Cities need a way to find solutions to their problems by looking to other cities for inspiration and being able to search for technology using city-specific taxonomy.
Our challenge was to create a new kind of online network where city employees can connect with each other and with smart technology vendors.
I listened to Andrew and Chris’s vision for Marketplace.city. They explained to me how cities solicit solutions to their problems by posting Request For Proposals (RFPs) on their website which begins a long process of evaluating submissions and making decisions.
They showed me a list of features they had brainstormed together:
They also gave me a timeline with two important events: the Harvard Smart City Innovation Accelerator, where they were planning to workshop their idea, and the Smart City Expo World Congress where they planned to submit the live site.
Although the Harvard event was coming up soon, I started with a broad look at the site we were building before jumping into sketches of the city page.
Using their feature list and the existing Marketplace.NYC vendor database, I created a sitemap, site outline, and list of benefits so that the team could have an idea of the structure and purpose moving forward.
Next, I quickly grabbed some placeholder content from Seattle.gov and started making wireframes for the city pages. I had to work quickly so they could show high fidelity mockups at the Harvard event to get feedback.
My goal was to surface enough information that the user wouldn’t need to click very often, but I also wanted to be mindful of the cognitive load that can happen with a wall of text.
RFPs were a revolving door, but the city’s resources and important links were mostly set in stone and conveyed a lot of information about the city’s endeavors.
Using the UI design from Marketplace.NYC, I made a high fidelity mockup of the city page for New York City.
Switching the RFPs with Resources allowed us to use a carousel to display one RFP at a time (the number of open RFPs changes often), and use images next to the city’s resources to break up the text on the page.
Andrew and Chris would also be showing the vendor page at Harvard, so I started on that next.
Because they had already built a vendor database for marketplace.nyc, I started from there and made some enhancements based on the features they envisioned.
While the founders were at the Harvard event talking to users in person, I wrote a survey to send to employees of our partner cities (cities that would be on the platform at launch).
Some of the feedback had very explicit next steps, but others required me to think about why the user may feel that way and come up with solutions that fixed the root cause.
User felt okay about being contacted through the platform instead of by email, but some concern about being able to loop others in or forward a message.
Design a way for city employees to choose how they would like to be contacted and include the option to request a phone call or email.
User wanted to see contact info for the city employee who left the review
User wanted a “Would you use again?” rating and a happy/neutral/bad rating
Design a review system that is informative and trustworthy, so that users can feel confident basing their decisions off of the experiences of others.
Onboarding for cities would require a lot of work up front, so I considered the pros and cons of experiences ranging from white glove to hands-off.
The onboarding for city employees is a simple sign-up form and profile page.
When vendors sign up, they can choose to have their company listed for free, or pay a fee per product they want listed in the database.
It won the Innovative Idea Award at the 2017 Smart City Expo World Congress in Barcelona, and the founders have since raised $1.2 million in funding.
You can browse through city pages on the live site: marketplace.city.
With this project, I was able to get a lot of useful feedback directly from our users. I have immense respect for both the government employees and smart technology vendors who work together to solve some pretty complex problems.
It was fun to browse the vendor database and see so much impactful technology waiting to be implemented. It's exciting to know that Marketplace.city is making the process of finding the right technology for your city much easier.