Oakland Design League:

Redesigning the The Online City of Oakland

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Challenge

The City of Oakland has an outdated website that fails to provide the services necessary for its citizens in an intuitive and easy-to-use way. The goal of the new site is to provide equity in access to city services and resources to all communities in the City of Oakland. The challenge was to navigate bureaucracy, funding issues, technical challenges, legal challenges, and politics to redesign a site that has tens of thousands of pages and hundreds of services spread across dozens of departments, commissions, and boards.

As part of the Oakland Design League I was charged with redesigning the sites for the Public Ethics Commission and the City Auditor.

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Role

My duties included content strategy, UX design, UX writing, UI writing, and service design.

Process

The Oakland Design League employed a user-centered approach to redesigning the City of Oakland website to create a service-focused platform for city residents. The current site has been under semi-constant revision by hundreds of contributors and stakeholders, and the process of developing a new home for the city online has been a long road with logistical and political potholes and road blocks. The Design League was created using funding allocated to complete the last stage of development: information design, content strategy, content revision and migration to a new CMS.

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Each Design League team member was assigned a number of work groups, including departments, boards, and commissions. I was assigned the Public Ethics Commission and the City Auditor, both groups that work to ensure fairness, openness, honesty and integrity in the Oakland city government.

To start the process, I conducted an audit of existing site, noting issues with access to services and content, redundant content, complicated or difficult to read writing, and any opportunities for additional development or refinement. Departments had also conducted some user research and provided access to existing analytics. Based on the audit and performance metrics, recommendations for revision were made, including:

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  • Reduce reading level to the city average of grade 5-9.

  • Simplify content and break into web appropriate chunks on specific topics.

  • Improve UX for access to documents and forms.

  • Place key services at top level navigation.

  • Simplify navigational structure to provide quick access to the most important information

  • Target key demographics of users with specific navigational verticals (candidates, official, employees, public, etc.)

To implement these changes, I worked with city staff and officials and listened to their concerns and needs, and learned needs of their primary constituents. We identified the highest priority services and the broad organizational and strategic goals of each department or group. I also worked closely with other design league team members to develop best practices for our bespoke CMS and how to organize sitemaps and content in a cohesive branded way across all city properties.

Outcome

The site is live and going through ongoing development.