Sink or Swim

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In keeping with our theme here at Planning Pool, we’re proud to present the first annual Sink or Swim Series, honoring cities that make good use of new media to involve the public in planning.  The point of this exercise is to identify what works well and what doesn’t when city websites communicate plans. We’re all about inclusiveness, so we won’t be making the calls ourselves, but will instead be relying upon your input.  Every week, a few cities will be presented for your critique.

Now, we know not everyone enjoys reading the nitty-gritty of planning documents, so please remember: you are not judging whether a city’s plans are “good”, but whether its website makes planning more accessible. Everyone will come at this from a different angle, but here are a few questions you might ask yourself as you view sites:

-       Is the site navigable/aesthetically pleasing?
-       Are all planning documents freely available?
-       Does the city attempt to make planning info easily digestible using something other than standard planning documents?
-       Does the site clearly convey any direction for the city?
-       Is there space for citizens to provide input, written or otherwise?
*Also, as a general rule, if you’ve spent 10 minutes or more trying to figure the answers to these questions, the site probably isn’t that fantastic.

These are just some things to consider, but this is a decidedly subjective activity, so add whatever other criteria you see fit.  Ultimately, you’ll be asked to rate each city on the following scale:

o      Born with gills (best)
o      Making waves
o      Treading water
o      Strictly kiddie pool
o      Floats like a brick (worst)

Of course, you’ll also be able to comment.  Hopefully we can encourage cities to make better websites.  Either way, it should be fun…

Anyway, without further ado, here goes Round 1:

ROUND 1: The Usual Suspects

New York, NY

Los Angeles, CA

Chicago, IL

Toronto, ON

Houston, TX

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2 Responses to “Sink or Swim”

  1. Vanessa said:

    Aug 29, 09 at 10:54 pm

    A capital idea, Mike.,

    Apparently, BC’s own City of Nanaimo is on the cutting edge of information availability to citizens through its recently redesigned website:

    http://www.creativeclass.com/creative_class/2009/08/27/how-to-engage-citizens-on-a-municipal-website/

  2. Mike said:

    Aug 31, 09 at 8:31 am

    Thanks, Vanessa. Another example of a well-designed interface is Whistler’s 2020 plan. It might be a little too wonkish for some people, but it fits a lot of information in a small space.

    http://www.whistler2020.ca/whistler/site/explorer.acds