Principle 2: Be equal parts warm and official


This is the second in a series of posts about our four Strategic Principles.  Curious how we arrived at them? Check out this post.

Strategic Principle number two requires that everything about our new site inspires confidence. Bostonians should think of us as the go-to site for information relevant to their communities. 

As the official website for the City, residents should always feel confident that the information is accurate, up-to-date, and trustworthy. Residents should also feel confident that they are in the right place. Not just the correct URL, but a place that feels right for them—approachable, open, and inviting. 

While we must sound official, do we need to always sound authoritarian? Many people who look at the site today don’t feel welcome. This comes from a combination of factors—language and tone being primary among them. If the site makes us sound like we’re a know-it-all giving you the run-around, that hardly inspires confidence.

When arriving at the new boston.gov, we want people to say "I see people like me here," "They talk to me like I'd like to be spoken to," and "This is my kind of place."

Our challenge is to maintain confidence in the site's authority while not shutting people out by being too bossy or using complicated "legalese". Our tone of voice and the words we choose should be equal parts warm and official. Professional, but also friendly. Authoritative, yet approachable. There will be times when we need to just be officially "City of Boston", but we will always strive for balance.

One final thing: inspiring confidence is more than just telling people what you know. It’s also about being honest about what you don’t know, with a promise to find out as fast as we can. We hope our focus on using plain language and a more welcoming tone will make these moments of vulnerability easier for us to share as the site grows.

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