Saskatoon.ca Redesign

Increasing Public Engagement Using A Municipal Webpage

Role

Tool


Duration

Product Designer

Figma

Reddit

 

July 2022 - August 2022

Engagement on the current www.saskatoon.ca/engage page is minimal. Is it possible to encourage civic engagement with a reimagined portal?

This project is a study in municipal engagement. I have been living in Saskatoon, SK for almost half my life and have always been motivated by community building.

With this design, I tried to re-imagine the Engage page as an all encompassing engagement portal, from community events to project proposals. The feedback was lukewarm, however valuable insight was gained throughout the process

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Why 

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"I appreciate your enthusiasm, but they paid tons of money for the last redesign and they're not going to do anything with your work. The scope of the city's website is just so massive, and the value of public feedback is mostly in making people feel like they said their piece not in trying to please individuals.

 

There are way more fun hobbies out there."

- tokenhoser, Reddit r/saskatoon

Engagement is a serious government design issue. If citizens feel there are barriers to engagement, whether the issue lies with management or with communities themselves, it is easy to assume the problem is inherent within any democratic system. However, there is growing research supporting applied design thinking to municipal systems fosters community engagement***. This is the motivation behind my project, albeit a small contribution to a larger redesign that is needed. 

 

Increase Use of Website by Residents

Increase Use of Website by Residents

Explore limitations of redesign

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Saskatoon.ca
Redesign

Full layout/graphic redesign

Increase Engagement

Define Engagement

Design Single Engage Page

Saskatoon.ca Redesign

Research was difficult for this project. I needed a large, amount of data from multitudes of demographics to gain a clear picture of what a large municipal website should accomplish. To add to that, I required the motivation of respondents to provide insightful answers. Most answers carried an undercurrent of cynicism to the project, likely revealing the confidence citizens have for a useful digital municipal project. 

So I asked Reddit....

Without having access or resources for a large scale survey, I turned to Reddit to gain qualitative answers from the citizens of Saskatoon.

Why Do You Use the Saskatoon.ca Website?

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Huh....nothing about extracurricular activities, public events...or general engagement. Was

 

the project

 

already likely

 

to

 

 

fail?

What Do You Think of the Saskatoon.ca Website?

I decided it wasn't worth stopping yet. If I can synthesize some of the information meaningfully and create a working prototype, I can consider it a practice of reproducing components and, more importantly, create some applied research using a prototype to test the possibility of an engagement page. So I persisted... 

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Responses on /rsaskatoon

Increase Use of Website by Residents

or

Full layout/graphic redesign

The project expanded to these two decisions. I began to ask, why is a redesign necessary (likely a good question to ask BEFORE I started...). In terms of municipal website trends, Saskatoon.ca was behind the times (colour use hover menus), but functionally, it worked as it should. So I decided to make notes on the current design.

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What do these Icons mean? Obviously one is for accessibility, but the wheelchair icon is not the standard anymore. 

Regarding the size of the website and realizing I had assumptions on the use of templates for the separate web pages in the site map, I conceded to focus on a specific page, which needed attention. 

Increase Engagement

This would be the guiding theme of the project. It allowed me to focus on a specific task and goal that could lead toward valuable insight on how the website could operate. 

Though I was inspired by other municipalities' approaches to their website, I had to be realistic that a complete redesign is likely not favourable for citizens OR city management. So I decided to construct the current mobile version of the website, replicating it piece by piece. 

Current Website 

Reconstruction

- Icons needed         updating

- Separated language from accessibility

- Search could be more visible (based on user feedback)

- Search more visible

- Accessibility icon updated

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Once I had a working reconstruction of components and elements, I took the first step into "engagement".

Explore Limitations of redesign

and

Define Engagement

As opposed to the previous section, the expansion of the project would require me to consider both divergences rather than picking one of the two. 

Would you participate in a prototype study to see if the engage page can be made more useful?

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Aah Reddit....always looking for the truth.

Hurt feelings aside, these were good considerations and seemingly they are concerns shared by more than a few other on lookers. 

Important to note that this was a request for testing. There was no mention of a potential deliverable nor any development in the works, so unfortunately the consensus among Reddit was that research wasn't worth the effort.

Well I did it anyways

But not without these important considerations:

The website may have pages that do not communicate with each other, including the engage page, making the project not a redesign, but an entire rebuilding...

| Municipal websites are constructed with the input of multiple committees, departments, and officials. Any changes made will require multiples levels of approval

| Mountains of research was presumably conducted to result in the website today. Without having access to that research, some of my changes may not fall within the scope of that said research

| The design will be mobile first as this is the most likely (without having access to the research) medium of choice for most residents

Design Single Engage Page

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Front Page with new Engage! Banner

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Engage Page

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Social Media is a powerful engagement tool and currently the city of Saskatoon restricts its usage to services and disruptions. This page was designed with city marketing in mind.

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This page exists already on the current website, but it was given an uplift to create cohesion in the styling of the new Engage! page.

Public Events are approved by the city. In this design, the approved projects are pushed into this formatted page to reflect the ongoings of the community. How this is accomplished is demonstrated below. 

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This form requires the user to accept whether the event is public or not. If yes, the description, location, dates, and name of event are pushed to the public events page form. 

Lastly, this is the current Contact Us page. It occurred to me that the city may be purposely diverting call traffic away and hiding the page from users to encourage them to find the answers they are looking for through the website. While changing the header icons was necessary, it was difficult to consider where the phone icon would be located. Without testing, I took the instinctual feeling that it remain visible at the top (as opposed to an icon locked during scrolling which I previously iterated.)

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Conclusions....what have I done?

As you may have seen, response was not enthusiastic about the design. 

I have a great interest in producing community based projects, which include government and municipal projects. This was a good opportunity to try my hand and a good digital UX leading to the real world (as the philosophy of the UK Government Design team). 

What was deemed, and ultimately learned, absolutely necessary was the understanding it takes to create an essential service for a large amount of users. 

What Next

The design likely has gone as far as it can. There is not the budget or motivation within the municipality to oversee any changes anytime soon. This being said, the current design is almost 15 years old and there have been some major changes in municipal design systems since (even regionally speaking considering Regina, SK's website redesign).

That being said, here are a couple of next steps I would consider:

Continue research on the users of the website and evaluate if their needs are being met.

Reconsider the 9+ colours used as primary colours (these may have departmental implications, but it creates an accessibility issue).

Reconsider the use of hover menus to navigate different services (accessibility issue).

Engage more with the residents! Conduct research to find out how that's possible! (though this may be $$$).

 
 

Thanks for reading!

dc