I really want to jump into the technology and decisions we made, but when we were presented with challenge our first steps were to learn as much about our platform users, roughly categorized into two groups: publishers and visitors. There were other outliers, but most features of the platform serve one of those two groups.
A lot goes into creating content for MSJ. It’s jumping ahead a bit, but let’s examine the materials for the most basic engagement event with the public:
- text content that is easy to understand for people aside from transportation engineers
- accurate imagery to explain changes
- geographic data (maps)
- web forms for soliciting feedback
- video presentations (which is more technical than presenting to a room of people)
- all of the above in English, Spanish, and Vietnamese
Oh yeah, did I mention MSJ is multilingual, and those three languages are the base content languages, with some surveys being additionally translated into Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Tagalog. So everything on that list is created at least three times.
I call this group “publishers”, because we collectively publish the site, each contributing along the way. The people in this group are employees of the City and their contractors (like me, teams helping on campaigns, translators, etc.).
This group is distinguished in that most of their interaction with the site is in the dashboard, meaning features for publishers are largely hidden benefits that assist in content creation and receiving feedback from the public.
Our areas of concern for publishers are:
- Content creation
- Good defaults
- Training and documentation
- Creating new processes that met the same or similar goals as in-person engagements
Most people using the MSJ site are “visitors”. Compared to publishers their experience with the site is very simple, though often arduous.
How so? Well, we ask a lot of visitors. If you attend a public meeting at your library branch, you got up and walked out the door at a designated time, you are invested in the event. We moved that online where people click a link and are presented with anything from a video, a series of maps and diagrams explaining a major change, an in-depth survey, or all three. It’s the equivalent of walking into a library and seeing a major thing happening, and deciding you could come back later…
And because we are including so much content and interactions, we have to ensure we aren’t excluding those with devices on the lower end of the power spectrum from participating. If the website only full loads on a new phone in an office building with enterprise bandwidth, how we will know how to serve the areas with less access?
See, it’s tough being a visitor!
Our areas of concern for visitors are:
- Accessibility across many dimensions
- content is encoded correctly
- resource respectful
- cognitive (ex. non-technical jargon)
- Digital privacy
- Ease of use
- Follow-up engagement