I’d love to be enthusiastic about City of Berkeley see it! (not my exclamation mark). There are many good intentions in the interactive website, designed to present both the city’s Climate Action Plan and progress towards realizing its goals. But the site has one of the worst user interfaces I’ve encountered in a long time. It’s fussy, over-designed, filled with infojunk and prone to leading users up blind alleys.

If you make the mistake of clicking to see the Climate Action Plan, you end up with a PDF shoehorned into a small window and you lose all other navigation. The only way back to the interactive site is to reload the page. Ugh. And under no condition should you click the link to the CAP Blog. It’s totally mystifying why you are directed to page 13 of 29 of… I’m not sure what. It’s not a blog that I’d recognize.

The tools to do so much better are readily available, and I’ve met people in City Hall who really understand new media tools. I assume they were not consulted.

The site is the work of a Vancouver-based software company, Visible Strategies, which works principally with government bodies. If you look around, some governments are doing extraordinary work in information visualization. It can be a powerful tool for helping citizens see what their government is doing. To my eyes, Visible Strategies is obscuring, not clarifying.

Some of the site, I’m sure, was done locally, and not by Visible Strategies. So it’s unclear where the blame for this trainwreck of a website lies. Still, if you want to persist, you can uncover all sorts of environmental statistics about Berkeley. Use with caution.

Lance Knobel (Berkeleyside co-founder) has been a journalist for nearly 40 years. Much of his career was in business journalism. He was editor-in-chief of both Management Today, the leading business magazine...