Two recent San Diego city website redesigns — for the San Diego Police Department and Homelessness Strategies and Solutions Department — have put a spotlight on the importance of accessibility and usability of government websites.
The changes to the SDPD and HSSD sites were aimed at improving the user experience and access to critical service information, GovTech reports.
“I think both of these websites show how the city is putting residents and their needs first,” says Ashley Bailey, the city’s strategic communications officer. “Because police and homelessness, those are two topics where someone might be in crisis.”
As Bailey explains, both websites may be used by people in a crisis or otherwise traumatic situation — people who need information to support themselves in an emergency.
Both website redesigns were created through collaborative efforts between the agencies and the city’s communications department and IT department web team.
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Local Government Agency Focused on UX for Citizens
San Diego’s website overhauls are in line with a push by state governments to redesign and modernize government websites to be more user friendly and accessible. In March, the U.S. Justice Department released web accessibility guidance under the Americans with Disabilities Act to explain how state and local governments, as well as businesses open to the public, can make sure their websites meet ADA requirements to be accessible to people with disabilities.
Part of the SDPD’s efforts to improve UX included making the site more visually appealing and formatting actionable items so that they stand out. According to a release from the city, the website was redesigned with a “less-is-more approach,” focusing on the content that residents need to know. The agency also created a repeating feature that calls out similar types of information. For example, there is a standard feature on pages where filing a report might be necessary.
City Government Transitioned to Topic-Based Categorization
Given the importance and potential urgency of the information on its police department’s website, the city of San Diego strived to make key services easier to find.
One initiative was to transition from operations-based information storage to topic-based information. Cities and police departments often tend to structure information based on what department or unit oversees it, which can make information tricky for users to find.
“When a resident is looking for information, they don’t want to piece it together by first needing to know internal city operations or what unit handles it,” Bailey said during a press conference.
In grouping information by topic, the agency hopes to make it more intuitive for users to find the information they need. Now, if someone needs to know what to do after getting into a traffic accident, how to receive a copy of their report, or how to pay a traffic citation, all of this information will be under one bucket on the site.
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Agencies Capitalized on Reorganization for Transparency
HSSD’s new website offers the public an overview of its programs and services for addressing homelessness. This includes descriptions of the programs, shelter locations and hours of operation, and rules at specific shelters. It also includes data and reports produced by the department or other agencies related to city-funded programs and services for the homeless.
The SDPD’s website now has a tab dedicated to data and transparency, offering information on policies and procedures, and required disclosures for documents or information that are mandated by state or local legislation. The site will also have a process for community input on draft procedures before they are finalized, critical incident videos and other information on procedures.