Posts Tagged ‘municipal websites’

San Jose City Website

April 19, 2009

Transparency:  Like many cities, you have to search to find videos of the city council meetings.  They aren’t available or linked from the City Council page.  You have to know to click on “open government” to find the video archives but at least they have them. “B”

Feedback:  There are a few opportunities to provide feedback to the city about plighted property, abandoned vehicles and an online police report.  Not only is it a pretty limited set of items but you have to guess that you would find them under “Online Forms.”  “C”

Richness of information: They have a very comprehensive section for the planning department include the ability to search and apply for permits online.  You need to register with them to access the permit application section.  They also have extensive information about various aspect of the building process including substantive areas such as plumbing, electrical and mechanical but also process information as well.  My only criticism is that it could be easier to find a link from the home page.  Instead, you have to go through city departments to find it.  “A-“

Transacting business:  There is a form “Registration Form for Business Tax” that can be filled out online but has to be submitted by mail or in-person.   There is a link from the home pages for “business information” and from there its pretty easy to find the form and other information about registering your business with the city.  “B”

Overall: San Jose is in the heart of the Silicon Valley and given its access to cutting-edge technology, I was surprised at how average the website is.  They aren’t particularly strong on providing interactivity for various aspects of doing business with the City but they do have a fair amount of information.  I didn’t find the website that easy to navigate either; you are frequently taken off the main URL and its not always clear where to go for information from the home page.  “B-“

City of Atlanta Website

April 12, 2009

City of Atlanta:

Transparency: Atlanta handles videos of it City Council the right way; they integrate the videos of council meeting with the agendas and minutes.  Its all together under one tab.  My only criticisms are that the label “legislation” is misleading as agenda meetings aren’t the same as the laws that are passed.  I would use the term “Activities.”    I also think that having the council pages on a separate website where its difficult to return to the municipal website’s homepage is a mistake as well.  B+

Feedback: Not much here.  There is a good form to report a pothole.  There is a tab for communication but its all one way; what the city wants to communicate to its citizens and not the other way around.  “C”

Richness of information:  For information about building permits for both residential and commercial, the website is quite weak.  For business permits there is simply a page with links to various approved permits and for residential permits there is a page that discusses the hours of the department.  They do not provide much information about types of permits or what’s required to obtain them. “D”

Transacting business:  It was easy to find out about apply for a business license from the “How do I” pull down on the homepage.  The link provides the forms but they must be filled out off-line and mailed to the appropriate city office.  “C+”

Overall: Atlanta’s municipal website is a mixed bag.  Decent navigation and transparency but not a lot of useful features or information.  Its time for a nice juicy site overhaul.  “C”

Oakland City Website

March 1, 2009

Since I’m moving here today, my report card is hardly academic!

City of Oakland

Transparency:  There is video of City Council meetings.  There is a calendar that lists meeting dates, whether there is an agenda and video.  All good.  The only improvement I would suggest is to under the homepage link, “Council Agendas & Minutes” to place the calendar directly under that that link.  “A-“

Feedback:  Like all the city websites I’ve visited there is no ability to publicly post questions or concerns so other citizens can read them.  However, at the homepage they have a link called, “Report a problem/Ask a Question.”  And it take you to a form with relatively straightforward questions and they tell you that you will receive a call or email within a few days.  Check boxes include: trash, dead animal, graffiti, barking dog, abandoned vehicle and more.  “B+”

Richness of information: The homepage provides directional navigational links rather than subject-oriented links.  There are four choices about residential, business, visiting Oakland and a link to city services.  There is also four drop down menus that include city department, frequently visited pages, online services, finding a document.  I used the drop down for city departments to find the business permits section which was pretty easy.  But the page itself was disappointing.  No sidebars or links to other pages just long paragraphs of text laidout against an annoying background of a visual of the city.  “C”

Transaction business:   It wasn’t easy finding out what you needed to register as a new business in Oakland.  In fact, I found it under the “Finance and Management Agency” and its a PDF form you have to download that includes instructions.  There is absolutely no information about types of business that need to register, fees, how to pay, what you get or anything.  There isn’t even a phone number to call.  I shouldn’t have to download a form to receive basic information.  “D”

Overall:  This site is a mixed bag; containing strong homepage navigation, a good City Council calendar, a decent feedback form with poor internal navigation and extremely weak content and layout.  The website desperately needs a relaunch.  The busy background has to go and the crude looking pages harken back to the early era when pretty graphics and scrolling text were new and exciting.  Earth to Oakland, the world’s moved on.  “C”