Digital Team projects you might have missed in 2017
We’ve already talked a lot about our work this year. The Digital Team created the City’s first pattern library, Fleet, to help us stay consistent with our digital tools. Our outreach work amplified City campaigns, including “Help for Houston” and “Boston Preservation Month.” Thanks to our work with the Office of Food Access, those in need can find food resources in multiple languages with the help of our maps. We’re still working on the redesign of BOS:311. But, we’ve already put in place a machine learning system that we hope will create a more intuitive experience.
This is just the tip of the iceberg, though. The Digital Team was involved in a ton of projects this year that made a difference in our community. Thanks to the nature of our work, we’ve been able to make an impact both with City departments and in the lives of the people we serve.
Career Center campaign
At the beginning of the year, Human Resources was getting ready to launch its new Career Center. The problem was, they needed help getting the word out. We were happy to share how great it is to work for the City. Our idea was to highlight not just open positions, but the personality types that make a great fit. In our outreach campaign, our goal was to attract people who know how to get stuff done, and who care about making a difference. We wanted that to come across in our simple and direct "Now Hiring" campaign.
First, we created a brand new website about how to apply for jobs through the Career Center. This included information on more complex positions, such as becoming a firefighter and a police officer. We then interviewed four current employees to showcase the variety of what you can do, and their incredible stories.
We also advertised on Facebook for the very first time. So far, our ads have reached close to 280,000 people, with nearly 1 million impressions. When you compare the three months before we launched the campaign to the three months after we launched the campaign, we saw a 77 percent jump in traffic to the Career Center website.
New newsletter system
For years, City departments were limited by a cumbersome and outdated newsletter system. Staff training was difficult, and the system itself often broke. So, we switched to upaknee. By training departments in best practices and how to use our new templates, we’ve made a difference in the speed and consistency of the City's outreach efforts.
We’ve talked a lot about the importance of consistency in our digital communications, but that’s just one piece of the puzzle. What’s most important is that you, our constituents, receive information that is convenient and relevant. We’re looking forward to further improving this process — and our content — throughout 2018.
More housing information
We made some serious headway over the summer working on content with Neighborhood Development. We’ve always had information on affordable housing on Boston.gov, but it wasn’t consolidated in one location. We worked with a summer fellow to create a comprehensive guide on the website. One page now contains all the information you need to understand your options for finding affordable housing in the City.Evictions
We also worked with the department’s Office of Housing Stability on eviction information. We took a more than 25-page document, whittled it down, and turned it into useful Boston.gov pages. This includes a “how-to” page on responding to an eviction. Eviction information was another part of the site where we were lacking. We had some information, but no central resource. Our new page now helps meet that need.
Food Truck map (and maps in general)
Food trucks have taken Boston — and many other cities — by storm. On the old City website, our food trucks pages were some of the most popular on the site. The problem? For about three months at the end of 2016 and the start of 2017, that information was inaccurate. People would end up finding french fries instead of falafel. Our legacy system was broken and there wasn’t an easy way for us to update or maintain it going forward. So, we decided to move everything over to Boston.gov.
Thanks to a tag-team effort by the Digital and Analytics Teams, we were able to create a beautiful, updated map. Aside from obvious filters, like neighborhood and time of day, we also set up geo-location. That way, you can load the map to find all trucks near your actual location. We’re still working out the kinks, but our food trucks map became a template for our work going forward. We used it as inspiration for a handful of maps during the year, including our farmers markets map and our upcoming public restrooms map.
What’s on deck?
On the product development side, one of our big projects will be reviewing legacy City systems. We want to clean up redundancy to create a better experience for you, our users. We are reviewing plans to upgrade from Drupal 7 to Drupal 8 to keep the backend of our websites up-to-date. We want to enable greater connections between our user interface and City data through more advanced API opportunities. Use of our pattern library, Fleet, will continue to expand. We’re not done with maps. We’ll be partnering with the City’s Analytics Team to improve the maps experience across Boston.gov. We’re also right around the corner from launching a brand new BOS:311 system.
Our content and design work will continue full-steam ahead to ensure branding consistency and a helpful tone across City services. You’ll be seeing more paper and digital communications that follow our brand guidelines. Also, every City program or department will get our support to clean up, consolidate, and enhance their outreach efforts. You shouldn’t feel bombarded with information, but we want you to get what you need from the City. We’ll be working from the inside out to move closer to that goal.
It’s hard to predict the future. But, as a team of innovators passionate about making your digital interactions with the City easier and more enjoyable, we know we’ll be staying busy in 2018. You can follow along with us on our roadmap page. Have an idea for what we should work on next? Please let us know.