Utah recently launched its new interactive state government website, Utah.gov. The site has received praise and many awards for being cutting edge and Web 2.0 friendly. The site reportedly gets 1.2 million unique visitors a month and over 25 million transactions were processed electronically last year.

It is easy to see why the Utah site is gaining attention. The aesthetically pleasing Utah.gov site is embracing location based services with a “Near You” feature offering a list of services and civic gatherings close to wherever you are logged in. Big Brother-ness aside, it’s reasonably cool. On the main page, there’s a “Popular Searches This Week” list to give you a sense of what’s trending. The site also offers a clean aggregation of information and data on Utah for public use, something many states still do not provide.

It’s Pretty, But Is It Effective?

Part of Government 2.0 relies on the user experience and accessibility. The web communities that serve as the hub of Government 2.0 need to be easy to use and provide valuable information.

But while navigating through the new Utah site, we encountered a number of issues once we went beyond the dramatic splash screens.

For example, Utah.gov features a link off the main page called “Online Services,” which takes the user to a page with a purported list of services one can attain online. For someone interested in Web 2.0 features, this seems to be the place to start, online services.

Take a test drive of this page yourself: once on the “Online Services” page, after you classify yourself: citizen, business, government, you are given a list of categories of services from which you can choose. As a citizen, choose “Agriculture and Food Production” then opt for “Produce Dealer License Renewal” (hint: these are not alphabetically listed), but voila, you are sent back two steps, to the general online services page for the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food page.

From there you have to, again, choose “Licensing (Lookup, Renew, or get forms)” and then you have to search for your type of license and then form. Really? One step forward and two steps back? The inefficiencies here are almost as comical as knowing that from the Utah.gov page, if you had chosen “Feed Garbage to Swine License Renewal” instead of “Produce Dealer License Renewal” you would have been also sent to the same page despite there being two very different licenses.

For a site that has won so many awards for usability, it has a number of flaws in its user experience with a number of broken links and regressive navigation. Is it, in fact, just a stunning façade of Government 2.0?

How does Utah.gov compare to CA.gov?

California’s state government site has similarly won awards, but it still offers many of the same curious (and hilarious, or frustrating) navigation experiences that exist on the Utah website. Web 2.0 is more than building out a singularly attractive website and offering a universal navigation bar. For the complex bureaucracies that are our state governments, Web 2.0 demands that not only the main site be usable but also that the links the site offers be similarly usable and meaningful.

These many problems aside, the California and Utah sites are heading in the right direction, with feedback mechanisms, location based services, trending reports, etc, but the lack of collaboration between the executive and various agencies is leaving the citizen high and dry in some ways.

Taking a look at these two sites motivates us to review our own city’s web portal. We’ll report back what we find. At Reset we think San Francisco should be at the forefront of the digital age. With Utah and the State of California raising the bar, let’s see if San Francisco’s efforts can still be called cutting edge.