to complete 10 good deeds. The donation to the police marks her sixth.
Previous ones included creating free websites for Riverside Industries in Easthampton and the Healthy Youth Coalition at Easthampton High School.
A new look for the new year! VisitNorthampton.net
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Celebrating 10 Years in Business!
January 22, 2015
It’s been an amazing journey and I’m so grateful to have you all a part of it. I’m so thankful for our great team who support our customers to reach their online marketing goals & help them move their businesses to the next level.
Without our dedicated team, Web-tactics wouldn’t be one of the prominent internet marketing agencies in the Pioneer Valley.
My friends often ask if I am proud of what my company has accomplished in these past 10 years? My answer is definitely a YES but I don’t feel like we did anything extraordinary. Our old fashioned hard work & thoughtfully developed websites combined with meaningful internet marketing campaigns made a huge difference.
We listen & we deliver what makes the best sense for our clients. That’s all we do each and every day.
- Very grateful & blessed,
Janel Jorda, President/Owner
Web design firm owner marks a decade in business, says she likes ‘hustle and bustle’ of Easthampton
By HANNAH WULKAN
Gazette Contributing Writer
Sunday, August 10, 2014
Photos: Kevin Gutting
EASTHAMPTON — In a world where information can be found at the click of a button, it’s easy to forget about the folks behind the scenes who make it that easy.
Janel Jorda, 48, of Northampton is one of those people, with her 10-years-old business, Web-tactics, offering web design services. She says her goal is to build, maintain and improve the sites of her clients.
For the past year, Web-tactics has been at 83 Main St. in Easthampton, located on Shop Row in a simple storefront with a large plate glass window with Web-tactics printed on the glass in large letters. The office space is comfortable and hip with hardwood floors, brick walls, and a couch area to meet with clients in a front room and workspace in the back. Jorda says her clients range from local businesses to international companies.
She moved her company here from its former home on Route 10 on the Northampton-Easthampton line exactly one year ago — and she says that it is the best thing she ever did. Since the move, Jorda says she has seen her business double, which she attributes to better visibility due to more foot traffic, and possibly better parking.
“Easthampton has become this incredible city, culturally and business-wise. Small and large businesses have moved in and are moving in all the time and its hustling and bustling,” she said.
She noted that the Easthampton business owners and the community at large were warm and welcoming, which only affirmed her decision to move there.
Jorda has worked with web design and computers for many years, though in larger, corporate settings. She began learning about the Internet in 1995 when she worked for Internet entrepreneur Seth Godin at his company Yoyodyne in New York, which Jorda said was one of the first companies to work with direct marketing, or communicating directly with the customer online. “He taught me everything I know and got me excited about the Internet,” said Jorda of Godin.
In 1998, Yahoo! bought Yoyodyne, and both Godin and Jorda continued to work there until the company closed its New York office. She then moved to Saint Croix in the Virgin Islands and launched visitstcroix.com, visitstthomas.com, and visitstjohn.com. She moved to western Massachusetts to work for Spaulding Sports Worldwide in Chicopee as global Internet technology manager, where she managed all Spaulding Sports websites internationally.
When Spaulding went bankrupt in 2003, Jorda decided it was finally time to strike out on her own. She launched Web-tactics in 2004, which she calls “a full service web development company.
“We do everything from web design to social media website hosting, social media management, search engine optimization services, graphic design, brand management,” she said. “We run the gamut.”
Web-tactics is unique in several ways, said Jorda, such as being one of the only Women Business Enterprise (WBE) certified web design companies in the Pioneer Valley. This is a program offered by the state to offer incentives for women to own their own businesses.
Getting certified “was tedious but was totally worth it,” said Jorda, as she has already had new customers come to her specifically because of her WBE certification.
Jorda said she strives to give back to the community, and offers a 50 percent discount to all non-profit companies. “Non-profit organizations are the backbone of this whole country, they do all this hard work but they always have the smallest budgets,” she said. “We wanted to give back to non-profits who do such great work throughout the United States.”
Jorda also donates some of her work time to non-profits that are near and dear to her heart. For example, she is in the process of donating an entirely new website and domain to Riverside industries in Easthampton, an organization that employs and assists adults with developmental disabilities. This is an important issue for her, she noted, because her sister is disabled. She is also donating services for a new website to the Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish in Northampton, where she is a member.
When working with clients, Jorda aims to accurately represent their business online. To that end, she meets with clients several times and often visits their businesses herself.
“I try to learn everything I can about their business, their needs, the crux of their business, and who their demographic is,” she said.
She said that web design has allowed her to find a creative outlet, and her favorite part of the job is speaking to customers who are incredibly excited to see a real difference in their business thanks to the website she built for them.
She explained that one of the most challenging aspects of her job is keeping up with the ever-changing trends in technology.
“I have to educate myself constantly and keep up on the latest trends across the Internet because they change all the time,” she said. “You have to be aware of it and get in there to make changes in it to benefit your clients all the time.”
Though Web-tactics is a one-woman shop most of the time, Jorda works with a team of about 50 independent contractors including programmers, web designers, web developers and graphic designers. This arrangement, she says, allows her to offer customized experiences to her clients while operating a thriving company.
“I see a lot of web development companies that open up their doors with a lot of glitz and glamor and big huge offices,” Jorda said. “Then they go out of business eventually because they spent a ton of money at the beginning.
Another company strategy, she noted, is to work with clients through the whole process. “We never leave a client, we don’t build a website and walk away, we are always there to support them,” she said.
Jorda works with local businesses and organizations including Urban Exchange in Northampton, the Northampton Police Department, and Taylor Real Estate in Easthampton, as well as with companies around the country and world.
Charles Miller, a local artist from Northampton, hired Janel about five years ago, and continues to use her services to update his website. He said he is not very good with technology, so for him outside help is essential.
“Follow up is the thing, knowing the person will be behind you if something goes wrong, which it always does, and Janel is.” He said that he is very happy with the website Jorda built for him because it touches on a whole cross-section of what he does, and at the same time is uncomplicated and very easy to see.
Linda Talbot, executive director of the Easthampton Council on Aging and Enrichment Center, said she called on to Jorda because she was worried about organizing the many programs and services they offer in a single web page.
“She made our website simple and organized and easy,” said Jorda.
Jorda said that as a woman in the technology business with a thriving company that has passed the decade mark she feels a sense of accomplishment.
“I feel really blessed about my longevity,” she said. “The longevity of my company, I think it really speaks for itself.”