In October, Government Technology and e.Republic’s Center for Digital Government released the results of our 19th annual Best of the Web contest. And it’s gratifying to see just how far public-sector websites have come over that time.
Our first Best of the Web winners in 1996 talked up quaint features like downloadable forms and maps, along with faxable permit applications. The sites were downright ugly, too, by today’s standards — jammed with text and links, and largely devoid of images thanks to slow connection speeds.
But even then, the seeds of e-government were being sown. The top-ranked Florida Communities Network let citizens apply for jobs online, and Virginia’s home page offered live traffic information. In addition, state and local officials were gearing up to offer a variety of permits and licenses through their sites.
Today’s Best of the Web winners fully realize many of these early aspirations. They offer hundreds of online services and process transactions worth millions of dollars — improving convenience while often cutting administrative expenses dramatically. Contextual searches and location-based technology help users find what they need faster than ever. And visually, many of them are stunning.
These portals also are mobile friendly, with most employing responsive design to ensure they’re optimized for citizens using smartphones and tablets. As a result, government sites are serving a broader audience. For instance, King County, Wash., says unique visits to its portal are up 17 percent since a mobile-responsive redesign late last year.
This year’s Best of the Web winners show e-government continuing to evolve in useful and innovative ways. Congratulations to Washington, D.C.; Oakland County, Mich.; and the state of Hawaii for topping their categories. You can read more about these sites along with the rest of the winners and finalists at govtech.com.