Big QuestionsOur work related to complex challenges.

The Challenge

Redesign the website for the City of Boston to be more modern and citizen-centric.


A website that takes into account what users need and offers simple, intuitive navigation.


The Boston Globe Reviews Boston's New Site

The City of Boston was in need of a new digital home—one that emphasized a shift to a more welcoming tone and commitment to its citizens. More than 7 million people each year came to the site to tap into all sorts of city services: reporting a pothole, learning the assessed value of their property, paying a parking ticket, checking recycling schedules. Boston wanted to create a beautiful platform that would make the process of finding and navigating information easy and intuitive, one that prioritized the needs of its people.

The site had outgrown its existing structure and needed an overhaul. The user experience was mired by the fact that Boston City Hall has nearly 50 different departments, each with its own microsite, navigation and content standards that feed into a centralized site.

So the City of Boston hired IDEO to design its new digital home, IDEO designers worked with the major stakeholders—department heads, employees, and Boston residents, with a focus on those in underserved communities and those with varying levels of technical proficiency—to gather insights into what users needed.

The objective was to design something that would simplify how people navigate the site, to make it easier for residents to find answers to common questions, and, in the process, serve as a community facilitator—an up-to-date, reliable resource that makes life in the city more manageable.

The site is organized by topic, and the building blocks of a topic page are modular pieces of functionality, called components. This makes the design infinitely flexible for the city—so it can continue to iterate and combine components in new, citizen-centric ways.

Rather than organize the site by the city’s departments, the design solution was rooted in illuminating relevant content by topics—people’s life moments—many of which overlapped through different branches of government. Owning a car in the city, for example, is closely related to preparing for winter, so bridging those common threads allowed for a more intuitive organizing principle.

In the process of the site redesign, IDEO also helped to create a visual identity system that underscores Boston’s strengths: the city’s confidence, humility, personality, and optimism.

From the new typography (clear and clean) to the use of space (uncluttered and structured) to the color palette (bright and contrasted) to a photographic scheme that focuses on moments of connection, the new IDEO designed visual identity is bold, clear, and most of all, Boston.

In addition to the web architecture and redesign, IDEO also produced a comprehensive style guide to help maintain design consistency, so departments can add content without compromising the overall integrity of the site, as well as a brand look that the city has decided to adopt across nearly all of its consumer-facing media. Now you’ll see the famous underlined B on T-shirts, banners, and even snow shovels.

Holding true to its mission to include Boston residents and all site users in its design process, the new site was piloted for six months, and the process document on the city’s blog (including the IDEO designed brand guide), before a full launch was rolled out in July 2016.

“The website should act like a helpful human. This is one of the big differences between the old site and the new site,” said Jascha Franklin-Hodge, the city’s chief of information technology in a Boston Globe article. “Oftentimes, when you looked at something on the old site, it would feel like you were interacting with some sort of lawyer-robot that was speaking to you in government-speak, using very formal language. We are trying to move away from that so your experience is akin to a person.”

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