To say that Austin’s revamped municipal website is “impressive” is like calling a giraffe a tall animal. Austin didn’t just introduce a few new features and fancy up the fonts on its website to call it a redesign. Hardly. While content still reigns as king, this website also combines format and functionality, placing it in a category that we believe will set the standard for other city websites.

Content. When a site is full of great content, it’s hard to know which to highlight, but we’ll give it a try, and call out our favorites. The “Environment” tab as a top-level menu item – alongside “Residents,” “Businesses,” “Development,” and “Government” – shows that the website speaks to current concerns and priorities. The Environment section of the website  provides current environmental news, drop-down menus of city services that are environmental in scope, a carbon footprint calculator (how cool is that?!), and, currently, a video about underground salamanders.

The City’s financial and bond-related content is located within the “government” section of the site, but is easily accessed via the site’s search engine. Current and archived financial reports, citizen survey, performance measures database, approved budgets, proposed budgets, an online budget forum … no stone unturned here.

Format. A clean and uncluttered background sets the stage for an easily navigable website. Most information and features are accessible in a variety of ways, all very intuitive. But “clean and uncluttered” does not mean vanilla. The site uses tasteful graphics and videos in just the right doses to keep things colorful.

The “Development” section of the website provides an example of how Austin can take one broad category, and break it down into menus geared toward different audiences/purposes – in this case, residents (fences, residential design standards, etc.), businesses, developers, and builders.

Functionality. The site’s search engine works, and works well – something that, unfortunately, cannot be said for all municipal websites. Search results are pertinent, and returned in logical order. Users can click on an event included in the City’s calendar to access more details about a meeting, class, or special event to access more details and even a map. The site is full of unique features and interactive tools – from the interactive Art in Public Places map to a Crimeviewer application and an online food handler safety course.

Feedback. Last, but not least … Austin is very proactive in inviting feedback from users of its website – so much so, that a “feedback” button appears on the righthand side of every page in the site, asking users to help point out any “bugs” in the new site. In an intro to the redesigned web site, Austin’s Communication Office says, “Your feedback will help us create the best municipal website in the country…”

We think Austin is well on its way.

Has your city or public agency recently redesigned its website? We’d love to hear about it! Contact Mardee Alvaro, editor via this link.