A six-week project to streamline the City of Oakland’s process for awarding capital contracts. The engagement had two phases, the later of which included the design of a website to orient potential vendors to the process.
I wrote the proposal for the project and lead all efforts in the second phase of the project, including: all design work for the website, project management and coordination with the City of Oakland’s Digital Services team on the final build out .
While the City Council earmarks budget specifically for capital projects – projects that improve the city’s infrastructure – the process to apply was complex.
This complexity translated to many small and minority-owned businesses loosing out on opportunities, as they often couldn’t afford the up-front cost needed to see a bid through to award.
EchoUser was subcontracted by to lead a service design project to reimagine the capital contract process.
Phase 1 of the project looked at Oakland’s internal processes and was lead by an EchoUser researcher. In Phases 2, I lead an effort to redesign the Division’s website.
This case study examines the process of Phase 2, which culminated in a relaunch of the Capital Contracts Division website in the winter of 2021.
Building on insights discovered in Phase 1, a competitor analysis was conducted to find examples of best practices in website design that specifically meet the needs of vendors, as identified in the vendor interview.
Websites (many of which were suggested in the vendor interview itself) were explored and evaluated based on how well specific design elements that address the critical issues raised.
While we learned that vendors will approach the site with many questions, the competitor analysis gave us a framework for how to progressively detail instructions on the site.
The existing Division’s website was sparse, so the project and stakeholder team was starting from a largely blank slate.
This ended up being a bit of a mixed blessing – while this allowed for tremendous creative freedom, the content was being created for the first time, as were many of the working relationships between the department and Oakland’s Digital Services team.
In the end, however, the iterations lead to buy-in and a feeling of agency among the team. So much so, in fact, that the project survived a changing of senior leadership.
After the initial round of feedback, a mockup was usability tested with a small business vendor to stress-test the design.
The feedback generally suggested that we needed to explain the contract process in even more basic terms – it still wasn’t easy for vendors to understand how to get involved, or what would be required.
The final round of feedback was with the Oakland Digital Services team, in order to identify if anything in the design was impossible, from a technical perspective.
While we were careful to follow Oakland’s style guide and tried to only use components that we saw elsewhere on the site, we just weren’t sure about what was feasible.
In particular, the front page graphic ended up causing problems and requiring a compromise.
After a brief overview of the division and greater departmental context, the site features a graphic that breaks the process down by different project types. Each step is laid out visually, with a detailed walk-through following below.
While the final version expands language in some areas, the overall structure and ethos of the site was built-out according to specifications and went live just a few months after wrapping the project up.