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Principle 3: Help people navigate their portion of a vast system

December 15, 2015

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Digital Team

This is the third in a series of posts about our four Strategic Principles.

Curious how we arrived at our four Strategic Principles? Check out this post.

“It’s on the website,” is likely something you’ve been told before. While it’s true we provide mountains of information for Boston’s residents and visitors, the burden of locating what you need can be crippling.

Our audit of’s more than 20,000 indexed pages and around 8,000 PDFs drove that point home for us. Some residents have grown accustomed to the site’s deep rabbit holes and siloed information, but for others, it’s just unusable — they give up, and start to think it’s done this way on purpose.

The lesson here is that there’s a large difference between making information available and making it accessible. The site should make sure it's accessible for all and act as your digital sherpa. Someone trusted to not only know the best route from A to B, but also to anticipate what you may need along the way. 

Residents’ lives and their individual needs straddle departments. Our challenge is to bridge these gaps and guide an experience based on real-life moments. No one should ever be required to have a deep understanding of City Hall’s organizational structure. Except, of course, all of us City employees. The information we provide must be always relevant to our constituents’ needs. The language we use to get you there should be clear and direct. 

For the site to be widely accessible and inviting for all citizens, we must also be conscious of the great diversity in our residents when planning function and content. This means not just offering a top-notch mobile experience but also designing for persons with disabilities. Simplifying the language on our site is key, but so is offering better translation tools. logs more than 500,00 sessions per month on average. We hope when each of these people return to the site after an initial first visit, it should be a comfort to them. It should feel like something they’ve mastered after only one experience.