Study finds cities' Web sites lacking

Study finds cities' Web sites lacking

Wilson P. Dizard III

GCN Staff

SEPT. 19—Major U.S. cities generally are stuck in the first generation of Web-page design, according to the author of a new study of electronic commerce in the 26 largest cities.

'We have not yet approached the concept of a virtual city hall or a virtual courthouse,' said Kay Cecil Spearman, president of Spearman, Welch & Associates, an e-commerce consulting firm in Fort Worth, Texas.

'Cities aren't doing very well,' Spearman said. Most of their sites are about five years behind those of the private sector in sophistication, she said. They present what she called brochure-type Level 1 sites that simply display information, rather than building transactional Level 2 sites that would allow residents to pay for permits, schedule inspectors' visits and conduct other business online.

Spearman's study analyzed the Web sites of 26 cities in seven categories: advertising, messaging, ordering, permits, payments, publishing, and home page/overall site design. The study covered Web sites active during May and June.

Seattle's Web site ranked first in the study, followed by the sites for Charlotte and Mecklenburg County, N.C.; Los Angeles; Portland, Ore.; Jacksonville, Fla.; Austin, Texas; San Diego, San Antonio and Indianapolis.

Columbus, Ohio; Baltimore; El Paso, Texas; Memphis, Tenn.; and Philadelphia, in descending order, were ranked at the bottom.

'Cities seem to resist providing information on their Web sites when they are currently charging for the cost of printing it,' Spearman said.

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