City of Miami
Improving the online permit process
In collaboration with Wyncode, I was invited by the City of Miami to revamp their online permitting process.
The City of Miami wanted feedback on their new beta website and the older website iBuild from local small business owners through user testing, with a focus on the various existing permitting processes.
- I worked with a partner to conduct a UX audit on the existing site and the beta version.
- My primary role was UX Researcher.
- As a class, we presented our findings to city officials.
Why UX Audit?
The UX Audit is a way to identify what works, what doesn’t, and what might be missing.
Via the audit, a designer can determine user pain points and friction, as well as offer user-centric recommendations for improvement.
We identified three predefined design principles to guide our review.
The site should speak the user’s language, not the city’s. Also ensure that all translations are clear to their specific audience.
The site should always keep users informed about what’s going on through appropriate feedback.
A QUICK START Ability to quickly find and complete permitting processes. The experience should be entirely online, simple and streamlined.
We reviewed over ten best-in-class competitors on the city's vertical.
Pictured here is the City of Los Angeles website, which has a clear Call to Action and gives the user control of the process.
Best in Class | Out of Category
We pulled best in class examples from a wide variety of sources, including the mighty Domino's Pizza. Domino's has a big, bold progress tracker that allows the user/customer to clearly track where they are in the process.
What are people saying?
A key part of the UX Audit is to research what people are saying and how they are feeling. As the quotes below clearly reveal, there was abundant frustration with the permitting process in Miami.
Running a survey is a quick and relatively easy way to get data about your users. Pictured here is a simple survey I created on Google Forms.
I conducted a user interview. The user was a small business owner who had to deal with the day to day issues surrounding the permitting process in the city of Miami.
I moderated a walk-through with the user completing three tasks- get a permit for a door or window; obtain a certificate of use; and take a look at mobile and give us your thoughts.
The Power of User Testing
We can see up close how our target user interacts with the design, and hear them describe where they get stuck or confused. These pain points will help inform design iterations to improve the overall user experience.
What seems to be the problem?
The problem statement is a clear, concise description of the issues that need to be addressed. It is used to center and focus the team. The ability to define the problem a team is trying to solve thoroughly and effectively is an essential skill in the designer's tool kit.
My Problem Statement
The City of Miami Beta website is intended to make the permitting process easier for users.
We have observed that the current permit process isn’t meeting the needs of small business owners, which is causing a financial strain, anxiety and frustration.
How might we improve our permitting services so that our customers are more successful based on ease of use, overall customer satisfaction and confidence in the online process?
Once we crafted the problem statement, we moved on to listing a set of assumptions.
In Lean UX, assumptions are designed to generate common understanding around an idea that enables everyone to get started.
I led a mini workshop with another team in the class. First I stated the problem and then allowed the teams to brainstorm their ideas for solving the problem. In the process we generated answers to questions that formed our assumptions.
Importance of the Hypothesis
After my partner and I crafted assumptions, it was time to write a hypothesis. The physical act of writing down the hypothesis created a unified approach and a common language for both of us. This happened before either of us drew on a whiteboard or opened Sketch. When done correctly, design becomes a tool to validate or invalidate the hypotheses.
We believe the permitting process can be done in an efficient and simple manner.
We believe if we provide a streamlined and user-centered online experience, there will be an increase in permits granted, leading to economic growth in the city of Miami.
A persona is a representation of a user, typically based off user research and incorporating user goals, needs and interests. Throughout the design process, the persona becomes the voice of the user.
For the City of Miami Brief, my partner and I created a simple persona in Sketch (pictured above). Combined with personas from other groups in the class, we then had a human-centered foundation to base our designs on.
Focus on the journey, not the destination.
A User Flow is a powerful combination of storytelling and visualization that helps designers identify opportunities to create new and improved experiences for their users.
The user flow exercise offers a holistic view of the user's experience, making it an essential piece in the design process.
I led the class in a user flow exercise (pictured above) in which we mapped out the steps a first time user would take to apply for a permit to get a door/window.
Later on, my partner and I created a User Journey Map on Sketch (pictured below) that allowed us to dissect and understand every touchpoint and action. We used simple smiley face icons to designate emotions. At the heart of a user journey is what the user is doing, thinking, and feeling during each step.
Information Architecture (IA)
- Where am I?
- What’s here?
- Where else can I go?
What we Proposed
Luke Wroblewski is Product Director at Google and an internationally recognized digital product design leader who has designed or contributed to software more than 700 million people use worldwide. His standards for forms best practices are universally acclaimed.
Mobile Forms in Sketch
Adhering to Luke W's forms best practices, my partner and I created a mobile form (pictured above) for the City to review. The form is easy to scan, the user knows where they are in the process via the progress bar at the top, and there are large Call to Action buttons at the bottom.
The Power of UX
Having the opportunity to work on a real-world project while studying UX/UI was an invaluable experience. The chance to interact, interview and gather important information from actual users was impactful and rewarding. More than any class lecture or homework assignment, this project with the City of Miami taught me the true power of UX in the design process- putting the user at the center and creating around that center.
In the photo below, I am presenting our findings to a room full of city officials, including representatives of the Mayor's office. The City was for the most part very open to and appreciative of our findings.