WordPress Cities: The New Government Web Standard

<a href="http://wordpress.com/cities" target="_blank"">Sites for Cities</a> is a new WordPress initiative to bring WordPress powered websites to local, city, and state governments.

City, town, and other municipality websites have long been in need of usability updates. Systems made decades ago were static and hard to update, rarely interact with any kind of social media, and see visitors often complaining about not being able to find the information they need.

Put simply, most governments are online in domain name only – with no meaningful interaction. And that’s certainly not reflective of today’s growing “community” on the web, nor its more recent advances in online technology.

Take Los Angeles, for example. One of the most progressive cities, increasingly more tech-friendly, and one of the most populated. But their official city website is awful. LACity.org runs on an old html platform, and is a major eye-sore. If you can find anything meaningful on the site navigating less than 20 steps – you’re a better person than me. Responsive? Not a chance.

New York City, one of the biggest in the world, isn’t much better: NYC.gov suffers from the same drawbacks as the website for the City of Los Angeles – it’s hard to navigate, has an outdated design, horrible typography, and suffers from information overload.

WordPress aims to change all that – by bringing current technology and style to government websites with a new effort called WordPress Cities. Basically, it’s a low-cost WordPress powered website for your local government with features like:

  • Social network integration
  • Event calendars
  • Ability to upload photos and videos
  • Ability to edit css directly
  • Theme customization options
<a href="http://mo.gov" target="_blank">State of Missouri</a> WordPress powered website.<br />Click for larger view.

Of course, all this is normally available for WordPress users, but for most municipalities – slick sites could only be obtained by paying a custom designer to create it for them, and in this economy – big money spent on new web designs is guaranteed to bet with cynicism by the public.

Thankfully, WordPress is not an expensive platform on which to develop, and that’s one of the reasons the Sites for Cities program might just be able to change the way our governments exist online. The State of Missouri has a beautiful WordPress powered website that is much easier to read than the city sites mentioned previously, and was no doubt developed at a fraction of the cost.

You’re not sold yet? How about the City of Albert Lee, which hired a local resident to design an inexpensive CMS on WordPress and saved $19,000 in the design and implementation process.

The WordPress Sites for Cities package is available at super-low prices. For less than $150 per year, a local gov can get a custom domain name, a pretty web site, storage space to host official documents required to be given to the public, and much, much more.

WordPress’ open source nature, ease of use, and extensibility has made it the platform chosen by 1 out of every 6 new websites. The new WordPress Cities offering is just another way WordPress makes it easier for government to get in touch with its public on a level that’s becoming increasingly familiar to them.

2 Responses

  • Interesting concept, but I wonder if their prices are too low. This is an enterprise-type market where the cost says something about the product. $150 a year for a website? A city of 400,000 people has an annual budget in the realm of 100’s of millions of dollars – they wouldn’t even bat an eye.

    Even smaller cities operate in the millions of dollars. Some cities don’t bat an eye to when it comes to spending $10,000 – $50,000 on feasibility studies. $150 for a web presence on the web as the public face doesn’t seem attractive.

    A better pricing scheme could be 2-5 (or more) times that and perhaps should have a sliding scale – the higher the city population, the higher price. Presumably larger populations will put higher demand on servers and requires more web support.

    I’m surprised that this is so cheap for an Auttomatic product, Matt and company really understand selling to enterprise and selling to cities is a lot similar. It’s a good concept, but it doesn’t look like Auttomatic sat down with enough folks from various city councils (and their IT departments) to figure it out.

    • New Recruit

      I think the concept of “you get what you pay for” is GROSSLY overstated in the world of web design today. That aside, you are probably right, Pete, there is a certain perception that comes with government spending, and this goes against that grain. However, I believe most cities, especially the smaller one with NO current web presence, can make full use of the WordPress platform and have 90% of its needs covered online.

      As far as I can tell, with the products and services delivered by Automattic (WordPress included), they have shown that just because someone is willing to pay more for something doesn’t mean they should have to.

      Thanks for your comment Pete.

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