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OMG. I broke David Orr's brand new website.

Not really. But I did manage to crash the laptop I was using to test the Cook County Clerk's new website, which is not yet live.
SOURCE: Cook County Clerk's Office
SOURCE: Cook County Clerk's Office
The clerk's office invited me to check it out during some testing sessions they recently set up. Market researcher Dona Vitale guided me through the site, including something that instantly caught me eye. web1 Of course, Jennifer Hudson (and other home-grown celebrities) is highlighted on the site because of the millions of archival documents, including birth certificates, which are under the control of the clerk's office. The "Sweet Home Cook County" feature is a more tech-savvy version of this slow-loading PDF on the clerk's current website. On to the elections section. Everything's all in one place - and one domain - on the site, unlike the clerk's current web set-up (where elections are split-off from the rest of the office functions). I decided to test how fast I could look up voter registration information. web2 Then Vitale said I should check out the maps of TIF districts. Bad news there, and I'm not talking about the tax money diverted to the controversial neighborhood development funds. web3 Oh, I just had to crash it, didn't I? (Apparently the new site will eventually rely less on PDFs.) I wasn't entirely destructive, though, providing comments about some scroll down menus, and a print button that was really small and in a nearly-invisible grey font. Trevor Layton, the clerk's web guru, was tasked with watching the tests all day from behind a tinted window, and jotting down people's observations and suggestions. I chatted with him after my session. layton All in all, it's a swank new site for the clerk. The price tag: $200,000, according to Orr spokeswoman Courtney Greve. That's just for the developer and does not count the time she and Layton have put in. She says it could save some cash down the line, though, as the communications staff won't have to go back to the web developer so often to change the site. But don't look for ads to defer some of that cost. (It's done now on the sites of a couple other county elected officials, Assessor Jim Houlihan and Clerk of Courts Dorothy Brown.) Greve says there are too many opportunities for conflicts of interest when you're talking about elections. Greve says the office hopes to have the new site live by Thanksgiving. That means it should be up and running well in advance of the February primary election, when it'll get heavy use by folks looking up election results. Just stay away from those PDFs.

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