Three City Websites That Make Us Want to Visit
City websites that primarily serve residents are generally not given the aesthetic attention of say, the convention & visitors’ board, or the economic development site designed to attract big business. They’re still often the online equivalent of watching paint dry in a painfully bland color. It doesn’t have to be that way, though. We stumbled across three city sites that make us want to go stand in their lines. After all, once you’ve got the new business here, their employees will be your residents, so it makes sense to carry the experience all the way through to the end.
Incidentally, we were surprised that some of the most sought-after destinations in the US had websites with zero appeal – or usability – for their year-round residents. Names will be withheld to protect the innocent…
No. 1: Chattanooga, TN
Our CEO visited Chatt-town for an event and happened across the city’s beautiful – yet highly functional – municipal services website. Incorporated user-generated content as the background for each page, every single page, from the home page to permits, treats you to vistas of the Tennessee River snaking through downtown, charming neighborhoods, and mountain peaks. While the actual layout of interior pages is fairly regular, small touches like semitransparent backgrounds for text in the sidebars allow you to enjoy the scenery while keeping essential information legible. We spent several minutes just watching the images scroll through as we planned our next office field trip. It definitely helps that Chattanooga is so close to the Atlanta metro, so we’ll be up there soon!
No. 2: Panama City, FL
“Gorgeous!” was the consensus when we came across the professional images and easily navigable layout of the Panama City website. There’s plenty of information here for new, established, and future residents alike. The inclusion of a community discussion board almost stole crowd-favorite status from our beloved Chattanooga, but it doesn’t seem to be very active yet.
No. 3: Denver, CO
Denver’s website is much less photocentric than our other selections, but it shines with a clean layout and municipal services grouped by audience via plain-English titles: Neighborhood, Business, Visiting, Government. There are indeed great images on the site, but they take a definite back seat to getting business handled quickly. If you’re into information and transparent government, you’ll also find easy access to data on municipal payments, crime, and more through the city’s Open Data site. Also, we were happy to note that “Adopt-a-Pet” is the very first option in Top Services – front and center on the home page.
It’s certainly possible to combine visual appeal and artistic sensibility with solid function and a valuable user experience. These municipal websites certainly prove it. Go ahead and check them out. We’ll be here planning our trips.