User experience experts helped Hamilton City Council understand its audience.

As part of a larger city-wide update of the Hamilton City Council website, Company-X was asked to help design the user experience (UX) for new and upgraded content supporting their Growth Funding and Analytics unit.

“We looked for help putting ourselves in the shoes of our users,” said Unit Manager Greg Carstens. This included understanding what outputs and information would be most impactful to each user group, specifically relating to growth data, economic analytics, and economic development.

The Council wanted to ensure that the user experience was optimised for a unique audience that was both internal and external to the organisation.

Carstens and his leadership team needed a solution that provided data to elected members and senior staff, but also helped to educate a diverse collection of external partners about Hamilton’s economic performance and investment opportunities.

Most importantly, the team wanted to ensure that data-driven insights, trends, and projections could be shared to support increasingly complex decisions.

Company-X software architect and senior developer Luke McGregor and senior user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) developer Cory McKenzie held several workshops with the Council’s Growth Funding and Analytics leaders to understand the aims and objectives of the website. Their previous experience on other heavily UX-reliant projects benefitted the Council.

EXPERIENCED: Cory McKenzie, left, and Luke McGregor.

“There was a lot of ‘what if’ and ‘how can we’ during the work with Luke and Cory. It was genuinely like a greenfield project, starting from the bottom and building up,” Carstens said.

McGregor and McKenzie developed eight personas for whom they would design the website user experience for. The personas included an elected member, managing director, management accountant, planning consultant, two property developers and a senior Government official. This exercise helped understand the types of goals and challenges of each user.

“The idea was we had one persona per each different category of people the Council thought were going to go use the site,” McGregor said.

“They have significant amounts of data and analytics within their systems, and they wanted to ensure that it was available and accessible to the public. A key goal was to provide ways to highlight insights that are linked back to core data, all with different elements that would be useful to each persona.”

“Based on those personas, we created a high-level journey map that provided insights into what pages would be on the site,” McKenzie said.

“What are the individual elements throughout the site, and what supports the distinct ways that each persona might interact with them?”

The research led to the creation of a user experience design with McKenzie creating conceptual designs for the Council’s web team to build.

Not every persona was included in the end design, some were encouraged to use the website as a contact point to request the data they needed.

“The attributes that you want to resonate with the internal audience were night and day different from the external audience,” Carstens said. “But from the start, we knew we didn’t want a site that split users into two distinct groups with Path A and Path B. We wanted it to be one integrated site because an external audience quickly shares a lot of the needs of an internal audience.”

Another important goal was to quickly educate users who might initially come to the site with an outdated or uninformed view of Hamilton’s economy. Mike Bennett, Economic Development Manager said that “once users learn who our largest employers are, we want to make it easy for them to dig deeper and understand which key sectors are behind our growth. It’s also important to show how Hamilton is part of a region that is economically diverse but highly integrated. The challenge is to use complex data to generate useful insights, and then deliver it in an authentic and engaging way.”

Company-X’s work also provided the Growth Funding and Analytics team with clarity around customer prioritisation and the power of search. “There was a recognition of how important it is to ensure high-volume users can quickly get what they know they need, while new users can seek out something they might not even initially realise is there,” said Carstens.

“Cory and the team really helped us understand how powerful search is. If done well, it can transform an average site into a critical tool.”

Hamilton City Council’s Growth Funding and Analytics team gained a deeper understanding of how to balance the relationship between data and information and address the needs of a diverse set of users in a web-based environment.