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Strategic Design Principles

The City of Boston is taking a particularly thoughtful approach to design of a new website for their residents. I’m a big believer in the value of this type of upfront investment. This team’s ability to distill their research down to four carefully crafted guiding principles is an excellent thought model to consider for your next initiative. From their Digital Initiatives site:

These four principles are a constant reminder of what we need to create and maintain a citizen-centered site:

  • ACT AS A HELPFUL HUMAN. Make people feel like we’re here to assist. Not to pass the buck.
  • EQUAL PARTS WARM AND OFFICIAL. Giving people information they can take to the bank and also be honest about our limitations.
  • THE SYSTEM IS VAST. HELP PEOPLE NAVIGATE THEIR PORTION OF IT. Make it functional. Make it as intuitive as possible.
  • BUILD AN ENERGIZING ENVIRONMENT. Rather than avoiding contact with City government, make it something that helps people engage with their community.

It also strikes me as an indicator of strong senior leadership understanding the value and willing to provide time and resources for quality research.

Good information on their program can be found at next.bos.gov.

The city has recently set-up a pilot site to both inform the community on progress and encourage feedback on both structure and content at pilot.bos.gov.

This approach has the added advantage of setting expectations early and throughout the project leading to a higher likelihood of stakeholders viewing the new site as a success.