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City of Toronto website still a mess years after it was supposed to be redone

With registration for Summer CampTO just around the corner, conversations surrounding the City of Toronto's online booking system have resurfaced once again. 

The city's Parks, Forestry & Recreation department has used the same online platform since 1999, and some are calling the website outdated, "clunky," and in desperate need of a revamp. 

According to the city's 2023 budget process, a new booking portal most likely won't be up and running until 2026. Some city councillors are coming forward to call the delays "unacceptable." 

In a 2018 report, the city said that the website operates on a software called Class, which presents challenges across mobile and other digital channels, causing staff to manually review and manage waitlists. 

The report also described the site's design and workflow as "not intuitive," and said the platform "feels dated." 

The website infamously causes the most headaches on registration days, with the report revealing that "the maximum capacity is the same during an average day as during peak registration periods." 

Jason Baker, director of business and technology transformation for the city's parks department, told the Star that the new site will eventually be rolled out in stages. 

"Residents can expect to begin using a version of the system in the initial phase," Baker told the Star. The second phase will introduce more functionality and improvements to the user experience. 

Alex Norman, tech entreprenuer and co-founder of N49P Ventures and TechTO volunteered three to six months of his time in 2016 to work on the website

Norman told blogTO that the city reached out to a few people from the tech or tech-adjacent community to help give an outside perspective on the approach they were using to modernize it. 

He said the greatest challenge the city faced was how to make the website more user-friendly, accessible, and a more pleasant experience in general. 

"One of the complications for the city was compared to most municipalities in North America, we offer a lot more services and have a lot more consideration to make sure it's equitable, which caused complications in getting something out of the box," Norman explained. 

"I'd say the majority of people that read blogTO or are in the tech ecosystem have mobile phones, and have high speed Internet connections. But the City was making sure that these services should be accessible if people don’t have the latest technology devices," he said. 

"I just think the difficulty here is the City of Toronto is unique in how it provides services and [the website] has to be quite customized," Norman told blogTO. 

Improvements to the portal are expected to roll out slowly and be fully implemented by 2026. So far, the city has already spent $17 million on upgrading the site. 

Lead photo by

City of Toronto

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