A review of the Internet’s best state Web sites.
By Erik J. Heels
First published 11/2/1996; Martindale.com “Legal Links”; publisher: Martindale-Hubbell
Designing a compelling Web site for a state is a very difficult task because of the different – and often competing – goals of the site. Those states that have been successful have designed their sites to balance the needs of the site’s target users: state residents, businesses, students, tourists, and even legal researchers. The challenge of designing a site to meet the needs of different users also applies to law firms, who must cater to clients, potential clients, and student interns, to name a few. Enjoy, and see you on the Net!
1. Utah. Utah obviously takes the design of its Web site very seriously. It starts with professional graphics and continues with a design that contemplates who will be using the site and how. The feedback page, for example, is not merely a form; it guides the user through the process. On the home page, users immediately learn that the Utah Code is now online. And I love the name of their search engine: YeeHaw! (http://www.state.ut.us/)
2. Alaska. It’s not easy for a state Web site to catch and keep your attention, but the “Top 10 List” on Alaska’s home page was an immediate eye-catcher. Click on that link and you’ll see a automatically generated list of this site’s top 10 pages. Very cool. And when I visited the top 10 list, the Alaska State Legislature was on the list. This site also has a simple functional design with a search form on the home page. (http://www.state.ak.us/)
3. Oregon. One click on “Government” and I immediately found the Oregon Revised Statutes. This site is organized simply and functionally. And the home page graphics are beautiful. (http://www.state.or.us/)
4. Connecticut. What I like about this site is that the major areas of the site are defined and briefly described – in short, easy-to-read paragraphs – on the home page. This helps eliminate guess work from your browsing. The site also includes a search form on the home page. (http://www.state.ct.us/)
5. Texas. Texas takes a different approach from most, putting lots of links to subdirectories on the site’s home page. The approach is similar to Connecticut’s and works just as well. (http://www.state.tx.us/)
6. New York. What jumps right out at you is “Tax Amnesty: One Chance for a 2nd Chance.” Can you guess who is the intended audience of this site? There is also a state government page that is very poorly organized, but with a little work (and the simple “find” feature built into most browsers – check your browser’s menus for details) you can find what you’re looking for. (http://www.state.ny.us/)
7. Illinois. This site uses simple professional graphics in a well-designed clickable image-map on the home page. Legislative information is easily accessible from the home page. (http://www.state.il.us/)
8. Florida. This site, the Florida Communities Network (FCN), has won lots of awards, and it does have good useful content. But I spent a long time trying to figure out exactly what the FCN is – and who runs it. Is this the official site of the State of Florida? That the site uses URL redirection (so that when you click on http://www.state.fl.us, you are instead taken to http://fcn.state.fl.us/fcn/3/index.phtml) only adds to the confusion. Every site should answer the basic reporter questions (who, what, where, when, how) up front. (http://www.state.fl.us/)
9. Virginia. The home page employs an eye-catching postcard-like motif. And the “quick index” is a useful site navigation tool. (http://www.state.va.us/)
10. New Hampshire. Here is a prime example of how state Web sites cater to different audiences. The home page contains links to the state lottery and liquor commission. Can you say “live free or die”? (http://www.state.nh.us/)