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Boston Refreshes City Website in Bid to Appeal to Residents’ Needs

The city’s website is undergoing its first redesign in a decade as Boston aims to make the site easier to use.

After more than a decade, Beantown’s official digital presence needed a redesign, and now it's getting one. Currently available in pilot form, the new website aims to be easier for residents to navigate and to better address how Bostonians go about their daily lives.

According to Boston.com, the city's current website, CityofBoston.gov, “hosts more than 20,000 pages — many of them dead or outdated — that hold more than 1 million words.” That made it practically impossible for Bostonians to figure out how to pay fines or report problems with city streets, Lauren Lockwood, chief digital officer for the city of Boston, told the site.

“Trying to search for information was crippling,” Lockwood said, “not only because of the amount of it, but because of the way it was organized.”

Building a New Website

So the city spent the past few months figuring out how to build a better website, taking input from the public. Its digital team is working with renowned design firm IDEO and Boston-based Acquia, a hosting firm and technology solutions provider. The redesign will cost $880,800, The Boston Globe reported.

On its own website, IDEO notes that Boston’s site “had outgrown its existing structure and needed an overhaul. The user experience was mired by the fact that Boston City Hall has nearly 50 different departments, each with its own microsite, navigation and content standards that feed into a centralized site.”

“We heard from residents who mentioned how difficult it can be to search through departments and find the right information on the current website,” Lockwood told the Globe.

In addition to pages related to each department, the pilot website has “topics” pages that bring together related information from multiple sources and are more connected to city issues that affect how residents go about their daily lives. The topics pages contain information from various city departments and offices. Currently, the test site has just three topics — starting a business, having a car in the city, and winter preparedness — but the city’s digital team will be adding more.

The Boston Herald describes how the new system works: “For example, instead of going to the Public Works page to report an unplowed street, then going to the Transportation Department’s page to find information on parking bans and so on, any important information about winter will be on the same page under a topic called ‘Winter Is Coming.’”

A New Look and Feel

As Boston.com explains, the new site incorporates responsive design, meaning it will scale to the size of mobile device screens. The pilot website is much cleaner, too, with a streamlined navigation that lets users scroll down on one page to find more information and has a small menu button at the top left corner of the page that reveals the topic pages. Additionally, the site features a large font and bold colors.

“There’s nothing random about anything on the site,” Lockwood told Boston.com.

“Beautifully designed, delightful to use, and thoroughly useful,” pilot.boston.gov declares. “That is our goal for Boston.gov and here is your first look. As you'll see, we have a lot of work to do, but as we experiment we invite you to explore our test site, give us feedback, and follow our progress.”

Lockwood emphasized to the Globe that the pilot website is still being designed and will change over the next few months. The new Boston.gov site is expected to officially launch later in 2016, according to the Globe.

Pilot.Boston.Gov
Jan 13 2016

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