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Boston’s newly redesigned website may have officially left the beta phase when it launched in July, but to Chief Digital Officer Lauren Lockwood, its entire working life will be spent in development.
“The launch is really the beginning,” said Lockwood, who was hired in December 2014 to improve how Boston provides digital services and citizen interactions.
The former Morgan Stanley investment banker has led the redesign of Boston.gov and brought in an array of tech talent including developers, a project manager, an engagement strategist and a content specialist. During the past two years, they’ve helped other departments report their information; facilitated early voting; and written brand guidelines and social media standards for the city.
But to forge a new direction for the website — distilling coherence and cohesion from 20,000 individual pages — staffers resorted to shoe-leather research, getting out of the office and letting residents tell them what worked and what didn’t.
“The most important thing that came out of the conversations was that making resources and information available is not the same thing as making them accessible. That sort of thing has carried through everything we do,” said Lockwood, also a Harvard Business School graduate.
Staffers chose updated colors and type fonts, and rewrote text to make it less impenetrable and academic; and, most importantly, elevated key functions — letting residents sign up for snow emergency alerts, pay parking tickets and report 311 issues all on the website’s front page.
The experience taught Lockwood that most people interact with Boston digitally, and that websites need to be mobile responsive for residents whose only computer may be their cellphone. One future initiative is making the application process truly virtual — updating at least 344 PDFs of forms or applications that now must be downloaded.
“I think with the people we have on the team now, we are poised to do some things that are much more experimental and are going to be pushing the boundaries of what’s been done,” Lockwood said. “The sort of mandate for our time is, ‘What is digital in this day and age?’”