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Research Debrief

Disclaimer: this research debrief was created for a capstone project for Design Lab’s UX Academy on a rapid competitor and user research schedule.

United States, but Not In Design?

Beginning my research with competitor analysis, I had found that government websites vary in design by geography (city, state, county), type (federal vs. local), department and etc. On the “city level”, some city websites offer functions that others do not. Some obviously followed design systems while others had an obscene range of font styles. There are some city websites that have clearer navigation taxonomies and information architecture than others.
I established that the city websites I studied have a common goal: to offer services, resources and information to their residents – in other words: to work for us, its residents. Thinking about a city website as a business, I asked myself, how would I rate these websites as a business? Seeing the city websites in this light, it is apparent that some websites provided better experiences than others mostly for their design quality, usability and relevance of content.
To build my understanding of how the three factors above could make or break a user’s experience on a government website, I conducted 5 interviews and 1 survey with 10 participants. Here are some key insights:

Knowledge is power and new residents want that power

Whether moving to a new county or to a new country, the new resident will always be searching for information. I found that the top goals for this search are:
1) To become acclimated and “at home”
2) To be in compliance with local regulations and laws
3) To navigate their new environments with ease and efficiency
Knowing these goals, how could better set up its new residents with the knowledge that they need? What content needs to be produced? How can

Ease of use is a service in itself

67% of my survey participants expressed that they look to government websites to learn more about services and resources their cities provide, mostly redirected from a search engine. It was clear that city websites still are on the front-lines to provide official information, so they must be easy to navigate and provide users with clear path to what they are searching for. Availability of information is key, but so should be the ease of further inquiring through a chat bot, e-mail or a hotline.
One participant had mentioned not being able to find information specific to her situation, yet the website she had used did not provide a way for her to inquire; she ended up asking a friend. Such experiences can turn users away from what should be an official source of information, which can potentially lead to misinformation if users turn towards the wrong sources.

Designing for Technology and Trust

From my interviews, participants had pointed out common pains from their experiences browsing through government websites: lack of digitisation and lack of design modernisation or design systems. Such pain points can have users question the usefulness, value and credibility of the content and the product. Even in which a website can communicate trustworthiness: design quality, up-front disclosure, comprehensive and current content, and connection to the rest of the web.

Further Reading

Notes and results from interviews and surveys

Forms response chart. Question title_ How do you usually search for information about your city’s resources and services (ie. license_ID, transportation, parking permits, schools etc.). Number of responses_ 12 responses
Forms response chart. Question title_ Did you use any official government websites to get information on the services_resources from the previous question_. Number of responses_ 12 responses
Forms response chart. Question title_ If you answered "YES", did you feel the information was up to date_. Number of responses_ 9 responses
Forms response chart. Question title_ Rate your experience in locating specific information about any of your city's services_resources while using the city's official website.. Number of responses_ 11 responses
Value the Small Changes
My preliminary research led me to conclude that many government websites, including Chicago.Gov, could benefit from better Information Architecture and Taxonomy. From a survey I conducted, 81% of respondents said their experiences in locating the information they needed were somewhat difficult to neutral. For this reason, I proposed a change in navigation and
But Dare to Dream Big, Too
I explored a solution that created a personalized experience for the user. Small changes make a big difference, but ambitious changes make an impact.

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