The city of New Orleans launched a brand new website (nola.gov) consisting of a redesigned look and more streamlined pages. During the Nagin administration, the city implemented new features that allowed citizens to conduct more of their business online, such as paying parking tickets or applying for permits. While this was an added bonus, the website was sometimes very difficult to navigate and was in need of an overhaul.
As a person that uses the city website and as a web developer, I have the opportunity to evaluate the site from an average citizens point of view and also a technical eye. The very first thing you’ll notice is the homepage, which is much more user friendly. Blue boxes with white texts toward the middle of the page make it very clear to find the information you need. The city also makes it a point to make important information such as emergency info, city contracts, and current city news pop out at you.
Each of the different sections such as Residents, Businesses, and Governments are very straight forward when you visit the page. You are presented with a
bulleted list of links with more information. I was also happy to see that the website developers took some accessibility into account by giving visitors the option to increase the font size for better viewing.
While I was impressed with the overall new look of the website, I saw that there was still a lot of work to be done in the background. I noticed that there was minimal new features on the website and a lack of utilizing social medial. For example, aides to Mayor Mitch Landrieu promised an easily searchable database of all city contracts to replace an unwieldy version left from the previous administration. But when clicking in the Bids, Proposal, & Contracts button from the homepage it brought you to the old non-user friendly database system that the new administration talked about replacing.
There are links to the Mayor’s facebook, Twitter, and YouTube links they are being under used. At the time this article was published the Mayor’s facebook page has 149 friends, the Twitter profile has 24 follows, and holds only 2 YouTube videos. With the way social media was heavily used during the campaign trail and with city governments relying on social media to reach out to local citizens, I expected a lot more.
Where Do We Go From Here?
Kudos for the new look and making the page more user friendly but when you launch a new city website it’s important to come out the gate swinging with enchanted functionally. What can the city do to improve?
- Create a mobile version of the website with commonly used features
- Decrease webpage download times
- Have each department audit their information on the website to make sure it’s accurate and up to date
- Add an area on the website for visitors to report broken links, typos, or information that may be incorrect
- Create a social media strategy for the Mayor’s Office
Hopefully the re-branding of the city website is a great start for the Mayor and his team to engage citizens, become more transparent, and used new forms of technology to aid in city government processes.