LA beta tests first website redesign in 14 years that looks just like the one done 14 years ago

Government Technology reports that Los Angeles is beta testing a new website, the first major redesign in 14 years, but a cursory review of the homepage leaves me wondering why the city spent $100,000 on a usability expert to get essentially the same site it’s had since 1998.

Nearly every element of the current site is retained on the new one in either the same location or slightly re-arranged. Arguably, elements of the current version are much more helpful, such as direct links to connect with LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

One noted “major change” is a dynamic sidebar, updated every seven days, that generates information based on the city’s call center activity. According to GT, LA’s web services manager says, “If for example, there are high winds and then are a lot of calls about trees that are down, we might see that as one of the top requested services.”

In a real-time world, seven days is too late. The winds have come and gone and so should this redesign.

Overview of similarities to the current website and beta version:

  • Same 3-column layout
  • Same logo location
  • Same search location
  • Same navigation design treatment (and close to same taxonomy)
  • Same “highlights” box and location
  • Same mayor box (moved from left to right sidebar)
  • Same council box (moved from left to right sidebar)
  • Same neighborhood resources box and location
  • Same 311 box and vertical location (and font!)
  • Same quick links dropdown boxes
  • Same adopt a pet box and location

And that’s just the homepage.

LA needs to start from scratch, follow New York City’s approach to engaging the city’s designer and developer communities and deliver a website made for citizens living in 2012. Taxpayers deserve better.

Click images to expand visual comparison with noted similarities:


Simplified alternative perspective:


About Luke Fretwell

Luke Fretwell is the founder of GovFresh, co-founder/CEO of ProudCity and co-host of the podcast, The Government We Need. Connect with him on Twitter and LinkedIn or email at

2 Responses

  1. Random guess  – could there be differences in accessibility you don’t see? For example, I have a good friend who is blind & uses a screen reader. Because she reads my blog, I make an effort to have alternate  text for all photos. (I SHOULD do that anyway, but the fact that I have a personal friend who would be inconvenienced makes me more conscientious.)  That takes me time and someone just reading my blog would not see that effort.  A lot of that kind of redesign might make it more universally usable while not obvious to the average person.

  2. Sarah

    Actually, if LA wanted to do better, they’d do like Seattle—and run a usability study with Knowledge As Power. Our usability study, and 79 page report, was implemented by Seattle’s amazing web team, leading to becoming the best municipal website in America for 2011.


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