City Websites Compare and Contrast

I was asked for input on something DC related and to attempt to be fair in my expectations I looked at other cities’ and towns’ websites addressing similar issues. Looking at different cities sites on other urban topics of interests there are different things that pop out. Whether a city is good at communicating or addressing one or another thing through their web presence could be related to a whole host of things. Regardless, lets take a look.

I use DC.GOV for a lot of things, mainly looking up tax assessments. I tend to ignore most of the top and scroll down to “Popular Online Services” and “Online Services”. Why these aren’t closer to the top beats me. It seems the most popular things relate to cars, as in finding the DMV, paying parking tickets and locating a towed car. Those are the things the people want. The only thing near the top that I have any mild interest in is a reminder that the Mayor’s call center number is 311 and the location of free Wi-Fi hotspots.
What is at the top that is useful when I’m not looking at assessments are the tabs “DC Guide”, “Residents”, “Visitors” and such. This s where I go to take the long way to the DC Council, MPD, and other agencies I don’t visit often. There are sections under the umbrella of DC.GOV that I really like, others that have lots of room for improvement, and others that seem pointless. Instead of getting into those I want to move on to other city’s sites.

I have to admire the entrepreneurial spirit of the right hand frame of this site, labeled “Make a Payment”. This is a city that knows it can make money providing its citizens services. You can pay and view police reports and deeds. You can pay your water bill, gas bill, parking tickets, and pay your taxes by clicking a link on their homepage.
Also on the home page on the left hand side is “Help Me” which looks like “Help Us Help You.” Its links let you report a pothole, illegal activity, fraud, etc.

I had high expectations but this site has a whole lot of room for improvement, starting with the URL. What it lacks in sophistication it makes up for in simplicity.
Moving on.

Who knew the S.I. Ferry Schedule was in such demand? But it is, along with getting birth certificates, and paying your property taxes. Though not at the top, the most popular items don’t require scrolling to get to. Because I’ve been looking at individual NYC departments’ and agencies’ sites, the home page for the city government doesn’t even hint at how great those sites are. Like Chicago, the home page is a little bit of a let down.

Boston CityofBoston.Gov
Here students get their own friggin tab. The Student tab links you to city information you need to know if you’re a student moving to Boston. You can find out about housing, pets, what to do with your car, etc. In some ways the Boston site is simple and requires a good amount of scrolling, but the feeling I get from the site is, “Hi, I’m Bahstan and I’m here to help.”

Taxes don’t seem to be popular as I can’t find on the home page anything about tax assessments or property taxes. But you know what’s popular? The Live 911 Dispatch.

Lastly or this will be too long
Los Angeles
Hate it. Slow loading, and once it did load the characters were too small and the home page was too busy. Oh and look at that URL.

So far my favorite is Philly. Something about “Block Party Permit” on the home site that makes me think the city can be fun, and encourages the citizenry to organize a good time.

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