The City of Alexandria
- strategy and redesign of information architecture
- digital taxonomy
- front-end design and user interface design.
The City of Alexandria
After recently being named one of the top cities in the United States to live, The City of Alexandria determined that it was time to give their web presence an overhaul, and hired The Web Development Group to partner in this extensive and in-depth project. Offering full service web design, web development, strategy and marketing services, The Web Development Group, or WDG, is a full service digital agency, that calls the city of Alexandria home. Launching the project with their in-house team of web designers and developers, WDG was hired as a collaborative partner, to provide strategy, redesign of information architecture, digital taxonomy, wire frames, front-end design and user interface design.
Engaging Internal Stakeholders as Subject Matter Experts
The City of Alexandria approached The Web Development Group with an in-house staff of designers and developers. One of the primary roles WDG played was as an outside expert, apt at addressing the more complex needs of the project, as well as acting as the mediator between the different departments of the city. The Web Development Group’s designated group of strategists met with nearly 30 different department representatives from the city, to work on proto personas, determining the different demographics targeted from each department, and subsequently, the individual needs of each of those groups. We then compared these hypothesized needs with the results of surveys taken in 2014, which directly polled the targeted markets. In addition, WDG surveyed internal City of Alexandria stakeholders, compiling the totality of various survey results, with the goal of creating the most effective menu structures to provide multiple pathways to content within an intuitive organizational structure.
Previously, The City of Alexandria had a navigational structure that was organized by department. It was determined that this method was confusing for the visitor, as it was unclear and somewhat of a guessing game for the visitor as to which department the information they were seeking would fall under. In addition, the ability for a single user to accomplish one overall task required familiarity with several different departments, so developing a re-organized navigation with a completely new naming structure that wasn’t determined by department was pertinent to usability and an improved user experience. In an effort to illustrate these overlaps, demonstrate the correlation between different sectors of the city and create succinct “groups,” The Web Development Group strategists conducted in-depth research and created affinity clusters. Once the commonality across the different city departments was determined, the next phase of research and development included internal presentations, card sorting and collaboration with The City of Alexandria’s internal stakeholders. The Web Development Group conducted a competitive analysis survey based on various municipal websites, which were reviewed in terms of responsiveness, navigational structure, organization of content, categorization of services, surfaced taxonomy and use of features like mega menus, quick links. In result, WDG was able to analyze the findings, provide feedback, offer vetted and research-backed solutions, and ultimately create a completely updated website organizational structure, navigation and menu.
Creating a User-friendly Navigation and Menu Bar
Because The City of Alexandria has thousands of pages across a complex navigation system, so many tiered layers of pages, as well as a spectrum of audiences – ranging from tourist to developers – it was imperative to create a succinct and clear menu and navigation tool bar that was user friendly and made finding information and allocating resources readily available and easy to find. One of the goals that was determined during the research and discovery phase, was reducing the amount of “clicks” it took to land on desired information. The first solution in achieving this was creating a usable navigation and menu was determining the most appropriate content area labels. Verbage was key, and extensive analysis was utilized to determine the most successful language and terminology. Web analytics related to traffic and search referrals were reviewed, in particular, the top 50 page URLs and search keyphrases for July to December 2014, were checked against the navigation recommendations for thoroughness and relevance.
Creating a One-of-a-Kind Search Bar
Going hand in hand with a smart menu and navigation, was the unique need for an intuitive search bar. The City of Alexandria put great emphasis on having a prevalent search bar that would interactively curate the complex and extensive information presented throughout the site, and offer dynamic results. To accomplish this, The Web Development Group team of in-house developers utilized a “Swift Type” tool, that presented instantaneous results as the user typed. The results would pull from the site’s general archive of information, as well as from the site’s job board, documents and open discussion topics from the city’s customer service system. By developing this one-of-a-kind solution for the search bar, in addition to implementing a streamlined navigation, The Web Development Group provided The City of Alexandria with website applications that completely enhanced the user experience and created an effective and successful user interface, which was one of the main goals for this project.
Integrating Social Media
Further, The Web Development Group and The City of Alexandria pinpointed a need for increased social media integration into the redesigned site. Because the city has various social media accounts for their different departments, such as the city’s fire department, library and tourist board, WDG was tasked with crafting a solution that seamlessly integrated the Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube accounts for nearly 20 different entities. To accomplish this, a unique and user-friendly social media menu was integrated into the design of the site. The Web Development Group provided The City of Alexandria with a navigation and menu system that was truly the crux of the website redesign, taking layers upon layers of diverse information, and creating the most user-friendly and easy-to-use organizational system.
To achieve this, The Web Development Group team provided The City of Alexandria with extensive front-end development, implementing java scripting, creating interaction functionality and building an intuitive search performance.
Designing for Mobile
On top of emphasis on usability, The Web Development Group determined that The City of Alexandria was in need of a mobile-responsive site, working towards the end goal of allowing users to access the city’s vast amount of information easily. The Web Development Group approached this project with the knowledge that 60% of all web activity takes place via a smartphone or tablet, and so, redesigning The City of Alexandria’s site with a mobile-first approach was a requirement of the city. Amending the meticulous navigation and menu bar to be just as streamline on a mobile view was imperative for the success of the redesign launch. In the developing and testing phase, WDG provided extensive browser support, and tested the responsiveness and usability from dozens of different devices beyond the standards of iPhones and iPands, including devices from Andriod powered tables to Blackberry smartphones, and everything in between. No stone was left unturned when assessing the mobile functionality of The City of Alexandria’s new site.
In addition to site development, The Web Development Group in-house team of designers provided The City of Alexandria with a sleek and inviting site design that incorporated the city’s historic charm, with rejuvenated and modern touches. WDG also provided the city with an avenue to showcase large-scale imagery of Alexandria. After creating both desktop and mobile wire frames that adhered to the city’s desire for limited scrolling and keeping most information “above the fold,” WDG designers conceived a design and aesthetic to be carried throughout the site.