User Testing Helps City of Gresham (Oregon) Sweep National Honors

The City of Gresham (Oregon) credits The C2 Group's approach to user testing in awards sweep at national conference for municipality web professionals.
Brian Beaupied

The City of Gresham (Oregon) web team was recognized for its work on the redesign of at a national conference for municipality web professionals in September.

When the team returned from San Diego with a Pinnacle Award and Members' Choice Award from the National Association of Government Web Professionals (NAGW) conference, it found itself as a benchmark for how municipalities and public bodies approach their digital presence.  

Mockup of City of Gresham (Oregon) site on multiple devices

Not to mention, more than a couple admirers.  

"One of the most exciting outcomes for us has been the positive feedback we've received about our website from other (government) agencies," said Karen MacKnight, web content coordinator at the City of Gresham. "Other cities have contacted us to learn more about our process, the vendors we worked with, the design, user testing, and content governance.

"There's been a lot of positive feedback."  

The NAGW Pinnacle Awards celebrate excellence and innovation in government websites, as judged by a panel of cross-industry web professionals and recognized during its annual conference. Judging criteria include team size, content, organization, design, performance and flexibility, accessibility standards, and interactivity. Meanwhile, Members' Choice Awards are determined by the NAGW membership.

One of each award are presented across four population categories for cities and counties. There is also a category for state and federal agencies. Gresham won in the Medium High Population Group of 95,000-150,000 residents. It was the only city to sweep both awards for its category.  

The City made user experience and serving mobile users a priority during the redesign, which originally launched in July of 2016.

"The website redesign has been well-received," MacKnight said. "We've received a lot of feedback from the public that the site is easier to use, with services and information much easier to find. The most remarkable change is the user-friendliness. Forty percent of our users visit the site on mobile devices, and we have a large segment of users that use mobile devices as their primary way to access internet content. Our responsive website is better able to serve those users."

MacKnight cited strong support for the redesign at the top of the organization and expertise from its digital partners for the project's success.  

The C2 Group is the user experience and development partner of record for the build and also provides managed services for Gresham's cloud-hosted solution. During the project, Gresham and C2 implemented a new approach to user testing, which is used to validate design decisions. The process involves taking a day between testing sessions to iterate and apply design changes on the fly.

"The ability to iterate on our design gave us a better test for the next day," said C2 Client Experience Lead Brian Hill, in a blog post describing the process. "We were able to deliver better results to the client, and, in our opinion, a better design."  

"Before we invested in user testing, we often made design and content decisions based on what we believed were best practices," MacKnight said. "And, when you have a lot of people weighing in with their opinions, sometimes the quality becomes degraded, I think. There's no doubt that having real users at the table to test website design and functionality leads to a better product and better long-term experience for site visitors."

In the judging criteria, Performance and Functionality, including quick load times, mobile-friendliness, browser independency, and clean code, registered a perfect score. The site is built on the Ektron content management system, an Episerver technology.

Back from the conference, MacKnight says the Gresham team is gearing up for its next initiative – a revamp of its intranet.  

"This achievement has earned the web team confidence, internally, that we can be successful with this new project," she said. "It's a big testament to the support we received at the top of our organization for the project. … Sometimes, it's hard to make the case for investing in things like user testing, which ended up being critical to the success of the redesign of"

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