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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Greetings! This week we’re going from New Hampshire to Rhode Island. And some great news — we found the Boise site! We’ll cover it next week as this series concludes.
Just a note — some of the sites covered this week had splash pages. I’m trying to get you to the most useful information as quickly as possible so I’m skipping the splash page URLs and giving you the direct information URLs.
NH — New Hampshire — Concord
I really like a site that, when you turn the style sheet off, doesn’t look substantially different and imparts just as much information as the original site — especially when there’s as many links as there are on this page.
News about the city (like the current snow emergency) is in the middle column. The right side of the page links to “City Highlights” including Code of Ordinances and a community calendar. But it’s the top and the left side of the page that have the most useful links.
Across the top you’ll find several very general links like employment, city government links, and a calendar (including a link for printing — nice!). On the left you’ll find more specific links, including an online services link (includes
a news article index, an obituary index going back to 1998, and several different forms and applications) and city directory of phone numbers, several different maps (including snow plow routes!) and a link list consisting of several topical drop-down menus. Nice work.
NM — New Mexico — Santa Fe
From the nicely-done city of Concord, I want to give Santa Fe an “I” for incomplete. The page title of this page is “New Home Page – 3”, the only image with an ALT tag I can see on this page is the hit counter, and the page is wider than my screen.
Because of that, I might miss the “What’s New” documents on the right side of the screen, some of which are PDF documents and Microsoft Word documents. Above that you’ll find a link to a site on visitor information and a link to information about mayor Larry Delgado.
In the left and middle columns of this page you’ll find the information links. There’s contact information for the mayor and city council, links to city services (I think “traffic calming” sounds like a great idea), city zoning codes, a
phone book, and employment opportunities. There’s some good information here but I’d revamp the site a little bit — ditch the background image, put a “last-updated” note on the front page, and add a page title to the front.
NJ — New Jersey — Trenton
Ah, virtual Trenton, where less is more. And you sure can tell it on this Spartan front page with a minimum of text and graphics. Actually, I like this front page; except for the top menu bar all the text is good sized and easy to read (they could use some ALT tags, though.)
Okay, let’s see what we’ve got here. There’s a nice outline-style site map as well as a site search powered by Atomz. In the middle of the page you’ll find several links, including city government (leads to a page with a drop-down menu of several different links) a citizen information center (another drop-down list as was as a brief FAQ) city services, and a history of Trenton.
If you want to get the latest information on Trenton, you want to use the “Trenton News and Events” and “Press Information” links. I wish that the news and events listings had dates on them, and that they weren’t on a drop-down
menu. This site makes it a little more difficult than it should be to get to recent information about site changes.
NV — Nevada — Carson City
Can’t go wrong with a site that has a quote from Mark Twain on the front page! Actually you can’t go wrong with a site that uses text for its menu links and thoroughly alt-tags everything.
The linkage at the left and the bottom of the page looks to be identical; the middle of the page provides information about Carson City itself. The links include a bright yellow emergencies link (with links to various emergency services and a PDF city telephone directory) a “citizen’s center” which includes several forms and documents for download, a special projects page, and a jobs page.
There’s also a search page, a meeting agendas page (that makes agendas available in Word, PDF, *or* WordPerfect — nice!) and a translation page that allows you to translate the site into a variety of languages including Chinese and Portuguese. I’d like to see more recent site news on the front page, but overall this is nicely done.
NY — New York — Albany
I keep forgetting that New York is not the capital of New York, but this Web site will help me remember. Albany’s site is very nicely done (except they need ALT tags.)
To the far right are city news and announcements complete with dates. In the middle of the page are notes about various city features, including a welcome note from the mayor and the 2003 Albany budget.
visitor information, and downloadable forms. Niiice.
From the top of the page you’ll get general link lists — for citizens, for businesses, a “where can I” page, and a big ol’ link list. At the top middle of the page you’ll find two drop-down menus, for city departments and citizen
services. The citizen services will tell you about everything from general business information to what to do about water in your basement.
But the rest of the page has lots of links too, grouped topically. There’s a general link list, a citizen list (budget, phone book, calendar) business list (city zoning code, city telephone directory, etc.) and a “Where Can I” list (leading you to view accident reports online, send suggestions to the mayor, and get income tax forms.) I like all the links from the front page and appreciate that so
much information is instantly available, but it’d be nice to see new and updated icons beside some of the links, letting frequent visitors see what’s new.
OK — Oklahoma — Oklahoma City
Oklahoma City, I like your tabbed navigation. I like the news on the front page. I like the thorough search box over on the left. I hate the teeny text. I thought this was Oklahoma, where the wind comes sweeping down the plain. Why
should I have to squint?
No matter, I’ll just turn off their style sheet and enjoy. On the right side of the page you’ll find new city newsblips and information, including information on the new budget and new trash pickup rules. The middle part of the page also
includes news, including holiday display information and a chance to send e-mail to the crew of the USS Oklahoma City.
On the left side you’ll find some quick links handy for the average citizen, including bus routes, city jobs, and municipal codes, but you’ll find a lot of additional information across the top of the site in a series of tabs. There’s a tab for city services (alphabetized by topic), mayor and city council information, contact information for a variety of city departments, and a document library. You don’t often see tabs used for navigation on city sites, and I don’t see why — this works very well.
OR — Oregon — Salem
Contact information right at the top of the front page and popup menus that work fine in Opera. Woo-hoo! Unfortunately, the links at the top and bottom of the screen don’t work. Drat.
The links at the top and the bottom of the screen are the same, and they’re for a city calendar, departments, information about the city of Salem, a city services page (mostly a big list of phone numbers) and a link back to the
home page. It’s the links on the left of the page that have all the details.
There you’ll find pop-up menus set up under several different topics, including City Government (meetings this week, the mayor, task forces), community development, community services, the fire department (with firefighter Bill and Sparky!) the library (with a nice historical photographs site), police departments (including crime location maps and statistics) and public works. Plenty of information here in a nice, clear format.
PA — Pennsylvania — Harrisburg
I have a confession to make. I looked everywhere for the city of Harrisburg site. I found things that looked like 3rd party sites, but I couldn’t find the official one. I finally came across the URL above, which was put together by The Harrisburg Downtown Improvement District Authority and was the best thing I could find.
Anyway, here you’ll find information about downtown, of course, but you’ll also find a menu across the top of the screen that’ll give you information about Harrisburg, including churches, schools, publications, organizations, sports, teams, transportation, and a calendar that unfortunately has nothing on it. If anyone knows where the “official” Harrisburg site is, could you please drop me a note?
RI — Rhode Island — Providence
What can you say about a state capital that has its OWN CLOTHING STORE! Yes, you too can own a groovy Providence Polo Shirt, a hooded sweatshirt, or even a hat.
Oh, and there’s city information here too. On the right side of the front page (under the note about the clothing store), you’ll find site highlights, including a pointer to the new online Code of Ordinances, a collection of online postcards
(not e-postcards), and a collection of photographs of the interior and exterior of a Soviet Juliett class Submarine (now available for tours!)
On the left side of the page you’ll find more mundane city information, including city government (with a speech archive going back to 1999), calendar (looks like events for just January and February at the moment) useful links (including a list of antique shops in Providence) and a section on useful information to have if you’re moving to Providence. Wins my award for the most eclectic city site I’ve seen so far.