Inclusive Design: for all

Everything we build should be as inclusive, legible and readable as possible. If we have to sacrifice elegance — so be it. We’re building for needs, not audiences....the people who most need our services are often the people who find them hardest to use. Let’s think about those people from the start.
— Design Principles

My Role

I worked as a UX Design Fellow with the City of Philadelphia to drive the UX strategy, design and research to redesign 

I initially conducted card sorting exercises to help develop's current global navigation. After beta was launched, I partnered with another UX Design Fellow as well as the City's UX Strategist to build a research plan and conduct usability testing across the city with Philadelphia residents. 


With the website redesign, the City of Philadelphia aims to create a new digital service experience that will showcase simple, mobile-friendly designs, more intuitive organization, and clearer content—better connecting the public to City service information and empowering all Philadelphians. 

This is an overview of the testing and research plan for the new Beta site. The full testing and research plan can be found here


Part of our testing focus & approach


Goals & Objectives

Three areas of inquiry guided the focus of our usability testing.

  1. Usability: How might we improve the usability of What features and patterns act as barriers to task completion and what works well? Why?

  2. Mental Models: How does the public perceive and/or think about what they are trying to do online with City content?

  3. Improvements: What does success look like? How does the public want to interact with City content? What improvements can be made to best support the public’s content needs?


Participants & Challenges

Usability testing with a Phila resident

Usability testing with a Phila resident

Our focus was to conduct usability testing of Philadelphia residents. We met 17 residents in libraries, diners, at non-profit organizations and the city offices. Our focus was getting a large intersection of residents which included those with low digital literacy and limited access to computers or internet.

This site needed to serve and be accessible to all residents. Participants ranged in age and tech ability and average testing times were from 10-45 minutes.

Note: as with city websites, the site is very content heavy (currently there are upwards of 70,000 pages on the City site). Some of the challenges in moving forward is meeting the city need of having all the information available to residents while still being user-centered. 


Test Findings & Recommendations

There were a number of findings from the usability testing and research. Below are four of the larger takeaways.

Unclear language noted based on participant feedback


Finding: Many participants did not understand certain terminology used on the navigation, which affected their ability to complete an assigned task. On the homepage alone participants were unclear of words such as explore, initiatives, or publications

Recommendation: Simplify language to make readable for various education levels


Font Accessibility

Finding: Some participants had issues with the size and color of the font on the navigation mega menu.

Recommendation: Review font accessibility standards and increase sizes and adjust colors accordingly.


City Government Directory Predictive search vs Service Directory filter

Predictive search was preferred over filter

You can search a city government directory by predictive search, but the the services directory is currently navigated by filter.

Finding: The predictive search was overwhelmingly preferred by participants in testing. 

Recommendation: More research is needed, particularly as both directories grow, on what form of search is more sustainable for the city. However, approaching design with predictive search as a preferred method can drive more user-focused designs.


Participants found the left navigation (circled) confusing to navigate

Difficulty in navigating content level pages

Finding: Upon entering content heavy pages, participants had trouble navigating from page to page.

Recommendation: More research is needed on the left (in-page) navigation and how to allow users to choose within pages without moving back to the home page. 


Special thanks

Thank you to my UX Design Fellow partner, Kim-Thao Nguyen for working side by side to build the research and findings and to Liana Dragoman, UX Strategist for the City of Philadelphia, for her patience, guidance, and leadership.