The DC Council is looking to improve its website. That’s welcome, since there are many confusing elements. What would you improve?

For me, the organization of the home page is not very helpful. There are a lot of random links on the left side in boxes, on the bottom in different size boxes, on the right side in a scrolling ticker, in the center in a rotating image, and even a few at the very top. Most of the useful information is in links within the navigation bar, where it’s harder to find.

All pages on the site have a sidebar which is mostly useless. The top is filled with today’s weather. How many people are going to go to the page for the Council of the District of Columbia to find out the weather? There’s news on there, but why does that need to be on each page? That’s the kind of thing that should be on the front page, but isn’t.

I watch hearings often. If you go to the “MEDIA” menu, there are separate links Watch Hearing Live and Watch Hearings Live. The first goes to the channel 13 cable feed, which requires you to listen to a welcome message (ironically still from Chairman Vincent C. Gray) before seeing anything. The second goes to another system that shows separate live feeds from each office.

A lot of pages don’t have much information on them, like Programming Schedule, which just has a single link to the OCT TV-13 page. If there’s just one link, send people directly there instead of making them view an intermediate page.

There are multiple separate calendars. The first one, Daily Schedule, goes to an interactive calendar application which just has the names of committees holding hearings in the grid. You have to mouse over each one to see the topic of the hearing.

Other items, like the annual budget and oversight hearings, show up in yet another, separate list.

Most of the important information only appears on the Legislative Calendar page, which shows what’s up for votes. It’s just plain text, however.

A Hearing Notices page lists upcoming hearings, and that has gotten a lot better from previous years by at least including the topic of each hearing instead of a plain list of dates below the name of each committee. One remaining problem is that the URL for this page is “2011hearingnotices”; last year it was “2010hearingnotices.” That means if I set up an automated script to notify me of changes to this page, I have to change it every year.

There are links for past hearings for each committee, also under “MEDIA,” but that only has archived videos from 2010, For example, the

Public Works & Transportation Committee page has its last hearing on 12/14/2010. But if you go to View Past Hearings and click on one of the only two links on that page, you get the OCT TV-13 archives which contain more recent meetings.

RSS feeds would greatly help people who want to follow the council or specific committees. There should be at least a feed of hearings for each committee or one encompassing everything, a feed of bills introduced, and a feed of items for the legislative meetings.

In short, there are too many links, many of which go to pages with little information or even out of date information that’s more complete in another part of the site. A redesign is much needed and very welcome.

How do you use the site? What could make it more usable for you? I’ll pass your suggestions from the comments on to the people handling the redesign.

David Alpert is Founder and President of Greater Greater Washington and Executive Director of DC Sustainable Transportation (DCST). He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle. Unless otherwise noted, opinions in his GGWash posts are his and not the official views of GGWash or DCST.