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IDEO, graphic designer
Acquia, programmer
City of Boston, project design and development
Launch Site

“I’ve long been jealous of the digital tools available to citizens of European countries, which make everything from looking up building codes to paying your taxes easy and intuitive. This project begins to close the gap with a model I hope other cities will follow.” —juror Ben Hughes

“This is—happily—the opposite of most city websites. Boston.gov clearly prioritized the needs of residents and visitors. Common tasks and frequent questions are put front and center, and the visual design is easy to read and browse.” —juror Libby Bawcombe

Overview: From ordering birth certificates to finding out where their cars have been towed, Bostonians need to access government services every day. But after more than a decade since the last redesign of its website, the city of Boston recognized that its site was out of touch with such a wide array of needs—especially in its lack of mobile responsiveness. Partnering with design firm IDEO and Boston-based development company Acquia, the city created a sleek, easy-to-use site that quickly directs Bostonians to the services they need. The voice of the city’s services also takes center stage, with key messages displayed right on the homepage.

•The redesign features an updated brand and rewritten copy to make the site easier to understand and navigate.
•Built in Drupal, Boston.gov is hosted in the cloud to provide a reliable, secure experience.
•Since its launch, the site has welcomed more than 670,000 users, for more than 3.8 million page views.

Comments by James Duffy, digital content manager for the city of Boston, and Sebastian Ebarb, head designer for the city of Boston:
What was the thinking behind the navigation structure? “On the old site, city hall employees often struggled to communicate key messages, and citizens found it difficult to locate and understand that same information. To solve this problem, the team put themselves in citizens’ shoes and completely rethought the site’s structure, organizing information by ‘guides.’ Guides are curated collections of resources. Using these guides, citizens can easily access information on complex issues, like moving or buying a home.”

What was the most challenging aspect of the project? “Although we were able to bring over the majority of the city of Boston’s old website to the new boston.gov, there are still legacy applications in place. Most of these require a longer discovery period to find out how to make them work with Drupal. We’ve set a goal to completely migrate these off the old site and shut it down after about a year.”

Did you learn anything new during the process? “The redesign was rooted in citizen involvement from day one. We invited visitors to a pilot website in January 2016, testing designs and ideas with members of the community. Through focus groups, interviews and surveys, they tore up the old way of organizing content—by department, a hallmark of many government websites. The digital team adapted the site based on feedback from users—including the blind, those who had never used a computer before and those who speak very little English—and added new content and features every couple of weeks until formally launching the new site on July 20.”

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