Sunday Special: that toddlin’ town, Chicago!

Today I’m reviewing the City of Chicago’s municipal website: http://egov.cityofchicago.org

Transparency:  I was excited when I found the City Council page and it said, “City Council Webcasts.”  I clicked on that link and it told me that the next meeting would be on Jan. 13th 2009 and I would be able to watch video live stream.   That’s better than New York but when I looked for an archive of city council meeting videos, I didn’t have any luck.  You have to watch the video live.  However, there is a webpage for the “City Council Journal of Proceedings that provides awkward access to all the City Council meetings back to 1988.  “B+”

Feedback:  They have a “311” service that allows citizens to report a variety of problems.  The interface isn’t very intuitive or friendly but it’s functional.  The city doesn’t advertise this service.  There is nothing on the City’s homepage to suggest you can make a complaint.  I only found this page by putting “pothole” in the search box.  The first result looked promising but then I had to back up several screens to find the “311” service allowing me to enter my information.  “B”

Richness of Information: I spent a few minutes navigating through the “Department of Consumer Services” and found it lacking.  There are lots of navigational pages with little content that lead to pages with little content.  For example, when I clicked on “About DCS” it took me to a page with three links, “Overview,” “Website” and “Industry rules and regulations.”  I clicked on “Overview” and it provided me with a sentence that basically said, Department of Consumer Services assists consumers with their services.  Not helpful. “D”

Transacting business:  It looks like you can apply for a new business license from the City of Chicago but the process is cumbersome.  You have to fill out several screens to create a profile in order to qualify for conducting business.  Since I’m not a resident, I couldn’t go through the process.  “B”

Overall:  Compared to New York City website, the Chicago site provides more information on City Council activity and the webcast of the meetings is a plus.  It also allows citizens to perform transactions like obtaining business licenses on the web.  The search function is good which is important because the navigation is poor.  There are too many unnecessary navigational pages.  It take a several unnecessary click to drill down to the desired information.  Also like New York, the city is weak on interactivity, can’t see other citizen comments about information or engage with the site. “C+”

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