Big Cities (population >200,000)
Denver, Colorado (population: 554,636 ) Clean, crisp – yet still sophisticated – front page includes city news, succinct menu, and efficient search engine. There is a lot of info here, and it’s easy to find. Denver’s site offers more searchable databases than any other we’ve seen – from executive orders to real estate foreclosures, restaurant inspections and campaign finance contributions. There is a lot of emphasis on safety-related issues, including but not limited to disaster preparedness, that goes above and beyond the norm. In addition to imparting a “we care” message, these features empower citizens to preserve their own health and safety. Through the About Denver pages, users are just a few clicks away from an extensive listing of links to city departments, agencies and services, listed in alphabetical order or classified by the city’s organizational structure.
New York, New York (population: 8,008,278) Hats off to this web site, for granting accessibility and manageability to the biggest city in the country. While its government might be the most intimidating by virtue of size, the web site brings government closer to home with a variety of notable features. Much like the City itself, the site offers so many attractions it’s hard to know where to start. On the home page, the scrolling “NYC Right Now” headlines keep interested parties abreast of current news, notices, and events, while the My Neighborhood tool (a searchable database) provides specific local information. From subway maps to live traffic cameras, restaurant inspection reports, permit requests and apartment rental guidelines, the site is full of information and interactive tools. At the same time, the site boasts a classy, sophisticated style befitting its big city image.
San Diego, California (population: 1,223,000)
A repeat performer that has earned Top Pick status over the past several years, San Diego proves that staying on top means not resting on the laurels of the past. The City continues to add features to its web site, including a brush management guide and database of unclaimed parking citation refunds – two very specific examples that illustrate the depth and breadth of materials on this web site. The appealing home page manages to impart a plethora of information and links, yet remains uncluttered, and invites online visitors to browse through its widespread contents.
Tucson, Arizona (population: 512,935)
Taking a portal approach to its charismatic web site, Tucson provides a categorical style subject index, with buttons for quick links to popular features like e-services. This format not only makes it easy to locate specific content, but invites users to browse through the wide variety of materials. The City offers e-services galore, and provides excellent coverage of financial information.
Dover, Delaware (population: 32,135) The unique look of Dover’s home page is the first signal that this is no ordinary city web site. A front-page listing of current local stock prices enhances the business-like style of this web site, which also conveys a sense of hospitality through welcoming photos, an online customer service center, and a focus on community. Unique features include a pop-up screen that returns search results and a database of Ceremonial Documents (achievement awards, congratulatory letters to residents, and the like). This site earns an “A” for originality, content and format.
Fairfield, Ohio (population: 42,726) Obviously well-planned and well-maintained, Fairfield’s web site employs a nice use of graphics, with a consistent format throughout its pages – a pleasant touch that lends cohesiveness to the whole site. All the information is here, easy to find and to use. Perfect example: financial information via Annual Report or CAFR – each one click away by way of the site’s search engine. Its home page provides access to notable features, including today’s news and events, an online poll, updates on current town projects, and a handy City at Your Fingertips section that provides quick links to popular pages. Residents can pay their utility bills and access many online services here; Users can even file a small claims court grievance, register their bicycle, request a home fire safety inspection and transact other government business through this laudable web site.
Lufkin, Texas (population: 32,709)
The City’s obvious ongoing commitment to its web presence certainly pays off, as this terrific web site continues to evolve. The site underwent yet another overhaul this past year, and its current form encompasses daily updates, more online services, and webcasts of meetings and special events. Don’t miss the Media Presentation about the City, with a welcoming message from Mayor Bronaugh, historical account of the city’s formative years and a virtual tour of Lufkin today. In addition to other city videos, Lufkin’s web site is full of detailed, wide-ranging content – there’s even a guide to area bird-watching and real-time rainfall data! Impeccable maintenance and continuous improvements put this site in a class of its own.
Northville, Michigan (population: 6,459) Fantastic web site for a city of any size, but particularly notable for a town with a population under 7,000! The site is very up-to-date and offers a wide range of comprehensive information along with sophisticated e-gov services – including a live online help desk. Other helpful features include procedures for appearing before a city board or commission, city auction information (when applicable), and a wealth of online forms.
Weymouth, Massachusetts (population: 54,379) This town’s support of its web site – evidenced by the number of residents who nominated it – is impressive but not surprising given the excellent quality of the site. The site evokes a strong sense of community, with unique features such as residents’ testimonies of “What We Like About Weymouth,” photos of a recent city Valentine’s Day party, an impressive collection of community links, a town scholarship application, and Weymouth trivia. Its section devoted to Kids and Teens is terrific, full of great resources for the next generation. The site also contains “meat and potatoes” fare including the town charter, local ordinances, and financial statements.
Des Plaines, Illinois (population: 58,720) This site’s smooth layout is not only appealing, but also allows for easy navigation. As the cursor runs over each section of the site, it brings up an explanation of the respective content. Depending on their areas of interest, users have the opportunity to sign up for one (or all) of three city e-mail lists. The site contains helpful emergency-preparedness materials as well as an informative section on homeland security. The “online reference desk” is like a mini-library, with access to links, forms, directories, newsletters, press releases, public notices, and maps. While the site does contain bond statements and official bond statements and continuing disclosure documents, adding annual financial information to the site would round out its contents and boost it to “full” Top Picks status!
Fairfax County, Virginia (population: 1,004,435) Current and comprehensive, this site has it all. Along with online payment capabilities and other e-government services, Fairfax County makes great use of its home page as a vehicle for disseminating current news and announcements. When there is an urgent message to get across – e.g., when county offices were closed due to a water main break – residents are informed right away on the site’s front page. In the “About Our County” section, the site also provides great county profile information through a treasure-trove of interesting facts and detailed statistics – all in an easy-to-digest format.
King County, Washington (population: 1,737,034) “Always at your service” is this site’s tag line – and it fits! This site provides scores of opportunities for interaction (including service delivery), along with an abundance of informative content. In addition to traditional menus along the top and side frames of the site, the home page highlights several noteworthy features in key categories such as news, transportation tools, emergency resources, and several others. The In Season section of the site provides timely tips and information matching the time of year.
Maricopa County, Arizona (population: 3,200,000) This site covers all the bases – from extensive information to updated news and aesthetic appeal – but goes beyond the standard fare to offer several great finds. One such laudable feature is a “how-to” guide that offers tips for navigating the site depending on the user’s preferences and purposes for visiting. Also notable is the Service Spotlight, which highlights one county department, agency or service on a bi-weekly basis. County Trivia, which rotates every time the home page is reloaded, is a lighter-side feature that lets the user test their knowledge of county history, customs and other local facts.
Montgomery County, Maryland (population: 873,341) This comprehensive web portal provides one-stop shopping for news, information and county services. Its efficient design complements its focus on customer service, by offering visitors many intuitive routes to locate specific content along with a impressive variety of e-gov services. A winner in last year’s Top Picks as well, the County has consolidated dozens of department and agency web sites into the portal over the past year – an ambitious endeavor that, according to the County, is 80% complete. The results of this project go beyond a consistent look and feel to the site; citizens no longer have to remember multiple URLs or know which department provides what service. We particularly like the site’s County Services Locator, the ability to pay library overdue fees or reserve a baseball field, as well as the helpful InfoTip (and archives) on the site’s home page.