City of Philadelphia Launches “Beta” Version of Website Redesign
Philadelphia – As part of its effort to improve services to residents, the City of Philadelphia today launched a new “Beta” version of the redesigned website phila.gov.
Beta.phila.gov features a simple, mobile-friendly structure and clear content, connecting the public to City information and resources in more streamlined ways.
“Nearly five million people visit the City’s website every year. It is, in a sense, our digital front door. ‘Beta’ represents our vision for what interacting with government online can be,” said the City’s Chief Administrative Officer, Rebecca Rhynhart.
The “beta” version has evolved from the experimental prototype, “alpha,” through a series of redesigns and public feedback that began in December 2014. “The redesign is spearheaded by the Office of Open Data & Digital Transformation (ODDT), an office established by Rhynhart in May. Launching a “beta” version of the website — in parallel with the current website, phila.gov — enables ODDT to receive feedback from the website’s users and incorporate it throughout its design and development. Visitors to the current website, phila.gov, will be given the option to use www.phila.gov by default.
“We’re fortunate to have received thousands of feedback submissions on the previous redesigns, which — combined with the experience migrating content from many departments in the last 19 months — have provided the team with great insight into how to improve phila.gov,” said Chief Data Officer Tim Wisniewski. “We feel confident these changes will contribute to the flexibility, quality, and long-term viability of the site.”
A significant strategic shift in perspective sits at the heart of the redesign and is evident in how the new prototype has been organized. “Beta” features a simplified homepage that acts as a throughway to common requests, City service updates, neighborhood and community action resources, government transparency content, and pressing news.
A global navigation has also been introduced—allowing the public to find City services, programs, news and events, and forms in centralized locations on the site, regardless of their City agency affiliation. These changes honor how the public thinks about and interacts with City information.
The services section is the most developed area. The public can access frequently sought after services via concrete categories such as “Payments, assistance, & taxes,” “Culture & recreation,” and “Birth, marriage, & life events.” The service categories emerged from insights gleaned from Philly311 and web analytics data and were tested with the public to ensure their understandability.
Many of the pages in the services section provide helpful summaries but ultimately direct the public back to the current phila.gov and other City websites. The redirects will gradually decrease as more content is improved and migrated to the new platform.
Content for several departments — including the Mayor’s Office of Education, the Office of Sustainability, and the Office of Emergency Management — has been entirely rewritten in collaboration with department subject matter experts. The Department of Revenue, a department whose website receives over 30% of all phila.gov traffic, has rewritten most of their content and is expected to roll out the rest later this fall.
“Beta” will be tested and improved over the next few months following a series of workshops and usability testing sessions held with the public and City staff. Please sign up to become a beta tester by completing the linked volunteer form.