Detroit municipal website review

City of Detroit

Transparency:  Detroit does make past City Council meetings available on video.  They also make agendas available but I couldn’t find minutes of past meetings.  There are a few navigational challenges starting with the City Council having its own website that’s not integrated with the municipal website.  The video link is a sidebar that requires lots of paging through if you are looking for older videos.  There is a calendar but the videos aren’t linked.  “B-“

Feedback: Online services are limited to submitting and inquiring about police complaints.  The complaint form is fairly straightforward but its unclear what happens after you hit “continue.”  More questions? Or will you be informed about the process once the submission has happened?  “C-“

Richness of Information:  I went looking for building permits and first, I wasn’t sure what department; planning? no.  Then I searched for permits and the search results were worthless.  I couldn’t tell what kind of information I was getting.  Then I searched on city departments and clicked on “Buildings and Safety Engineering Department.”  I still wasn’t sure what I would learn about building permits but they had a link to “Building codes/construction” and bingo, there was lots of great information about permits.  I would like to give Detroit a better grade as they have good information about the permit process but getting a building permit is a basic city function and it should be a lot easier to find this information on their website.  “C-“

Transacting business:  Its much easier to find out about obtaining a business license and the necessary steps involved.  From the link “Business” you are given another link “business licenses” on the sidebar and that page has a wealth of good information about the steps involved and relevant links.  Unfortunately, a business can’t register for a license online however, the page explains where to go and the number to call for that information.  “B+”

Overall:  There is a lot of good information on the Detroit City Website and they are upfront about what’s available and what isn’t.  For example, once I clicked on “Online Services” its clear that they don’t provide too many and not much reporting at all.  However, there is good content in the business and planning sections.  They have loaded lots of reports and useful information for residents and businesses.  The navigation needs an overhaul as does the very poor search function.  Get rid of “mission statements” on department homepages.  People want relevant content and functionality.  If you want to provide a link to the mission statement, that’s fine but don’t make me read it when I come to your department page.  I want help not buzzwords.  “C+”

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