florida license plate

License Plate Websites

“I whistled for a cab and when it came near

The license plate said FRESH and it had dice in the mirror

If anything I can say this cab is rare

But I thought now forget it yo homes to Bel Air.”

—The Fresh Prince of Bel Air

It’s likely that Will Smith didn’t see a website on that FRESH license plate back in 1990 when The Fresh Prince of Bel Air premiered, but today he’d see one on that California license plate: dmv.ca.gov. Huh?

License plates are a great way for states (and areas outside the US) to promote their locales and give themselves a unique identity. Many license plate designs carry over to other uses and some would be know even if they did not have the state name on them. Watching old cop shows from the 60s and 70s one gets very familiar with California and New York plates. Both are orange and blue, but are reversed from each other just like the states from two opposite coasts.

Some are known simply by their slogan. “Famous Potatoes” can only be … Idaho, but some are more mysterious, such as “The Natural State.” Umm. Let’s see…. oh, it’s Arkansas. Of course.

Pass the Plate

Since the dawn of the Internet age, we’ve seen websites emblazoned on everything. It didn’t take long for states to get into the act by placing websites on their state plates. Some started out quite awkward, like Pennyslvania’s www.state.pa.us, which is now just visitPA.com.

But, how many people would feel compelled to visit a state’s website just because they’ve seen it on the car in front of them? How many people visit those websites while in traffic!

I grew up in Florida and lived there for many years. As a recent resident, I’ve had license plates on my cars that read myFlorida.com. Even though I love license plates, design and websites, it was not until recently that I finally visited myFlorida.com. It is also the first time I’ve ever visited any of the websites I’ve seen on license plates. My guess is that very few people do.

I gassed up the Googler and went in search of all the license plates I could find that have (or had) websites on them. I found an article by Ethan Wolff-Mann (yes, really) that got me started on this quest. His page ranked all the license plates by design. I agreed with most of his choices, but would have ranked New York much higher. Check it out here: Ranked License Plates.

Florida Gets an “F”

I visited the websites because the license plates ordered me to. I have collected them here along with my personal assessments. I based my grades on how the websites would look and how useful and appealing they would be to people from out of state who might want to visit “PA.com.”

www.visitPA.com

PENNSYLVANIA

Grade: B

I like that the website colors have a little similarity to the license plate and it has great photos. It also appeals to a visitor by offering a Vacation Guide. The top part is a bit of a jumble. Their license plate is recognizable and easy to read, but nothing too exciting.

Travel2SC.com

SOUTH CAROLINA

Grade: A

South Carolina has always done a good branding job. They have a great flag, have always had great license plates and their website is very nice, too. I like how the treeline on the license plates mimics the torn paper look of the website and they have wonderful photos and makes it very attractive to visitors.

www.TNvacation.com

TENNESSEE

Grade: A

Similar to South Carolina’s website, this site has excellent images, fantastic typography and an easy, appealing layout. I hate their license plate, though. The website looks tacked on, there are too many typefaces and too many small details. From a distance, you’d have no idea what was going on here.

www.Nebraska.gov

NEBRASKA

Grade: C

Nebraska has a nice license plate, but I think some of their previous ones were much better, especially the simple red & white state outline they had in the 70s. The URL on the plate: nebraska.gov, is pretty serious. It doesn’t say “visit Nebraska” and it takes you to a website that does nothing to attract people to the birthplace of Leslie Lynch King, Jr. (better known as President Gerald R. Ford).

www.Michigan.gov

MICHIGAN

Grade: B-

I love Michigan. Their license plate sucks, though. I don’t get the swishy M. The website is pretty nice (what’s with all the kayaks on these sites?). It’s not that exciting to look at but it serves its purpose and is easy to get around in. I’m not a fan of “Pure Michigan.” Sounds like it could be referring to eugenics or something.

www.Maryland.gov

MARYLAND

Grade: D

Another .gov site. Here again, the .gov takes you to a very .gov place. It has nice images but is overshadowed by the giant search bar and rotating facts—that visitors to the state would just not find interesting: 371 tax payments made last month. Wow! Come on kids! Marylanders are paying their taxes! Let’s go see! Let’s not. Although their license plate is easily recognizable by their LSD-induced flag, it really looks bad when they get dinged up and dirty. They always look dirty to me.

