Smart City Connect

A communication platform to share and save current, completed or new smart city initiatives

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OVERVIEW

Phoenix Sister Cities is a non-profit that fosters relationships between the people of Phoenix and their Sister Cities around the world. They aim to promote cross-cultural understanding, municipal and technical cooperation, and business opportunities. In 2020, Rick Gerrard launched the idea for Smart Cities Evolve to promote the enhancement of quality and performance of urban services such as energy, transportation and utilities.

The aim of this project was to solve the problem of large group communication between government officials and to promote sharing of smart city initiatives for Phoenix and its Sister Cities through an app.

ROLE & RESPONSIBILITY

Lead UX Designer

User Research, Interaction,
Visual design, Prototyping & testing

May 2021 - Nov 2022

The Solution

Smart Cities Evolve makes it easy to connect and share ideas amongst coordinating officers – wherever they are – using a simple-to-use organization interface with messaging and commenting features.

Efficiently manage projects or collect information from partner cities. View built-in progress reports to get insights for more money saving decision making.

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The Problem

Lack of communication can become a barrier to the success of an organization and the improvement of cities.

Sharing initiatives and their plans can be difficult, especially when government officials and their partners span all over the world. Phoenix Sister Cities is a vast organization that lacks proper communication and plan sharing between countries.

Without a system, there is not way to share initiatives amongst each other which is inefficient and can cause unnecessary overhead costs.

User Research

We conducted 1-week sprints during the research phase with Phoenix Sister City partners.
My research encompassed -

•  Understanding the processes & organization of Smart City initiatives
•  Communication methods used by the government officials
•  Important information needed to accomplish the goals
•  Current struggles government officials face regarding Smart City initiatives

Competitive-Researcher

Fig: Screenshot from the competitive analysis conducted to understand the organization of the initiatives & communication methods

Qualitative Interviews

User research was quintessential. With a variety of different Smart City initiatives and their unique focus area’s, they needed to be laid out in detail. In order to achieve that, I gathered as much as I could from the end users to understand what information they want to see when learning about these initiatives and the challenges they are facing when they need to communicate with each other, as well as how they see the app making a difference in optimizing pain areas.

“We want to work more on cost-efficiency measures. Not being able to compare our plans to other major European cities as well as reporting on progress achieved is a huge barrier, because we could be making our projects more efficient”

“With all of our executives and department leaders having to convene in person to discuss community challenges, it would be beneficial to have a unified communication platform where we can find and throw out ideas we find to save time during our visioning workshops”

“There is currently no unified system to organize the various types of Smart City Initiatives, it is time consuming having to search through our Sister Cities websites to find similar projects”

Insights

After conducting user interviews, contextual inquiry and analyzing the gathered data, I was able to categorize the insights into these 3 categories

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Communication

• Large organization with over 11 different countries as partners

• No centralized medium to communicate with individuals or groups

• With 11 different languages between the countries, officials prefer to type in their own language

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Education

• Various types of initiatives are implemented in each city. like - Infrastructure & Energy, Tourism, Waste, etc…

• Initiatives are difficult to find, save and share with colleagues

• Results are difficult to understand, because the structure is different across different platforms

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Security

• Initiative details, new government plans, contractors, investments details and other confidential information are discussed between government official

Personas

The research made it evident that there are problems that different users would face. To cater to this, I categorized them into three user profiles based on their goals and tasks.

 1. Manager

Chief Information Officer | Speaks English | Masters’s in Information Technology Management
Uses Whatsapp, Messenger, G-Mail, In-Person Meetings

Motivations & Needs

• Connect and share work with other government officials
• Track progress of initiatives
• Analyze results, share with superiors and make important decisions

 2. Executer

Strategic Services Officer | Speaks English, Czech | Bachelor’s in Business Development
Uses Whatsapp, Messenger, Email, In-Person Meetings

Motivations & Needs

• Complete assigned tasks on time

Conceptualization

I started creating the information architecture and low-fi concepts for the primary use case. We then began to conduct usability tests with the low-fidelity mock-up. Once we had confidence in the design, we began digitalizing designs.

The Solution

Smart Cities Evolve makes it easy to connect and share ideas amongst coordinating officers – wherever they are – using a simple-to-use organization interface with messaging and commenting features.

Efficiently manage projects or collect information from partner cities. View built-in progress reports to get insights for more money saving decision making.

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Verified secured on-boarding

Onboard members with a secure mobile verification to ensure all the data is protected and user privacy is maintained.

Never miss out on a project

Always be aware of Smart City initiatives without having to search through various websites. Officials can find projects effortlessly by searching through options such as type, location or project.

Manage your favorite projects

Manage projects you are interested in with the favorite feature, making it easy for officials to save, share, comment on or track the progress of a project.

Usability Testing

I tested the product at various stages of the project.

•  Lo-fi prototypes were tested with the participants weekly to get feedback on the functionality, content, and interactivity of the product.

  Unmoderated User testing - A few participants were brought on to use the app and all of them were to carry out hypothetical tasks.

Seeing Results

After the Beta testing, we were able to see results regarding user satisfaction, task completion rate and confidence. We presented our findings in December and are excited to move forward with developers to build the app and provide a better user experience.

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Project Learnings

1. Simplicity is strength
As a designer, we are often lured by attractive, trendy and out of the box designs.  But, we must always remember the ‘why’. The primary goal is to understand the user, their problems and then come up with a design that solves it.

2. Prioritize
Create a strategic plan to launch an MVP. This helps deal with out-of-scope requests that could potentially derail the project and helps deliver a quality product in time.

3. Seek out feedback early and continually
The trouble with most of us is that we would rather be ruined by praise than saved by criticism. Keeping the stakeholders/users in loop and testing solutions in whatever form (paper, low-fi or hi-fi) as early as possible saves ample amount of time and re-work

Lets Connect!

Fell free to reach out for collaborations or just a friendly hello! 👋

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