A municipal website is a digital key to the city, a visitor's first encounter with its brand. It's important to get it right.
Sadly, while lots of cities worldwide get this message, a few still don't. Great websites are not high on the list of priorities for many municipalities, even some of the world's largest. (Sao Paolo, Brazil, I'm looking at you!)
A recent report from Gizmodo notes that crummy city websites have a common look and feel: Information is crowded and poorly organized; graphics are ugly. It's hard to find what you're seeking.
In contrast, cities doing it right also have things in common. Some of the outstanding sites provided by the world's biggest cities achieve the following:
Address the needs of users. When New York City recently redesigned its portal, it aimed to deliver what people were actually looking for most -- such as public information offered via phone number 311 about parking, school closures, sanitation, etc. Tailoring the portal to deliver key data has been an enormous change for the better.
Offer language choices. Check out New York's portal again. You can access this site in any one of 71 languages. That's ideal -- and relatively rare in civic portals. Too bad, since most large cities are also international meeting places. While London's portal is one of the world's very best, it lacks this feature, earning it a huge demerit.