Tired of websites structured like city halls, Boston is soliciting user feedback to create an ever-evolving experience.

Boston.gov is getting a facelift the city’s Digital Team hopes will make information and services more accessible to residents. City Hall will seek community feedback throughout the process and has provided citizens with a site to track the progress of the redesign.

High on the city’s wishlist of features are mobile responsiveness and “streamlined user journeys,” says Chief Digital Officer Lauren Lockwood, so someone like a small business owner isn’t hopping from department site to department site searching for desired information.

“I think a lot of people see the current site’s look and feel it’s pretty antiquated, but it’s also very siloed,” Lockwood said. “As one person put it, ‘It looks like people pulled open a file cabinet.’”

The site’s current look. (Boston.gov)

Fixing the site’s pitfalls will entail making the typeface readable on mobile and translations smooth. Municipal jargon will be reduced, so you won’t see hard-to-decipher acronyms post-launch.

City agency stakeholders chose two local companies, technology provider Acquia and web design firm IDEO, to develop the new website.

While IDEO was picked for its innovative, human-centered approach to web design, Boston liked the scalable, secure nature of Acquia’s fully-managed, cloud-based platform. The city currently uses the web content management system SDL Tridion, a competitor of Acquia’s.*

“The mayor, his team and the chief information officer made the determination that, in order to achieve their digital strategy goals, they need a platform on which the city can innovate as rapidly as possible,” Todd Akers, Acquia public sector vice president, said in an interview. “The city wants to set a new civic standard for digital communications and engagement.”

When creating a resident- and visitor-focused site, user feedback is a must, so Boston has provided a channel for public engagement in the form of a progress-tracking site.

“The essence of the redesign is we want to make the website user-centric, rather than reflective of the structure of City Hall,” Lockwood said. “We’re meeting with different communities to understand how they access the site, why and why not.”

Boston isn’t the first major city to join Acquia’s client ranks.

The tech company recently secured contracts in New York and Los Angeles and has around 50 other state and local customers.

“We’re seeing the momentum accelerate,” Akers said.

Initially, Boston’s Digital Team will pilot a slimmed-down version of the new site to give users an idea of what it will look like and obtain their first thoughts.

City Hall aims to have a polished product go live during the first half of 2016, but calling it “final” would be a misnomer.

“What you have to remember is, while there is a date when we’ll flip the switch on the new Boston.gov, we’re sort of moving away from the process of a grand redesign that we launch, then let decay over time,” Lockwood said. “To one where we have it grow, change and adapt to user preferences.”

*CORRECTION: This story has been updated with the correct name of Boston's current web content management system, SDL Tridion.

This post originally appeared on Route Fifty, an Atlantic partner site.

More from Route Fifty:

Figuring Out What Makes the Best-Managed Cities Tick

U.S. Mayors Have a Message for 2016 Presidential Contenders​

Pittsburgh’s Mayor Announces Major Fiscal Commitment for Resiliency Efforts

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. A sign outside a storefront in Buffalo, New York.
    Environment

    Will Buffalo Become a Climate Change Haven?

    The Western New York city possesses a distinct mix of weather, geography, and infrastructure that could make it a potential climate haven. But for whom?

  2. A syringe sits on top of a car. Houses are behind it.
    Life

    The Changing Geography of the Opioid Crisis

    A new study shows that the country faces different opioid challenges in urban and rural areas.

  3. photo: A vacant home in Oakland that is about to demolished for an apartment complex.
    Equity

    Fix California's Housing Crisis, Activists Say. But Which One?

    As a controversy over unoccupied homes in the Bay Area and Los Angeles reveals, advocates disagree about what kind of housing should be built, and where.

  4. A photo of a police officer in El Paso, Texas.
    Equity

    What New Research Says About Race and Police Shootings

    Two new studies have revived the long-running debate over how police respond to white criminal suspects versus African Americans.

  5. photo: a high-speed train in Switzerland
    Transportation

    The Case for Portland-to-Vancouver High-Speed Rail

    At the Cascadia Rail Summit outside Seattle, a fledgling scheme to bring high-speed rail from Portland to Vancouver found an enthusiastic reception.

×