Civic Information Challenge
Client: City of Lansing & Capital Area District Library
UX designer | UX researcher
September 2022- December 2022
Partnered with the City of Lansing and the Capital Area District Library to create new ways for the public to connect with public records. The library had helped city staff to begin digitizing their records. However, they needed a way to increase citizens' interest towards accessing these digitized versions of public records.
Defining the Problem
How might we increase citizens’ awareness of accessing the public records as well as their engagement into public issues?
The Capital District Library of Lansing has millions of public records containing tons of valuable information. However, civic engagement with these records is extremely low. While digitization efforts continue via archive.org, a more effective method is needed to increase public interest.
Visited Lansing to study physical public record artifacts and reviewed archive.org to understand their current digitization process.
Interviews with Professionals
Interviewed town council officials and the Librarian to understand citizen interactions with public records, project goals and limitations.
Conducted informal chats over structured interviews (due to time constraints) with visitors in Lansing Library to gather citizen opinions on public records and their relevance
Information Contained in the records
City Architecture & Buildings
Streets of the city
Info on different government departments
Lack of awareness
Analysis of archive.org traffic and user interviews revealed citizens were unaware of the availability of digitized public records.
Lack of interest
User interviews revealed that citizens did not perceive the information contained in public records as relevant to their daily lives.
What is included in 'Public records'
Lansing citizens were not fully acquainted with the kind of information contained in the public records.
Ideating & Brainstorming
To translate our research into design solutions, we employed the Crazy Eight's method, sketching out 8 ideas each in 15 minutes. After a thorough discussion, we narrowed down to four major ideas to build our design on.
Now we needed to visualize our ideas as extracted through the crazy eight's method. Therefore, we created quick low fidelity screens on paper, as shown below.
How to get more users to download the public records app?
If the user doesn't know about the existence of the app, there will be posters with QR codes spread across Lansing which will act as physical touchpoints to draw more users to download the app.
How to keep public records relevant to the citizens?
Using calendar date as a point of connection between the past and the present moment to make the information in the public records more relevant to the user.
How to make public records interesting to the citizens?
User can search for info in public records through keyword search or they can choose their top 3 topics of interest which they want to learn about.
User can click on a location in the map and change the year on the slider at the top to get info on that location for that particular year.
The user takes a quiz based off the info relevant to the user's location and which is also present in the public records.
On getting the right answer, that region on the map gets unlocked.
Due to the right answer, the user is given a chance to spin the wheel and win points.
The user can trade off these points for exciting rewards such as free t-shirts, cups, etc.
A gamified approach to introduce public records and history of Lansing to it's residents.
to attract more users
To attract more users to download "Lens-ing", we leveraged the fact that Lansing's public records contained information on all of its streets.
We used Lansing's streets as physical touchpoints, with posters of the people after whom the streets were named, each with a QR code. This would intrigue passersby to learn more, with the QR code serving as a touchpoint to prompt the user to download the app and learn more
Core Features of Lens-ing
Uncover the entire city and learn about many significant events with the help of the app.
Solve fun quizzes about the city's history with a promise of exciting rewards.
Users will be sent notifications about the interesting past events that happened on this particular day.
Look for public records by filtering through department or year or simply use the search bar to do a keyword search.
Future work & Limitations
Ease of Implementation
As the next step, the information needs to be sorted out on the basis of location which might take some effort and time on the part of the town council and library.
Next phase requires market analysis of similar gaming apps that connect to physical places in the city, to understand challenges specific to these games, which couldn't be carried out due to the short project timeline.
Further research and testing would be needed to determine if text extraction can accurately identify and match corresponding question and answer content based on the existing content and categories on Archive.org
Working on this project, I learnt to work under short deadlines. Ergo, unlike in my other projects, where I followed pre-structured user interviews, I got the experience of conducting guerilla interviews and informal quick chats to understand user pain points.
Additionally, I learnt that sometimes just working on the product's design is not enough. One also needs to strategize how the product will reach to the user and how can one prompt the user to use that product. Similarly, It also becomes imperative to establish a need for that product in the user's daily life.
In order to encourage a user to use a product, incentives should be offered in the form of external or internal rewards.
In app design, it's important to consider strategies for retaining users over time. For our project, we included daily quizzes and facts to offer users new content every day and encourage long-term engagement with the app, reducing the likelihood of users dropping off.