A group design challenge



The Philly Tech Week Design Slam gives teams of designers one hour to tackle a real-life challenge. Each group presented its solution to the clients, who chose a winner. (Spoiler: my group won!)


The challenge, as presented by the City of Philadelphia's Office of Innovation and Technology, was to make the Open Data Philly site more user-friendly for users who are not tech-savvy.



We didn't have much time to speak to representatives from the Office of Innovation and Technology, but they did talk about the kinds of people who use the site currently and gave an example of someone who wanted to get data from Open Data Philly but wasn't sure what to do.


Based on the information from OIT, our group discussed the different kinds of people who might want information from Open Data Philly but who might struggle trying to get it. We really focused on thinking about all of the possible obstacles someone less tech-saavy might face when using the site for the first time, including not having access to technology, not being familiar with navigating a website, and not knowing where to start with gathering and using data.


We looked at an example of the page that was given to us and noticed that it could be difficult to figure out what to do, especially if you aren't sure what you're looking for.

An example of a dataset page

Content Audit


Based on our discussion about our types of users, I sketched two very basic wireframes. The first is the landing page for Open Data Philly. It is designed to be welcoming to new users who are unfamiliar with technology, with an option to be walked through the site, an option to call or email for help in case additional assistance is needed and an option for more advanced users to go straight to the data.

Homepage Wireframe

Design Wireframe
The second wireframe is a "Data User Guide" for those users to are not familiar with data or what to do with it. It has the different kinds of data that is available, such as "Parks and Recreation" or "Neighborhoods" and it gives an example of the kinds of projects that others have done using that information. Each type of data is its own dropdown so as not to be overwhelming, but still provide valuable information. This page also provides resources on what to do with data once you have it, namely, who in the government or community to contact about what you want to achieve with your data.

Data Guide Wireframe

Design Wireframe
Another option that we came up with but I did not have time to sketch for the project was to reorganize the different formats to pull data. We recognized that most people - ourselves included - did not know what do with many of the file types offered, such as KML, SHP or GeoJSON. Our suggestion was to have two options for each dataset:
  • Spreadsheet format (CSV)
  • Additional formats
This identifies the format that less tech- or data-saavy users would most likely be using, but allows access for all of the more experienced users to use formats they are already comfortable using.



Our group created a cohesive final presentation discussing the user personas, the users' needs, as well as our design and concept suggestions. We were thrilled that out of the six participating groups, our solution was chosen as the winner by members of OIT!

The presentation

Design Slam Presentation

We won!

Design Slam Winners


The biggest constraint was definitely the time - we had one hour to complete this project! We also struggled with not knowing what was actually possible to do given OIT's resources, permissions, and budget. Ultimately, we pushed through and made the best possible guess, which was that resources would be limited, so we focused on the smallest but most effective changes.

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