Philadelphia is one of the greatest cities in the country, but it’s no secret that we don’t have a website to match. Like most governments, we tend to organize content the way we, in government, think about it – like an org chart, like a brochure – and not necessarily like residents think about government. And we typically spend a lot of time planning, gathering requirements, getting sign-off, and building a finished product for a grand reveal long after the process began.
It’s time for a new approach.
Instead of designing from our own assumptions, we will start with the needs of our neighbors, the residents of Philadelphia. We will learn how people want to use phila.gov through regular usability testing and our web analytics.
Instead of designing the entire site up front, we will break down development into manageable, two week iterations. This agile process allows us to develop quickly and provides flexibility to adjust to user feedback and (inevitable) unforeseen issues.
Instead of working behind closed doors and making the public wait for a grand reveal, we will build out in the open. Today we are happy to announce the starting line — alpha.phila.gov, or Alpha1 for short. Alpha is an experimental prototype, a work in progress. It’s missing content. Parts of it are confusing. The design needs work. But the prototype and supporting processes that our team of six put together in just six weeks is pretty incredible.
The goal of Alpha is to show you, our neighbors, where we’re starting and allow you to follow our progress. It gives you the opportunity to have say in crafting phila.gov, Philadelphia’s digital front door2 into city government.
To make this really work, we need your help in three ways.
- Visit alpha.phila.gov and tell us what you think. You’ll find a “Provide Feedback” link in the header and footer of every page. Tell us the good, bad, and ugly.
- Complete this survey. It’s quick and easy — a little bit about you and how (or if) you use phila.gov.
- Tell your neighbors! The more the merrier.
The current phila.gov will remain in place while Alpha matures.
There’s much to do. We won’t get everything right the first time, but we have a tried and true approach, an incredible team, strong supporters, and open ears. We’re looking forward to an exciting and productive 2015.
1 In our process, the “alpha” phase is for rapid prototyping and testing out ideas. As we get feedback from Philadelphia residents and government departments, we will discover a good path forward. We will then move into the “beta” phase which is to ensure that these are ideas are implemented at scale. Finally, the “live” phase is when we roll out fully to the public as the new phila.gov (but we continue to iterate and improve).
2 “Digital Front Door” was shamelessly stolen from our friends at Code for America.