Teaching, Promoting, Cheering UX and SEO Since 2002

Coffs Harbour City Council Site Shows Pride and Warmth

As one of the instructors for Search Engine College, I sometimes get to see web sites my usability course students are working on. They’re permitted to use that site for their final assignment project. One student presented a web site that I really thought captured what a local site can do.

The Coffs Harbour City Council web site was the first local government related site I’ve seen that captured my attention, made me feel good, and convinced me the community is passionate, caring, interested in their area and believe they have something to show off. Most local town sites I see are dry. Their content is sleepy. The use of color as a playful vibe for the Coffs’ site really jumped out in contrast to the typical beige, black, grays and greens that are more commonly used.

From the homepage, they show true understanding of the top leading tasks visitors want to do. Things like making payments, subscribing to the newsletter and buying tickets are easy to quickly locate.  Font sizes can be increased, indicating knowledge that not everyone has 20/20 vision or may run into a struggle with the smaller font size. Keywords are in the navigation labels. Navigation is also designed to address different user needs and addresses them by what they want to do. If you need building permits, it’s easy to figure out what click path to follow, rather than being forced to hunt.

Every community has a chance to present itself on the web. Some of them are uninspiring to look at. They’re packed with ads. The Coffs Harbour site is huge, but never overwhelming. They offer a forums, directory, learning center, media center, publications and quick access to forms. None of these elements are obstructed by blinking ads or FLASH images of the town. If I wanted to get an idea of what the area looks like, I could, in only two clicks and by choice, when I was ready.

I live in an area that boasts artists, writers, colonial history, and beautiful countryside. And yet, none of the web sites, whether it be for our towns, or townships and boroughs, has ever done the area justice. This has always surprised me. They somehow lack the desire to inspire newcomers or anyone considering moving here.

With the Coffs Harbour site, they want to welcome you and show you around every nook and cranny of the place.

I can almost feel them taking my hand.


  1. May 21, 2008    

    Actually, a lot of Australian council websites have this type of verve.
    My experience is that they fall down more on accessibility :(

  2. May 23, 2008    

    I’m with Lea – our local council had a great website, nice colours, easy to follow links, a great mapping plug-in that looked really really awesome … but never worked and an email link that, if you used it, no one would ever respond to.

  3. May 27, 2008    

    Nice to see CHCC and Micky featured here Kim. Looks like the usability message is finally filtering through to some government sites!

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