May 5, 2003 12:58 PM   Subscribe

New York City's official website has been revamped. What are the good, and bad, models of a municipal site?
posted by liam (16 comments total)
According to this, the total page size: 77423 bytes (not including images, attached scripts or style sheets).
posted by sageleaf at 1:30 PM on May 5, 2003

Thanks liam, for the refreshing subject change. Municipes are things we can really get our teeth into.

I like my municipal pages to be fully interactive, with lots of complaining, question-asking and subsidy-soliciting instruments; minimum propaganda and maximum information. The Lisbon municipal website is unpretentious, useful and a good little weapon with a direct e-mail line and other goodies. You can fight City Hall!
posted by MiguelCardoso at 1:38 PM on May 5, 2003

I'm a big fan of the City of Boston site, which has everything from events schedules to online parking ticket payments. I think they have restaurant health code violations listings somewhere too. It's also easy to look at, navigate, and is somewhat unpretentious.

Observations on the NYC site:
- Save that colorful logo in the header as a GIF, so it doesn't look like someone soaked it in water before posting it online.

- What kind of picture is that on the lead story? Hire someone with some newspaper or ad layout experience to make some of these content decisions! (And if you're going to associate a picture with a story, go to the trouble of reprinting that photo with the full text).

- As for users' names and snail mail addresses in the subscribe section, so you can actually migrate people from print mail to e-mail for information from the city. This way, you can purge your print lists as time passes. It's taxpayer money, after all. :-)

I could go on, but this isn't metafilter web site critic's corner.
posted by VulcanMike at 2:13 PM on May 5, 2003

Un-exciting redesign redeemed by very cool bike map.
posted by Mo Nickels at 2:15 PM on May 5, 2003 How did they manage to get that?
posted by delmoi at 2:59 PM on May 5, 2003

Mohenjo-Daro. No dumb politicians, no bad cops, no social-service consumers, just the good stuff.
posted by jfuller at 3:01 PM on May 5, 2003

Wellington, New Zealand. Not too crusty, even if the slidy navigation thingy on the left is annoying.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 3:55 PM on May 5, 2003

Cool bike map de-redeemed by Java nav menu.
posted by nicwolff at 4:28 PM on May 5, 2003

About 99 percent of municipal websites are just plain awful. I'm the webmaster for the City of Coconut Creek, Florida (warning: sort of a self link) and I'm constantly amazed at why government organizations with so much valuable information to share dedicate so few resources toward organizing or presenting that information effectively.

The Center for Digital Government holds the premier state, county, and city government web site awards where they pick an annual 10 Best List. Most winners are terrible. But I've been told, at times, to "do what they do."

In most areas like engineering, finance and all the usual city services, the bigger cities are always the "leaders". I have to explain that the same does not hold true for web sites.

Usually, other cities and counties hire "tech" guys to run their sites rather than graphic artists, designers, information architects, writers or editors.

Part of it is their hiring process; they need their HR departments to hire people with "measurable" qualities. While an engineer can point to certifications, degrees and years of experience, those things either don't exist or are meaningless in the creative fields. That's why government brochures, license plate designs, most forms, and other publications look like an amateur did them - because they did.
posted by stevis at 4:45 PM on May 5, 2003

<nitpick>This is slick, 'cept for the gratuitous DHTML animation in the right sidebar. Why are the "NYC Right Now" headlines coughed up one at a time? The effect is sorta cool in IE, but in Netscape, the whole sidebar moves up a little along with the headline, then pops back down. How about a little scrollbar instead?</nitpick>
posted by andnbsp at 4:46 PM on May 5, 2003

The city of Seattle ( has a very functional, if somewhat bare website. My favorite parts are police crime data, comprehensive parks listing and a bunch of others.
posted by blindcarboncopy at 5:48 PM on May 5, 2003

Killer app for the City Of Minneapolis website: Snow emergency notification via email.
posted by mrbula at 6:04 PM on May 5, 2003

New Orleans has an excellent site (except for the Weather Channel bit).
posted by ajr at 6:44 PM on May 5, 2003

It seemed to me for a long time that many of the big city sites were not only bland, but barely functional, though things do seem to be improving.

Stevis, nice work on the Coconut Creek site. The whimsical part of me wishes you could make use of the butterfly alphabet.
posted by liam at 7:21 PM on May 5, 2003

Cape Town - Lots of documents but short on services.
posted by PenDevil at 2:25 AM on May 6, 2003

The City of Oakland site is surprisingly packed with information. Unfortunately, like the sites of many a government or corporation, it suffers from the worst sort of IA: orgchart-itis.

Each city department has its own little handful of pages, in some cases useful and others so worthless as to be laughable. Few city departments seem to have a grasp of the concept of "related services," taking responsibility only for informing the public about their micro-role within the spectrum of services and providing no useful navigation to departments which are conceptually nearby. This generally makes it difficult to pin down precisely which of hundreds of ultra-specialized mailbox-is-full voice lines to call for any given service.

For example, discovering the police non-emergency number proved almost impossible during one foray. It's not searchable because the page on which it appears IS ONE GIANT GRAPHIC COMPRISED ENTIRELY OF BITMAPPED TEXT. Sheesh, thanks Mr. Cop Content Person!

However, despite the general miasma of incompetence around the OaklandNet site it's surprising to find so much information available at all. Oakland is a pretty backwards town comprised chiefly of varying degrees of dilapidated ghetto and seedy industrial facilities -- that any effort whatsoever was spent to put information on the web is impressive.
posted by majick at 6:58 AM on May 6, 2003

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