Tara Calishain is the co-author of Official Netscape Guide to Internet Research, 2nd Edition, and author or co-author of four other books. She is the owner of CopperSky Writing & Research.
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A long time ago — well over a year ago, I believe — I did a 50 states tour, looking at the different services that various state Web sites were offering. It was an enlightening look at how differently each state treated the Internet; I found amazing offerings in places I would have considered unlikely.
It’s too early to revisit the fifty states, but for the next five weeks we’re going to take a look at the fifty state capitals and see what kind of products/services they’re offering. We’ll start with Alabama.
AL — Alabama — Montgomery
You know a city is proud of its history when you get a capsule of it on the front page. I now know more about Montgomery history then I ever did before. On the right you’ll see quick demographic facts and weather facts. On the left you’ll find links into the heart of the site.
Resources include links to the state Web site, job openings, the local newspaper, and a fine arts museum. The city department links include a link to the zoo, parks and recreation, technical services, and the police department.
The middle of the site is devoted to the latest headlines and the aforementioned history of Montgomery.
AK — Alaska — Juneau
I’m reasonably certain, even this early, that most capital city Web sites don’t have Web cams. But Juneau’s does! The middle of the front page also features a shot of what’s said to be “one of the most beautiful state capitals in the
The front page is sparingly laid out. The right is devoted to headlines white the top of the page devoted to major categories including city links, state links, and community links (extensive but unfortunately not annotated) as well as
a calendar and job openings. There’s also a link to two Juneau Web cams as well as a gorgeous array of photographs.
The left part of the page contains links to city departments and services, calendar, and a weekly update about the city. There’s also a box of links for information about the site and local information including area maps and a tide
schedule. Nicely organized; no frills but lots of information. Well done.
AR — Arkansas — Little Rock
Some city sites are moving away from using the .us address and into using addresses like Little Rock’s. Good for them, since it’s an easy to remember URL. Bad for us, since it’s harder to tell what’s an official Web site and what’s not.
Like Juneau, Little Rock has a newsletter (theirs is in PDF format, though.) Little Rock also makes several city services accessible from their front page. You can link to elected officials (nice page for information on and contacts
for elected officials) as well as information on city departments and services. I was getting ready to wax enthusiastic about the neighborhood resource center until I noticed that the front page was still advertising something with a deadline of last March, as well as seminars that took place in 2000.
Don’t forget the right side of the main page. You’ll find a brief but useful list of e-government links there, as well as employment information and a calendar. The “News” links provides contact information for many media in Little Rock.
AZ — Arizona — Phoenix
I like the colors on this site. And I’m starting to see a pattern — city news on the far right of a page. Is there a manual of city Web sites I don’t know about?
But no matter. The middle of the home page provides features like travel tips, and a link to site information in Spanish. The left side of the page provides links to departments and services. A small e-services page lets you find your council district, check on the status of a permit or apply for one, and purchase DUI and accident police reports.
The city maps and city phone book (also available from the front page) are nicely done, but I found myself a bit confused by the “word search.” The first thing I thought of was a word search puzzle. But when I looked at it, it turned out to be a keyword search for the site. I think I might change the wording there, possibly to “Site Search” or just “Search.”
CA — California — Sacramento
Sacramento’s page makes me think of California. It’s colorful, it’s breezy, and you can translate it into Portuguese. No, scratch that last one. I must admit I was a little nonplussed by the row of translation links across the bottom of the home page, but the more people can read it, the more useful the site.
This site has a sense of fun. Check out the monthly fun tidbits (which don’t seem to me to have anything to do with Sacramento) and the mystery spot (identify a streetlamp!) Sacramento has good business information, too. The City of Sacramento Departments and Services link list is excellent, as is the visitor and business information.
Check out the maps and the sister cities page (after seeing the sister cities page, I understand why there are so many translation options on the front page.) And check out the very overt last changed date on most of the site’s Web pages. Well done Sacramento.
CO — Colorado — Denver
Again with the multiple translating options! You’ll be pleased to know that right now it’s 54 degrees in Denver. Anyway, The official site for the state’s capital has news on the right and special features on the left. Denver’s giving out $100 at random to residents who participate in the city’s recycling program – cool! If you don’t want to visit the site you can sign up to receive news by e-mail.
Below the news and features is a menu of city offerings. The Neighborhoods link provides information on everything from ‘Johns’ convictions to zoning and includes recycling information, libraries, polling places, and neighborhood
organizations and services.
The online services link puts a lot into one page. At the top of the page are databases you can search (business personal property, city ordinances, restaurant inspections, etc.) while at the bottom are forms from Assessor to the Treasury.
CT — Connecticut — Hartford
Hey, a four column layout! And a greeting from the mayor! And a calendar of events in the far-right column. This time the news — or, in this case, press releases — are in the second column from the left.
The first column contains links to services, but describes them from the point of view of the visitor, i.e, “I Want To” — find a day care center, contact police, search city job openings, etc. I like this because I think it’s good for
search engine indexing, but I admit it’s sometimes not helpful if you’re just browsing or you’re not sure what you’re looking for.
Be sure to check out the community information database. Here you can browse or search notes of city council meetings (back to 1996!) or browse or search for community groups.
This site wins my award for most-populated left column. There you’ll find citizen’s services, business services, the major’s office, D.C. council, city government, and visitor information. There’s a nice mix here of primary and sub- heads; it makes the menu items (which include licenses and permits, local business information, social services, and job opportunities) easy to read and understand.
Check out the text menu close to the bottom of the page. There you’ll see options for an alphabetical directory by topic that also lets you do a keyword search. Handy way to find phone numbers. There’s also a nicely-annotated D.C. agency list.
DE — Delaware — Dover
Dover’s Web site is a bit on the minimalist side, but that’s okay, there’s still plenty to see here. At the top of the page you can see the seal of Dover, as well as a link to find Dover on a map.
Public notices are in the middle of the page, while calendar and weather links are a little further down. There are hyperlinked pictures of the city council and the city hall at the bottom of the page, but that’s all they are — pictures.
No, it’s the top of the page where all the information is. There you’ll find city services, a brief but useful list of local links, a bulletin board with meeting meetings from 2002 and 2001, a nicely-done contact list, and employment
opportunities. If you want to search the site, you’ll have to do it from the front page — I didn’t see search forms on any of the other pages I looked at.
FL — Florida — Tallahassee
Some Web pages you look at and you know that there isn’t much going on. Someone might look at it every now and again but nobody’s taking a lot of time in it. And some pages you look at and you know that someone’s spending a lot of time tweaking and updating them. There are no spider webs or dust
Such is the Tallahassee Web site. From the top of the page which advertises an interesting-sounding program called the Mercant’s Police Academy, to the full links on the left page, there’s a lot going here. The city news is at the
right side of the page, while the middle page has the aforementioned academy notice as well as quick links (including utility online services, driver information
system, and a place to report potholes) and some city information links (learn how to get a tree planted in your area, get bus and holiday schedules, and keep informed about sales tax updates.)
The left page has the services links, including job opportunities, an online kennel (dogs and cats up for adoption — put your mouse over the picture of the cat on the main page and see what happens) city officials, and a nice city links list. Somebody’s putting a lot of TLC into this site; well done.