During the summer of 2014, the Citizen Interaction Design team consisting of four fellows (Mike McCasland-Project Manager, Lingbo Guo-Web Developer, Clara McClenon-Information Architect and Jim Rampton- User Experience Designer) continued the work of the student team from the Winter 2014 term as the City of Jackson prepared for a major construction project in the heart of its downtown.
Our goal over a 12-week period was to create a comprehensive communication plan which included, developing a website highlighting the facts about the downtown construction project and establishing a downtown business registry to facilitate information flow. Our collaboration included more than just the City of Jackson, we also worked with a Public Relations and Marketing Firm (M3 Group) to ensure the information driving their marketing campaign was accurate and user centered.
The need for an accurate business registry was important, one of the main concerns of city officials was keeping businesses "in the know" with construction updates. The city relied on the tax assessor's records, which didn't provide email, to generate listings for downtown businesses. This is a limited approach, to remedy, we walked door to door to every business downtown and gathered their contact information to talk about the construction project, answer questions and eventually send them a bi-weekly newsletter with construction updates. The team decided to utilize MailChimp, a web-based email service that allows easy access to subscription to facilitate distribution of information about the project to businesses.
An informational website was the keystone to a successful communication plan. Before we even began sketching the web design we came up with a features list, based on our research of the project and the websites intended users (focus group notes and the previous project recommendations). We decided the websites most important features would include information about the projects timeline, motivations and outcomes. We also knew it was essential to emphasize that downtown business would remain open during construction and the city wanted to ensure citizens would continue their patronage during the project. The downtown parking situation was frequently brought up as a concern during focus groups and our door to door contacting of businesses, we decided to create a parking map highlighting areas where people could continue to park for the duration of the construction project.
The Website needed to be designed so that its content would be accurate throughout the duration of the project, as the city has limited resources to conduct website maintenance.
We followed an iterative design process, which consisted of developing sketches that eventually led to lo-fidelity and high-fidelity mock-ups. The developer took the mock-ups and began coding the site. We had weekly meetings with city officials to review the content and design of the website, also to ensure the copy was accurate.
We designed the website to match "Dig Downtown Jackson" campaign style proposed by M3 and selected by city officials.
Those same style standards guided the design of other materials that were produced, such as, the parking map, newsletter and direct mail.
We began this project May 19th, 2014 and set a goal of a website release date of July 28th. The construction project was slated to begin August 11th and we wanted the website to go live two weeks prior to the project breaking ground. We came close to our deadline and had limited usability testing prior to the website release, though the group did meet our goal of a July 28th launch.
To visit the site go to www.digjackson.com