New York City is moving forward with its first comprehensive redesign of NYC.gov since 2003, and is seeking outside help to bring the project to fruition.

Last week, the New York City Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications (DoITT) released an RFP outlining the goals of the comprehensive redesign, which is intended to enhance the user experience.

NYC.gov serves more than 25 million unique users per year and has more than 500 million page views annually. Nearly 12 percent of the site’s traffic comes from a mobile device, according to the proposal.

The idea of a site redesign has been brewing for the past two years, and was first outlined in DoITT’s 30-day review prepared when DoITT Commissioner Carole Post came aboard in 2010. 

Rachel Sterne, the city’s chief digital officer, said the redesign began in earnest last July with a hackathon the city hosted called “Reinvent NYC.gov.” The two-day event gathered more than 100 developers and designers to create new prototypes and points of reference for the city’s Web portal.

(See photos of the winning designs from the hackathon here.)

When finished, the redesigned site should make every interaction on NYC.gov faster, more convenient and easy to navigate, Sterne said. Officials hope users won’t need to know the organizational structure of New York City’s government in order to find what they’re looking for.

Users of NYC.gov who were interviewed for the city’s Digital Roadmap described the website’s current design as “hard to navigate,” “unwieldy” and “lacking consistency between departments, agencies and services.”

According to the RFP, predictive analytics will be utilized and will dictate the site’s organization and what information is presented. Content categories will be based on common user search terms and frequently asked questions to the city’s 311.

Other guiding principles of the new website’s content strategy will be improving search capability on the site, personalizing the site for the user with location-based customizations, and carrying more content to improve citizens’ awareness of what’s going on across the city.

“[The redesign] really ties in with the mayor’s plan to make New York City the leading digital city in the world and within the context of the four areas of access to technology, open government, engagement and industry,” Sterne said. “It really is falling squarely in the engagement area … and just improving every channel that we have to interact with the public for their needs.”

New York City also wants to deliver specific information during emergency situations through the redesigned NYC.gov. Sterne said the RFP mentions that the city is interested in leveraging the site’s header and footer for bringing attention to emergency news or updates.

New York City has looked at best practices and other websites for ideas. Geraldine Sweeney, DoITT’s senior associate commissioner for policy, planning and communications, said the city wants to award the contract for the redesign by mid-April, with  the goal to have the work finished by the end of 2012. The project timeline will depend upon the proposals received from qualified vendors.

Sterne and Sweeney did not disclose how much the contract is worth. The initial contract is for two years with an additional one-year option.

Sarah Rich, Staff Writer Sarah Rich  |  Staff Writer

In 2008, Sarah Rich graduated from California State University, Chico, where she majored in news-editorial journalism and minored in sociology. Since 2010, Sarah has written for Government Technology magazine and covers a spectrum of public-sector IT topics, including cloud computing, transparency, broadband, and other innovative projects and trends. She currently lives in Sacramento, Calif.