Extra, extra, read all about city websites

Diving the wreck of a website
Loitering and jaywalking on municipal websites lately, occasionally crossing against the light to peer into vacant shop windows. I need specific information about city recycling programs, holiday schedules, summer reading programs at public libraries, road construction, mosquito spraying due to West Nile virus, lawn watering restrictions, and printable trail maps.

Most city websites are as cluttered and visually appalling as highway shoulders before the Highway Beautification Act became law in 1965. Municipal attempts to communicate are negated by the equivalent of drifting highway litter and encroaching, overlapping billboards.

What does it cost a city or town to set up and maintain a  municipal website? My attempts to gain this information have been unsuccessful.

What does it cost a city to put up a poorly designed site that thwarts efforts to communicate information to current and potential residents? To reduce costs most cities overload  sites with information and hot links. They pile on the freebie clip-art images that twirl and blink while bombarding the eye with unrelated font families, clashing palettes, different layouts on every page, links that don't work, and dead-ends preventing an easy return to Home. And there's no place like

Help! I can't breathe! There's no more oxygen! City websites are like scuba diving inside a sunken submarine. No visual resting places, the slimmest of margins to squeeze through.

Time for a refreshing dip
If you need a good book on audio CD for a car trip, I really recommend Shadow divers : the true adventure of two Americans who risked evertying to solve one of the last mysteries of WWII, written by Robert Kurson. Read by Campbell Scott.

But if you just need good examples of government website designs, try some of the selections at Digital Government Achievement Awards and Best of the Web Awards given by the Center for Digital Government. A useful set of evaluation criteria for rating library websites can be found at the Outstanding Library Websites blog. The Sunshine Review presents Sunny Awards for transparency in government websites.

Please dear governments, simplify, unify, limit your palette and fonts. Keep in mind that the information consumer has only one tank of oxygen to navigate your site. Don't give that consumer the bends!

Some nice websites:

Wake County, North Carolina website

The Official Website of the State of Texas


Maui County, Hawaii, won a Sunny Award and was a Best of the Web finalist.

© 2013 Nancy L. Ruder

1 comment:

P Hatcher said...

You must be talking about CoP? I thought it was just me!