22 Well Done State Tourism Websites

In a continuation to Branding the United States, this article explores the state government run websites used to target tourists. While many of these tourist department sites are much more aesthetically pleasing than their .gov counterparts, not all of them make the cut. Here’s the finest of the bunch.

1. Ohio

Discover Ohio

2. Utah

utah

3. Rhode Island

rhode

4. Pennsylvania

penn

5. New Hampshire

newhampshire

6. Idaho

idaho

7. Tennessee

tennessee

8. Wisconsin

wisconsin

9. Washington

washington

10. Maine

maine

11. Oregon

oregon

12. North Dakota

northdakota

13. South Dakota

southdakota

14. Illinois

illinois

15. Missouri

missouri

16. Texas

texas

17. Virginia

virginia

18. Georgia

georgia

19. Massachusetts

mass

20. New York

newyork

21. Kentucky

kentucky

22. Hawaii

hawaii

Overall Trends

Throughout the search for these sites, there are a few elements that seem to be popular amongst the well done sites.

  • JQuery or Flash animated headers
  • Large image backgrounds
  • Image intensive layouts
  • Good white space, not too cramped
  • Distinct accent colors

Which states do you think market themselves well? Which ones are a little off? Notice any other trends? Express your thoughts below.

*Note: In retrospect I overlooked Colorado, it’s worth checking out.

Posted Wednesday, January 7th, 2009 · Back to Top

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16 Comments 3 Mentions

  1. Max Author Editor

    Nice collection im liking the hand made style of Tennessee

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  2. Troy Author Editor

    Great post Sam. You certainly picked out some of our / my favorites.

    As far as trends, I think we are seeing a return to the simple homepage. 7 or 8 years ago, the homepage was ‘simple’ due to limitations with HTML, browsers, search, broadband access, etc. Then, we entered a period, at least with respect to state tourism websites, where we flooded the homepage with every widget, video and photo possible.

    Now, we have come back to basics, so to speak, and are beginning to use and look at the homepage as a true portal to the valuable content and information within the site, rather than a catch all for everything deemed important.

    Good stuff.

    - Troy

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  3. Jonathan Eudy Author Editor

    I think that you overlooked an important one Sam. http://www.arkansas.com has been one of the top 5 State tourism websites in the U.S. for the past year and was the #1 State tourism website in the nation in the month of November. The is based on market share in the travel category as measured by HitWise, a firm that aggregates this information from 22 million Internet users worldwide.

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  4. Leslie Author Editor

    What about Arkansas.com? Fantastic design, loads of useful information and it’s one of the most visited state tourism websites out of all 50, usually ranking in the top 5. How could you possibly leave them out??!!

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  5. Sam Dunn Author Editor

    @Arkansas
    My intent for this article was not done based on overall traffic, otherwise Michigan (#1 ranked), would have found its way to the list as well. While clearly the top 5 sites (Michigan, Ohio, Virginia, Colorado, and Arkansas) are doing something right to gain that type of traffic, I did my list based on a design and usability perspective. Although it might be a difference of opinion, I found the sites above to do excellent jobs reducing clutter, while still integrating useful information and sleek design.
    Thanks for the comments!

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  6. Les Holmlund Author Editor

    I realize that Saskatchewan is a province in Canada, rather than a state of the United States. However, I am interested to know if you think this site would have cracked the top 22: http://www.sasktourism.com ?

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  7. Sam Dunn Author Editor

    @Les Holmlund
    You have made me want to visit Canada. That site would be a strong contender, thanks for sharing it.

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  8. Sean Author Editor

    Sam,

    What was the criteria for selecting these “Well Done” tourism websites?

    Sean

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  9. Sam Dunn Author Editor

    @Sean
    I selected some of the more attention grabbing websites, the ones that had the wow factor. Although I will say again that some might disagree and it is my opinion here were some criteria:

    1. I didn’t feel like an overwhelming amount of information was being thrown at me, the page was laid out with plenty of white space to help digest and separate information.
    2. Well done graphics, for instance W. Virgina – http://www.wvtourism.com/, is a little dated looking.
    3. If the site intrigued me to actually make a visit.

    Those were some key ones, among others. I offer other people to share their opinions as well.

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  10. Christian Watson Author Editor

    Sam, interestingly enough, I did a similar post almost exactly a year ago – http://www.smileycat.com/miaow/archives/000325.php . It’s interesting to see how some of these sites have improved over the last 12 months.

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  11. Lori Author Editor

    While the designs of some of your top-ranked web sites are attractive, they are terrible from a standpoint of usability, i.e., trying to actually plan a trip. I tried several of them, and dropped off after less than 2 minutes because it was too difficult to find what I was looking for. Pretty wallpaper is worthless if the structure of the house isn’t sound.

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  12. Dan Author Editor

    I agree with Lori that many of these sites score low on usability. Has anyone ranked these sites based on that criteria?

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  13. DC Author Editor

    I agree with Lori also. Pretty to look, but mostly unusable. They’ve also got SEO problems. Do a google search for “ohio family travel” (minus the quotes). Your #1 site is ranked 6th, making it essentially invisible.

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  14. Julz Author Editor

    I’m not sure if it’s my browser, but the NY one needs more styling. It looks unfinished. Also, the source HTML is really sloppy.

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  15. Ben Author Editor

    Interesting post and comments. Just to add an international dimension I’d be interested to see how you think http://www.golakes.co.uk (which we built for Cumbria The Lake District – which of course is in England) compares with some great sites you’ve identified. OK, its a smaller area geographically but a fantastic part of the world with tons to do (not that I’m biased!) And pretty rich functionality online as well (definitely not biased!!)

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  16. Zella Isam Author Editor

    Many thanks for giving the useful, dependable, revealing as well as fun guidance on the topic to Emily.

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