San Jose City Hall is spending $350,000 for a new website, but city officials say the “Capital of Silicon Valley” was long overdue for a high-tech digital makeover.
Despite being the hub of tech innovation, San Jose’s website hasn’t been upgraded in nearly six years.
“I’m excited about our beta product,” said city spokeswoman Rosario Neaves in a recent interview. “It was high time for a redesign.”
The unveiling of the new site comes after nearly two years of research and design work.
The goal was to create something that was focused around city services and was easy to navigate for a variety of users, city leaders said. Neaves said the city was also behind in catering to smartphone users and a responsive design was another key component of the upgrade.
The city began the work by surveying the community and dozens of city employees. It set up a series of focus groups and used the feedback to construct the new design.
In addition to practical fixes, the city took the opportunity to play with the website’s visual elements as well. The new website will feature images of actual residents amid a backdrop of the city’s attractions, rather than stock photography that can be found on the existing site.
“We wanted it to reflect San Jose’s diverse culture, the community and the treasures that you find living here,” Neaves said. “We’re a culture of innovation, festivals, fairs and events.”
The city signed a five-year contract for website design with the vendor Vision Internet, now acquired by Granicus.
As part of the process, the city hosted a three-day workshop for roughly two dozen of its employees last October, representing a variety of different departments. During the workshop, they learned design principles and how to write content for a lay audience.
“Sometimes we’re writing memos to describe a program — something that’s very technical,” said Michelle Thong, the city’s digital services lead, who helped organize the workshop. “That’s very different than writing for a resident who’s trying to get their junk picked up.”
City staff then tested their efforts on “real people” — residents who could be found around City Hall.
“What is the path they’re going to take? What is the right information they need to know at the right time?” Thong said. From there, further adjustments were made to allow for a more intuitive experience.
“There were a lot of ‘ah ha’ moments in this workshop,” Neaves said.
Residents can take a peek at the design proposal at https://staged08.visioninternet.net/home. The city is inviting additional feedback through a survey that can also be found on the new site. It is accepting responses up until March 1 with a plan to roll out the new design sometime next month.
In 2017, the city released the “My San Jose” mobile application as another digital avenue for residents to connect with city staff and share tips about things like potholes and other needed repairs. Neaves says the app and new website will work together to help make interacting with City Hall as convenient as possible for the residents.
“We’re promoting this as our new digital front door,” Neaves said.
Contact Carina Woudenberg at [email protected] or follow @carinaew on Twitter.