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 with the development of the Distressed Property Report Website.
The City leadership was passionate about this project because it takes advantage of the new Open Data Policy, which can now provide the citizens information about condemned properties within the City of Jackson.
Our goal was to develop and release the site prior to the Jackson County Tax-Sale (home auction) as a tool for the local populace to ensure they were informed about all aspects of the properties and where they were in the condemnation process. The tax-sale was held on August 6th 2014, in May, when the internship began we set a website release date of July 31st. The site went live August 4th, just before the auction.
Using the designs that the previous group created, our team developed a site and helped the city develop a process for organizing the data and allowing it to be pulled into the website. Data transfer issues existed because the city is using a program called ArcGIS to view data on properties that are distressed. This program does not have features to export the data. The city was using employees in the Neighborhood Economic and Operations Office (NEO) to populate information into excel spreadsheets which were in turn given to the employee controlling ArcGIS for him to manually input.
In an attempt to help export the data we enlisted the help of employees in the NEO to create a new spreadsheet that would correlate all data needed to populate our new website. Our developer then created a Python program which pulled the data from the spreadsheet and automatically populates the fields within the website. The process was then documented on a help sheet we created to leverage the ability of any city employee to accomplish this task.
We conducted multiple meetings with city staff to ensure we were meeting their expectations. While the initial website is up and functioning and is meeting the city managers intent, there is still room for improvement based on some of the suggestions provided by the city NEO. Additional improvements to the site will be made by a future student team or an outside developer if the city chooses.