Site unseen

Site unseen

Dear Ace: I hear that the City of Charlottesville keeps getting awards for its website, yet I cannot even locate basic recycling info on there. What’s the deal with these
contests? Are they a field of one?—Marie Internette

Dear Marie: You heard right. This fall, was given the Pinnacle Award by the National Association of Government Webmasters (NAGW, or “Nag-wuh,” Ace supposes), a nationwide consortium of webmasters and designers. The NAGW is a nonprofit organization that, far from reviewing a field of one, looks at about 400 of these sites every year and decides which is the best based on quality of design/usability, programming and innovation. Not only did Charlottesville’s site sweep its category (“Small Population: under 100,000”), it also received the highest overall ranking of any site in the country.

There’s plenty to obtain on the Charlottesville website, but be careful: A wedding license is just one click away from a bus pass.

Who cares, right? Prestigious though it may be, what use is a coveted Pinnacle Award if the average user still has trouble navigating your site? Ace clicked over to to check out your complaints.

While the site was occasionally unintentionally amusing—check out the “I want to…” drop-down box, where registering for a marriage license is just one inadvertent click away from reporting a burnt-out streetlight or getting a bus pass—overall, it seemed pretty easy to navigate. Still, Ace sees where you’re coming from: Ten minutes of searching turned up a form for requesting a recycling bin, but if you want to know what you’re allowed to put in your new recycling bin, God help you. Similarly, Ace defies you to find anything about regulations on leaf collection beyond the
collection schedule.

But let’s not be too hard on the City’s website. It’s hard to deny that what’s there is easy to access and looks right pretty. As for what’s not, well, the site’s only been around since the end of May. City spokesman Ric Barrick explains online, “Our commitment is to make our new website even easier to use, more multifunctional, and a world class tool for information gathering and service.” Basically, if there’s something you want to see on Charlottesville’s website, don’t forget that it’s your Internet, too. Move your mouse cursor up to “I want to…”—being careful not to accidentally apply for a business license—and let ‘em know what you think.

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