Oakland, CA – The City of Oakland launched a new website today—staging.oaklandca.gov—the City’s new “digital front door” to City services. Moving to a “dot gov” domain name restricted to government entities adds legitimacy and credibility as an official government site and will yield much more accurate results on search engines.
In fact, “search” is a robust feature of the new site, reflecting how most people actually find the information they are looking for. Oaklandnet.com was more like a map of the City’s bureaucracy. Oaklandca.gov focuses on delivering services at the click of a button, regardless of which department is responsible for that service.
To design the site, Oakland’s digital services team conducted significant research and testing, drawing inspiration from the best minds in user experience and from other cities like Boston, Philadelphia, and Orlando to create a modern website that is clear, elegant, and easy to use, where public needs come first.
The site is launched, but not finished.
City departments will continue to build out pages, content, and features, working to hone the site and keep it fresh. We are using web analytics to test what’s working, find out what isn’t, and make changes along the way. In real time.
When we did our “user research,” we considered City staff as power users and found a content management system that would be easy for staff to use. This way, keeping the web site fresh and up to date is core to our business, like staffing a phone line or service counter.
We invite the public to explore the site, and are eager for feedback. Suggestions, insights and reports of problems can be made by filling out this form.
What You Can See
There are some obvious visual distinctions between our old and new sites.
- Navigation. We know that most of users hated drilling down 10 clicks through Oaklandnet.com. So, we have a pretty light navigation with a heavier emphasis on search.
- Writing. We’re aiding transparency and inclusion efforts by adding success metrics to everything we publish online. In other words, while we’ll continue to be a bureaucracy, we won’t talk like one. Instead, we’re striving to communicate at a 5th-8th grade reading level. Our goal is to make sure that we’re easier to understand, search for online, and translate. We’re striving to refrain from using words like “citizen” and other words that exclude members of our community.
- Design. The design of the site offers bigger text, icons, and clear calls to action on each page. Whether the function of each part of the site is to fill out a form or read about City policy, the design is consistent and predictable across the site.
- Oakland Images. Instead of corporate landscapes, we want to create a more welcoming place to visit us online. Our new digital front door (and side doors), feature details, places, and spaces from around the Town and our beloved community. In particular, the site showcases the details and the people who make Oakland feel like home.
What’s 99% Invisible
Here are some things going on behind the scenes:
- Mobile responsive. Our website will now work on smartphones and tablets with relative ease.
- A Better System for City Staff. Our staff had to use a 10+ year-old system to update our online services and information. Simple changes and web updates that once took hours can now be completed in minutes.
- Search. We are increasing the capacity for better search by tagging our information.
- A League of Our Own. We pulled together some of the best and the brightest local talent to work with our City departments. Our Oakland Design League works on analyzing public data, designing City services, improving content, and testing our website with the public and City staff.
- Feedback Loop. Ongoing improvements are based on testing our online services with Oaklanders. Suggestions won’t go into a black hole; instead, they will be tracked and prioritized online.
What’s on the Roadmap?
Our work is never done. Technology is rapidly changing as quickly as the needs of our community. However, expect a few changes on the horizon.
- Forms. We’re adding the capability for staff to more easily create forms to better digitize the hundreds of services the City provides.
- Events. We’re looking to streamline our Citywide events, classes, and meetings so they are easy for the public to find in one location.
- Bugs. We’re spending the next several months fixing those little things that aren’t just quite right with the site.
Most importantly, our success depends on input. Feedback, suggestions, and insights can be shared by filling out this form.
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