Our mission is not just to revamp the City’s website. Our mission is to create a useful tool that solves problems rather than creates them and also makes interacting with City government a smooth, pleasant experience. Figuring out how to do this right required that we first understand precisely what’s wrong with it now.
First we talked to City workers. They shared their stories about the services they provide, the information they need to share, and who they see their as their primary audiences. We also heard the difficulty they sometimes experience in getting their message out on the website.
We met with residents who have used the site. They shared with us the difficulty that they have had locating and even understanding information on the site. Some were confused by the overwhelming amount of information there is to sift through. Others felt outright disenfranchised by the site’s language and poor organization.
Both groups were entirely frank and brutally honest about having been frustrated trying to share or find important information on the site.
To round out our research, we also interviewed people without such clear interest in the City’s website, such as the wayfinding expert who spoke with us about how people quickly navigate complex information visually.
Looking at all the stories that were shared with us as a whole, we arrived at four Strategic Principles that will provide design guidelines for the team and shape the development of the site. However, their usefulness does not end at launch-- we will refer to them in decision making as we maintain and expand the site going forward.
These four principles are a constant reminder of what we need to create and maintain a citizen-centered site:
- ACT AS A HELPFUL HUMAN. Make people feel like we’re here to assist. Not to pass the buck.
- EQUAL PARTS WARM AND OFFICIAL. Giving people information they can take to the bank and also be honest about our limitations.
- THE SYSTEM IS VAST. HELP PEOPLE NAVIGATE THEIR PORTION OF IT. Make it functional. Make it as intuitive as possible.
- BUILD AN ENERGIZING ENVIRONMENT. Rather than avoiding contact with City government, make it something that helps people engage with their community.
In future posts, we’ll explain each of these design principles, how they came to be, and how they may influence the final design.