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Partnership with design, web companies will revamp City of Boston website

The City of Boston’s website, boston.gov, is getting a redesign focused on becoming more user-friendly. PHOTO ILLUSTRATION BY BETSEY GOLDWASSER/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF
The City of Boston’s website, boston.gov, is getting a redesign focused on becoming more user-friendly. PHOTO ILLUSTRATION BY BETSEY GOLDWASSER/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

In effort to update the City of Boston’s website, Boston Mayor Martin Walsh announced a partnership Wednesday with two firms to focus on design and web content.

The City of Boston Digital Initiatives is teaming up with IDEO, a global design company, and Acquia, a web content company, to create an entirely new look for the website cityofboston.gov, according to a Wednesday press release .

“Acquia and IDEO are widely recognized leaders in innovation, web-design, and technology, and through this partnership the City of Boston will be well-equipped to build an online platform that is welcoming and inviting for Boston residents and visitors,” Walsh said in the release. “We’re looking to set high standards for quality customer service through our redesign and create positive experiences for all of those who visit our site.”

The new site will cater to the needs of users and will encourage feedback on a regular basis, according the release.

“The user-centered redesign will involve input from members of the Boston community to make information and services more accessible for the City’s diverse range of users, and will employ an iterative development methodology to incorporate user feedback throughout the process,” the release stated.

Lauren Lockwood, chief digital officer for the City of Boston, said conversations about renovating the website have been underway for a while.

“It had been something we had been pondering for a couple of years now, because there are a lot of issues with some of the content on the website,” Lockwood said. “Our content management system is something we’ve needed to upgrade, [and] so it’s not that we’re suddenly thinking about this, it’s something that’s been needed for a while.”

Lockwood leads a team of social media, web development and content and design workers. She said that one of the goals is to combine the talents of all of these groups to create an end product that will not decay over time.

The website currently contains a variety of information, but is not easily navigable, Lockwood said.

“The current website has a tremendous amount of information on it,” Lockwood said. “We’ve done a great job of providing information but not understanding who our users are, where they’re coming from, so this redesign is more of an opportunity for us to understand how we can deliver resources in a better and who is looking at the website.”

Lockwood said the companies are working in tandem to adapt to technological trends and cater to user needs.

“Our understanding is that people’s preferences will change over time,” she said. “In the last ten years its really been mobile, and having a website that understands how to communicate to [users] and translate that information. We don’t know what the next trend will be, but we need a website that can adapt to those changes, that is really meant to adapt to users’ changing preferences.”

The website is currently not available to mobile users, Lockwood said, but the teams are working to fix that. The redesign process, she added, is going to come in waves.

“The website is going to grow over time, so we are going to be releasing in stages the work we’ve done to the public,” Lockwood said. “So people should expect in 2016 to begin seeing new pieces of boston.gov. We’re not going to be flipping the switch entirely in the next few months. We want to do to the transition right.”

Lockwood added that input is always welcome, as the teams are looking to better understand users groups and how people access information.

Several residents said they look forward to seeing improvements for the website.

“[A new website] is important because at times it is so difficult to manage that you waste time,” said Christina Verme, 77, of Back Bay. “That’s a point that is valid and something has to be done about it.”

Andrew Smith, 22, of Fenway, said it isn’t surprising to see demand for a better, more efficient website.

“[It’s] to keep people informed and to keep them feeling like they are a part of what’s going on. [Walsh] is great for our community. I am from the area so he’s always been very hands on,” he said. “It would just make things easier.”

Monika Nayak contributed to the reporting of this article.

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