Did You See a Website on that License Plate?

 

Stuck in traffic and staring at the license plate in front of you?

Have you noticed that there is a website on the license plate? No? Well, now is your chance to see a review some official license plates with websites emblazoned right on them! You don’t even have to get in your car! Some states (Arkansas) look great and get the message across elegantly.

But, then there’s Florida.

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 way back in 1990 when The Fresh Prince of Bel Air  premiered. Now, he’d see one on that California license plate: dmv.ca.gov. Huh?

Pass the Plate

Since the dawn of the Internet age, we’ve seen websites plastered 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 awkwardly, like Pennyslvania’s www.state.pa.us, which has been shortened to visitPA.com.

Have you ever felt compelled to visit a state’s website just because you’ve seen it on the car in front of you?

I grew up in Florida and lived there most of my life. I’ve had a license plate on my car that read myFlorida.com. Even though I love license plates, design and websites, it was not until recently that I 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 my 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.

My review of license plates with websites on them and the websites themselves.

 

 

 

PENNSYLVANIA

Grade: B

I like that the website colors have some 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.

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.

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.

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).

 

MICHIGAN

Grade: B-

I love Michigan. Their license plate is awful, 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 hand sanitizer or something.

maryland.govMARYLAND

Grade: B+

(I wrote this in 2013, but Maryland has since redesigned their site and it is much improved: 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. March 2017: Looks like Maryland has redesigned their site. I’ll upgrade them to a B+.

MARYLAND-War of 1812

maryland 1812 license platemaryland 1812 websiteGrade: B

The Bicentennial of the War of 1812 plate and website are nice.

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!

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 Indiana, 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? The devil went down to Georgia, he had a website to design…..

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 Florida, Georgia and California should merge into just one awful website and be done with it.

prince edward islandPRINCE EDWARD ISLAND

Grade: B

Prince Edward Island is really 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.

FLORIDA

Grade: F-

This is a joke, right? I lived in Florida but had never before gone to this absolute crap website until now. 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. 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 the 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 Arkansas, that’s for sure.

OHIO

ohiodiscover ohioGrade: C

 

I was waiting at a light in Stuart, Florida and saw an Ohio license plate in front of me. Hey! They have a website, too! How could I have missed it? Welllll… it’s kinda ghosted and hidden and part of a bunch of other indecipherable words and has a weird “17” next to it. I guess that’s a date maybe.Their website is nice, what you’d expect and certainly better than Florida. They have a lot of info on the plate itself: click here.

INDIANA

indianaindiana websiteGrade: B-

 

Just found that Indiana had a website on their license plates, too. It seems that they have since abandoned the idea, though. Indiana has had some nice plates and the barcode at the bottom is kinda interesting. It reminds me of the license plate on the back of the DeLorean in Back to the Future. The website the license plate refers to is nice-looking, but it is dominated by a giant search bar. I think the site would have been much better if it featured the folks from Parks & Recreation instead. Nick Offerman’s (Ron Swanson) scowl on the site would be more interesting.

ALABAMA

alabamaoutdoor alabamaGrade: C+

Alabama joins the collection with this conservation specialty plate that costs $50 per year. I like the unique colors of the plate and the URL is easy to read. I went to the website and, as it loaded, I thought: wow! this is gonna be cool! But once loaded, it was almost impossible to read. A really good start, but the first rule of typography is that is must be readable.

KENTUCKY

kentuckykentucky wildlifeGrade: A

Here’s another specialty plate that features a website. In 2013, Kentucky approved the “World-Record Smallmouth Bass” license plate. The mega-bass was caught in 1955, so it only took 58 years to honor the li’l fella, but a fish gets its day.The Kentucky Fish & Wildlife Foundation sponsored this plate and it must certainly appeal to anglers. It’s a nice-looking plate, and in this case, there is an actual image of the plate when you visit the website that’s on the plate! I give this one an A for that. The website isn’t much to look at, but certainly better than that cringe-worthy effort from The Sunshine State. Anglers from Kentucky to other fishing-popular states, like Florida would like what you’ve done. Good job, Bluegrass State!

VIRGINIA

Grade: B

virginiavirginia websitevirginia treesvirginia trees websiteWow, I didn’t realize my former home state had a new license plate until I saw one on the road while driving on I-81 in Virginia. Jamestown has been replaced with “Virginia is for Lovers” and a website (virginia.org) to go with it! The license plates retain the simple blue-and-white motif they’ve had since the Earth was young and full of promise, but it it does give it an iconic look. The website, virginia.org, is very nice. It has great photos, easy navigation and is what you’d expect. I also happened upon another Virginia license plate with website. This one was proposed in 2011 and I guess didn’t make it. Virginia Tech was one of the supporting members of the “Virginia Loves Trees” license plate. Virginia didn’t love trees enough, which is too bad, it’s a nice looking plate. The website, valovestrees.org, is not a valid domain (unless you know Japanese, I guess).

virginia civil war license plateva civil war websiteVirginia also has a tribute plate to the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. This plate is a few years old now, but is worth noting. The website, virginiacivilwar.org does go to a nice website that has a lot of historical facts.

