New City Website

The City of Charlottesville has launched their new website at The new site directs users to resident, business and visitor sections, and certainly looks a lot nicer. With the old, less-useful website, it was sometimes a little hard to take the city seriously when they talked about “building bridges to the 21st century” and “e-communities” and such. Kudos to whoever put this together.

6 thoughts on “New City Website”

  1. I’m perhaps not as keen on the new site as you are. While it does divide the content between resident, business, and visitor, it doesn’t do much else. I’m not saying the old site was great, but I don’t think the new design is an incredible improvement.

    The main problem with the old City website was primarily one of structure and consistency from one section to the next. The new design does not address this. Basically, what we bought was a “pretty frame” for an “ugly picture.”

    And I’m not thoroughly convinced that the frame is all that good to look at….

  2. Toby,

    Ease up there Toby! We are still moving content and building interfaces. The new navigation was intended to get a user to the information they were looking for quickly. The number one critique we were trying to answer was for an improved navigation method.

    I thank you for the ‘pretty frame’ compliment though. We are indeed changing the frame site to a single page format in the near future. This was a difficult task: take a site with an overwhelming amount of information and dress it up and change the navigation at the same time! How would you have done it?


    Ralf Mann

  3. Ralf, I’ve got to say that I’m always weirded out when a site immediately asks me to categorize myself. I immediately wonder what I’m missing out on if I choose any particular category. (Especially if I’m going to the site to accomplish a particular task that doesn’t necessarily fit within a particular grouping.) If I’m going to the site to get a link to, say, UVa’s football schedule, am I a visitor, or a resident? As a downtown resident, I want to know more about the parking situation. Am I a business, or a resident? (Turns out that I’m a business, if I want that information.)

    Forced classification of users often results in the perception that the user is missing out on something. It is a great method of simplifying site development, but often proves to be a less-than-ideal site usability standard.


  4. I’d agree with Toby. Here’s why:

    • The front page has way too many images, many of them really unrelated to information (I really don’t need to see Charlottesville spelled out by a bunch of letters)
    • There’s no search engine on the front page. And change the search interface.
    • Call me old fashioned, but I like the old Yahoo-esque drill down menu format. Putting all of the options big in the center of the page, with categories organized in different ways, so you can find items by who you are (resident, visitor, business) or what you want (information on public transportation, official city forms, etc).
    • You can’t even get to the city council minutes from a link off of the city site anymore! You have to *search* for them.
    • The webmaster link doesn’t work, either.
  5. Shouldn’t matter. Any one section can be linked to any combination of the other sections(i.e. Dogwood Festival should be under Resident and Business). I understand that you may perceive you may be missing something, but what’s the trade off? Having to mull through 1203 extra unrelated links? Come on folks. The reality is there are hundreds of ways to skin a web site, which one is right is the one that has the least cost in compromises. We chose this one with the understanding that we would get flack from everyone who ‘knows better’. You’ve started your own business. Ever heard the phrase, “You know what you should do is…?” I am seriously looking at your suggestions, but understand that you are in the minority based on all of the positive responses we have been getting. Please keep the comments coming, and please don’t take my remarks personally.



  6. The site is not complete. We have scheduled the conversion to take well over six months. Most of your comments are in the works already. We are very grateful for any other items you could point out to us.

    As far as your preferences on searching, well…we all have our preferences and we can’t please all the people all the time (at least not with the budget we were given).

    Who are you?


    Ralf Mann

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