www.ExploreMinnesota.com

MINNESOTA

Grade: A

Cool job, Minnesota. Everyone knows the 10,000 Lakes thing and their license plate is like a Where’s Waldo puzzle. Can you find the canoe? However, their URL is more obscured than the canoeists. It took a few looks to even realize there was a .com on there. But, I was pleased to find their website had great photos, a nice logo, nice type, easy navigation for tourists, and an interesting and appropriate URL: ExploreMinnesota.com. I want to go there!

www.Georgia.gov

GEORGIA

Grade: D-

I think Georgia has gotten rid of the .gov from their plates and good riddance. I never liked the Georgia license plates because there was always so much going on. I always felt it was really close to being South Carolina-good but just couldn’t pull it off. Several years ago, they changed their flag and then had to quickly change it again because it was just too awful to display. I think the same should go for their website. Like Maryland, we are presented with a giant search bar. There’s also some guy with his eyes closed. Maybe he just doesn’t want to look at the website. Who can blame him? Who is he? And, their “logo” at the top is pathetic. The devil went down to Georgia, he had a website to design…..

dmv.ca.gov

CALIFORNIA

Grade: D–

California dreamin’ (of getting rid of this stuff). They need to go back to the iconic Streets of San Francisco blue-and-gold license plates. Plain, simple, but very identifiable. The URL on the Cal plates is bizarro. Would anyone driving behind a car with this plate write this down and check it out to see what cool stuff the…DMV…has to offer? But, if sticking pins in your eyes gets old, check it out. Visitors to the state of California can learn all about AB60 Driver License Implementation. Off we go! I think Maryland, Georgia and California should merge into just one awful website and be done with it.

www.peiplay.com

PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND

Grade: B

Prince Edward Island is not a state, by the way. It was the only Canadian province I could find that had a URL on their plate. Made famous by Anne of Green Gables, Prince Edward Island is now Canada’s Green Province. OK, sounds good. I like the colors of the plate and I guess the wind turbine is one reason they are “green.” It has a little Canadian flag on it, and who doesn’t like the Canadian flag? The URL, www.peiplay.com, is awkward. It looks like a typo. It goes to an OK website with a lot of info. Nothing spectacular, but it works just fine.

www.myFlorida.com

FLORIDA

Grade: F-

Holy palm trees, Batman! Are you kidding me? I live in Florida but have never before gone to this absolute crap website. What an embarrassment. The URL is plastered on the plates in big, arched letters and tells you it is your Florida. Based on this website, you can have it back. I could not believe what I saw. It claims to be the “Official Portal of The State of Florida.” (With a capitalized “The.”) I think the web designer was preoccupied with 19… 19… 1985. I’ve seen old AOL Homesite pages that looked better than this nonsense. This is what the state wants tourists to see? I can’t believe anyone would want to come here. If you go to this site, you’d think it was some authoritarian police state with no sense of humor or style. Oh, wait…. On the right, there is a micro photo of our governor, Rick “Valdemort” Scott. The photo is stretched a bit horizontally so Rick kinda looks like Mr. Clean instead.There’s a tab on the left for visitors to click. Don’t do it! Save yourself! Oh my, oh my, oh myFlorida! Florida: You’re no Maryland, that’s for sure.

I don’t think adding websites to license plates is a good idea. I certainly don’t like it when the state name becomes part of the URL (myFlorida.com, for example). I was surprised there weren’t a lot more states that did this but was glad they didn’t. One thing that really surprised me, though, is that even the good states like South Carolina and Tennessee, didn’t tie in their license plate with their website. There wasn’t any connection between the two to indicate that you got there because you saw it on the license plate. I wonder if these states do any kind of analytics on this. Hey! 647 Child Support Applications filed in MarylandMaryland.gov tells me so.

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Jeff Macharyas is a graphics, marketing and publishing professional. Macharyas holds a BS in Communications and an MS in Cybersecurity and Computer Forensics. Macharyas holds the Google Analytics Individual Qualification (GAIQ) and is a frequent contributor to Opensource.com where he writes on various open source-related topics.