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City government serving more than 100,000 residents

Improving the overall findability within the site structure made it easy for stakeholders to accept a simpler, more user-friendly home page.

—Kevin Eyer
Technology & Change Manager, City of Ann Arbor

Helping Citizens Help Themselves to Information

8%
decrease in bounce rate
Decrease
in
Complaints

from people unable to locate information

Goal: Reorganize the Online Public Square

The City of Ann Arbor website is the online public square for this vibrant university town. Like many sites that serve distinct departments and constituencies, the site had grown organically over time and needed an update for clarity and simplicity of use. The City wanted an update that reflects its reputation as a tech-savvy community with a unique character.

The City’s IT team knew from their own experience, from customer feedback, and from web analytics that the site needed a refresh. They turned to TUG to help them re-architect the city’s home page, as well as the Parks & Recreation Department pages to serve as an example of how to apply the design to departmental units.

Approach Highlights

The client team and TUG began with a thorough review of web analytics and a heuristic evaluation of the website. Next, we interviewed a variety of stakeholders and site users:

  • City managers
  • City departments’ web editors
  • Marketing and communication staff
  • IT leader board and staff
  • Ann Arbor residents
  • Ann Arbor business owners
  • Ann Arbor visitors

These interviews consistently revealed navigation and organizational challenges: the site was cluttered and organized around the hierarchy of the City’s government, not the needs of site visitors. People wanted to serve themselves, but got hung up looking for what they wanted. The site’s web analytics showed visitors bouncing back to either the homepage or the previous page to try again.

We then created our proposed navigation plan based on these interviews, tested mock-ups of the proposed navigation with users, and provided annotated wireframes and specifications for the new homepage and navigation. We proposed updating the navigation to provide multiple entry points. The main navigation covered:

  • Enjoy Ann Arbor
  • Business in Ann Arbor
  • Democracy in Ann Arbor

Additionally, the site made all city services and departments available in overlapping comprehensive access points at the top level:

  • Services—for those unfamiliar with the organization of the City who need to access specific things, and
  • Departments—for those familiar with the current site who know where to find what they need.

Within the Parks and Recreation pages, the revised wireframe emphasized actions visitors wanted to take, such as scheduling a tee time or registering for a program. While user testing did reveal a few minor labeling issues and information gaps in the site refresh (such as how to volunteer), the tests also validated the strength of the revised high level navigation.

Outcome

New navigation supports and delights visitors. The unconventional groupings, especially Democracy in Ann Arbor, surprised some people at launch, and largely in a good way. The new homepage and the refreshed Parks and Recreation Department had better metrics after launch, including:

  • Bounce rate decreased 8%
  • The IT team received fewer complaints from people unable to locate information on the website

Yet the most surprising takeaway from the website project was internal. TUG mentoring helped City staff develop a sustainable process for curating existing information and publishing new information. Previously, content owners felt they needed their information on the homepage. Increasing the findability of information through improving the information architecture allowed the content owners to release their insistence on home page real estate.

We learned that the old way—the easy way—was not the best way. Together with TUG we developed a change management process that makes it very smooth to improve and maintain the site.

—Lisa Wondrash
Communications Director, City of Ann Arbor

Are you responsible for a complex government website?

TUG can help you refresh your public square and delight your visitors. Collaborate with us to design a better place for your website visitors.

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