Sites for Sore Eyes

I used to think that Dallas County and City of Dallas had ugly, hard-to-navigate Web sites because they were just pumped about bringing the government tradition of bureaucratic hassles from the real world into cyberspace. Now, I guess they just had bad designers, because both the city and the county have spruced up their online presences.

On Sunday morning, the city's site went from this offensively difficult-to-read homepage with an unnecessarily large graphic montage to this slightly more spiffy site with an actual sidebar. Ron Elkins, the city's senior manager of e-government, says almost the entire thing was done in house and that it was a crapload of work and--gasp--bureaucratic red tape.

"It's the city," says Elkins. "We spend 90 percent of our time going through committees."

City spokesman Celso Martinez says they looked to Phoenix and San Antonio for their inspiration, and it shows. Somebody up there loves that super-sexy top navigation bar. So do I, compared to the complete lack of navigation on the old site.

But the new Web site is just phase two in the city's four-tiered effort to get all up on that Internet thing. Bitchers and moaners like myself should be stoked about improvements to the online 311 service request system coming this summer and personalized subscriptions to city sites later this fall that will allow people who run rec centers and the like to get updates about codes and laws that affect them. --Andrea Grimes

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