Minha Vitória: a collaborative platform to share suggestions for Urban Planning with the aim of reviewing and regulating the urban aspects of Vitória, Brazil for the next ten years.
Urban Master Planning is a municipal law that establishes rules for the growth and functioning of the city. For the first time in the state of Espirito Santo, the dwellers were also able to make suggestions over the internet through a democratic and participatory process.
Urban Master Planning is a municipal law that establishes rules for the growth and functioning of the city. For the first time in the state of Espirito Santo, Brazil, the dwellers were also able to make suggestions over the internet through a democratic and participatory process. The topic is very technical and the challenge was to make the platform accessible and easy to assimilate for the general population.
1. Review and regulate the urban aspects of the city for the next ten years.
2. Ensure that, when sending contributions to the city, the interest of the population as a whole prevails over individual or group interests.
3. Encourage participation interactively.
4. Generate essential insights into the improvements of the city.
Understanding users’ emotions: an exercise in empathy
Considering the audience is very heterogeneous (with the city's overall population exceeding 300 thousand people), the program recognised that creating many personas would create a bias in research. It was therefore decided to take another perspective and identify people's feelings about their contributions to the city.
Thus, the Positive Emotional Granularity Cards methodology was taken as a way to understand the emotions involved by the residents, with the common point being the improvement of the city and the same usability context.
Concerning the chosen key activities and involved goals, the discussion covered what kind of positive emotions would be desirable to evoke and how support users’ activities could be supported by browsing through the cards.
The research revealed that within the Aspiration, Interest and Guarantee clusters, users had three value propositions to interact with the platform.
In a meeting with the stakeholders responsible for different areas of the city of Vitória, general topics were updated into more specific and more easily assimilable ones so as to facilitate the choice of the theme and, consequently, the sending of the suggestion.
After several meetings, 5 central topics for the platform were defined:
- Environment and landscape;
- Economic development and tourism;
- Use, land occupation and urban infrastructure;
- Housing and mobility;
- Democratic management.
The challenge was then to consider the research trying to address the users’ desires.
- Pain point 1: Dwellers are not encouraged to participate in public decisions because the processes are annoying and often politically biased (in general, all over the country);
- Pain point 2: The theme is broad, technical and there is a lack of knowledge among the general population.
How to stimulate the interest of all city dwellers in sending suggestions online when the only ones participating in person are the more engaged people in the community?
The program decided to follow IDEO’s human-centred Design and Lean UX Design Thinking Process to make sure that design decisions were supported by feedback:
What Makes Your Project Innovative?
Minha Vitória is an innovative model fostering popular collaboration through an online platform for different reasons:
1. It optimizes each person's contribution process by facilitating access to information by being entirely online.
2. It democratises the participation in important government decisions, without bureaucracy.
3. It visually stimulates the identification of needs, allowing residents who do not want to contribute with suggestions to support the best ideas.
4. It facilitates the report for decision making considering diverse demographic scopes and recurring topics.
What is the current status of your innovation?
The project was implemented and concluded in 2015, and all suggestions were received and analysed. The collected data were compiled and, through a report, the expectations of dwellers were identified.
To complete the Urban Master Planning, representatives of the government, the productive sector, and local communities gathered to vote on the new law's 48 proposals created within the shared management model.
This debate was made through seminars promoted by the City Development Secretariat. As a result, it was possible to propose ways to follow and improve the urban aspects of the city of Vitória for the next ten years.
Collaborations & Partnerships
- Danza Estratégia e Comunicação (Brazil), including the following positions: User Experience Manager; User Interface Designer; Information Architect; Project Manager; Account Manager; Copywriter.
- AP Exata (Portugal), including the following positions: Project Manager and Web Developer.
- Prefeitura Municipal de Vitória (Public administration: Luciano Rezende)
- City dwellers
Users, Stakeholders & Beneficiaries
Minha Vitória platform generated essential insights into the city's primary needs, stimulating the participation of residents in an interactive way, while ensuring that, when sending contributions to the city, the interest of the population as a whole prevailed, meeting the proposed objectives.
Results, Outcomes & Impacts
In general, the residents of Vitória made 1,340 suggestions for the next ten years of the capital in 53 days of popular participation during the first stage of the Urban Master Plan review process.
Heat map by administrative area:
Suggestions by neighbourhoods were transformed into administrative areas to adapt to the project and understand the data correctly. According to the volume of suggestions on the platform, the darker regions made it possible to understand the most significant needs identified.
Most recurring topics:
Through the chart by themes, it was possible to identify which were the most recurring topics and the city's areas corresponding to them.
What did the population support the most?
Requests that dwellers agreed on the most were highlighted by theme and subject, allowing an overview of the most supported suggestions.
Challenges and Failures
The platform was submitted for testing with seven users after completing the high-fidelity mock-up; four general pain points were received:
- Responsive design problems on older mobile devices
- Registration without confirmation by email
- Some important questions were not found in the FAQ section
- Slow interaction and map loading
After conducting validation tests and iterating designs, satisfactory results were obtained. Many of the problems were related to the internet connection.
It was acknowledged that the City of Vitória offers free public Wi-Fi in squares and the sights to encourage users to use the platform without worrying about the use of mobile data.
At that time, the version 2.0 of the prototype was created and then officially launched.
Conditions for Success
The engaged population and community leaders are the most frequent participants in the Urban Master Plan when face-to-face meetings are considered.
By listening to the audience's feedback, it was evident that many give suggestions, but others only support by raising their hands when they agree or disagree. After identifying this opportunity, the platform's designers set out to work on it.
This solution could be replicated by other government agencies, especially local ones, such as cities and neighbourhoods of large metropolitan areas.
Some factors could condition replication, such as:
- Contribution of online regulations, depending on the IT structure for conducting and collecting data.
- Ability to disclose to expand online social contribution.
- Internet access.
The timeline between the platform's development and the deadline for data collection was a limiting factor for the project. During the development of the platform, the schedule of face-to-face meetings was anticipated, impacting impacted the time limit for tests and reducing it from a week to two days.
Therefore, the biggest challenge for this project was time. With the schedule reduced by almost half in the middle of development, work was focused on the essential. On the one hand, the project was delivered with agility. On the other hand, some points of improvement where identified:
- Return of Facebook API authorization;
- Extended user testing period;
- Expansion of the awareness and participation campaign.
All of these improvement points were an excellent learning opportunity for future projects pointing to the fact that dealing with a challenging situation is the best way to gain experience from improvements.
Tools: Pen & Paper, Post-it Notes, Axure, Mind Meister, Skype, Photoshop and Illustrator.
Timeline: 2 months
- Diffusing Lessons - using what was learnt to inform other projects and understanding how the innovation can be applied in other ways
14 January 2021