Visitors to the city of Palo Alto's old Web site encountered an outdated design and often struggled to find information.
Starting Thursday, the city will launch its revamped site, the product of two years work and about $240,000, according to Administrative Services Director Carl Yeats.
The new site features a chic grey background with green lettering and large, engaging photographs. It has information classified by category, rather than department, and a redesigned search engine that goes even beyond a Google-style search, Information Technology Manager Lisa Mainarick-Bolger said.
In 1994, Palo Alto introduced a Web site, thought to be the first municipal site. With its new design and structure, city leaders hope to again reclaim the lead in municipalities online.
"It looks spectacular," Yeats said.
The site is intended to be very user friendly, Mainarick-Bolger said.
Don't know Animal Services is classified in the Police Department? No worries, it has its own listing now. Want to learn about the city's efforts on bicycling? Feed bicycle into the search function and the city's bicycle policies, maps and other information pops up, classified by the type of document.
And with quality photos -- an adorable puppy dog on the Animal Services page and a cherubic child gulping milk on a family page -- the site's designers are hoping to make the visitor feel comfortable, Mainarick-Bolger said.
"We wanted to make it feel warm, inviting and approachable," Mainarick-Bolger said.
The lower left corner of the main page is left vacant, the space reserved for emergency announcements, she said.
And it switches easily to an all-text version that is accessible to the disabled or visually impaired, she said.
The site also aims to eliminate some paper use, Mainarick-Bolger said.
The Police Department's site, for example, has all sorts of online forms available to report incidents such as bicycle theft.
The city's commitment to sustainability is also indicated by the placement of a sustainability icon, which is as prominent as "living," "working" and "visiting" Palo Alto categories.
The monitor of San Francisquito Creek is still available, but now visitors can also watch a rotating camera mounted at Fire Station 8 in Foothills Park, which scans the horizon for any indication of fire.
The site contains information dating to 1990, with full-text searches extending to 2002, Senior Technologist Chris Caravalho said.
And the designers are eager for feedback -- a comment page is available at the bottom of the main page, Mainarick-Bolger said.
The site is at http://www.cityofpaloalto.org .