LOUISIANA

Grade: B-

louisiana license platelouisiana websiteIn honor of Andrew Jackson’s Battle of New Orleans victory in 1815, Louisiana issued a special license plate commemorating the event. Andrew Jackson, as you recall, is the wild-haired dude on the $20 bill that a lot of people would like to be removed due to his treatment of Native Americans back in the early 1800s. The plate features a guy on a horse, who, I guess, is Mr. Jackson. It’s not that exciting. The website it advertises, LouisianaTravel.com, is nice, but when I first viewed it on my laptop, I couldn’t really see much of it. Also, once again, nothing to tie in the license plate with the website. Unfortunately, due to Americans’ appalling lack of knowledge in our own history, I’m sure many would see this plate and have no idea what it is promoting. (I saw one on the road in Stuart, Florida the day after I added this.)

SAINT MAARTEN

Grade: B

st maarten license platest maarten websiteLike Prince Edward Island, Saint Maarten is not a state. It is a Dutch territory in the Caribbean that shares an island with St. Martin, a French territory. That could get confusing. The Dutch side touts their part of the island as “The Friendly Island.” The French side, it seems, uses a European French license plate. I guess they’re not as friendly as the Dutch. They have a variety of designs, and the one shown here features a pelican. There’s a Pelican Key, so I guess pelicans are popular in St. Maarten, just as they are in Louisiana, but I’ll be brief. Interestingly, the license plate doesn’t actually “say” St. Maarten, it just appears in the URL. The location could be perceived as “The Friendly Island.” The website advertised, st-maarten.com, is pretty nice and has some interesting color choices that seem to make sense for a tropical resort island. No connection to the license plate, of course, but visitors to the site will find what they want. I’ve never actually seen a St. Maarten license plate on the road, but I have seen Hawaii and Guam, so maybe some day I will.

ARKANSAS

Grade: A++

arkansas license platearkansas state parksArkansas! Wow! You rock, Natural State. I just came across this specialty plate for Arkansas State Parks and was lovin’ it. This is a really nice-looking plate, nice typography, great colors and makes me want to drive out there now and commune with nature (just so long as former Governor Mike Huckabee is not around!). The website emblazoned on the plate, www.ArkansasStateParks.com, is just as nice as the plate. What a concept! My compliments to those involved in the design and execution of the plates and website. Very, very nice.

CONNECTICUT & DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA

Grade: C

connecticut license plateconnecticut choose life websitewashington dc license plateI found this Connecticut license plate by searching for New Jersey. This is part of the “Choose Life” campaign and the site has links to New Jersey, New York and Connecticut. Only Connecticut and DC had actual website license s far as I could tell. At Fund-Adoption.org, there are links to the three state with some sample plates. The site is ugly but I applaud their efforts. So, anyhow, here’s the Nutmeg State and their website license plate. Apparently, the District of Columbia has a version that has been available since since 2013.

NORTH CAROLINA

Grade: B

north carolina bluegrassnorth carolina artsnc artsSometimes there are license plates that never make it onto the backs of cars. A few years ago the North Carolina Bluegrass Association proposed a Bluegrass plate. I thought the design was pretty nice and it had a URL on it: ncbluegrass.org. The URL now seems to go to a forbidden site. According to their Facebook page they only got 10 people to buy into it so it didn’t get done. Too bad, it seemed like a good idea. However, the arts sees to be more popular than bluegrass (really?) in North Carolina.

APPALACHIAN TRAIL

Grade: A

tn trailnc trailva trailga trailappalachian trail websiteThis isn’t a state, but AT is depicted nicely on the plates of four states—Georgia, Tennessee, North Carolina and Virginia. The plates and website showcase one of America’s natural treasures.

LAUREN’S KIDS (FLORIDA)

Grade: B+

laurenskids platelaurens kids websiteI was driving around in Fort Pierce, Florida and came upon a license plate I hadn’t seen before. It was very hard to see the URL on it, but I got close enough to see Lauren’s Kids. I did not know what this was so I looked it up. Lauren’s Kids was founded by Lauren Book, a victim of sexual abuse. This is a good cause license plate and it looks good and the website has the license plate on it, which is great. My only suggestion would be to make the URL more readable.

Is it a Good Idea to Put Websites on License Plates?

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 more states that did this. 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.