Seattle’s Civic User Testing Group Engages Residents to Provide Feedback on City Technology Tools

Seattle residents rely on government and nonprofit websites and apps to access key information and resources, like utility accounts, housing assistance, permits, and library services. But they don’t always get the chance to provide feedback on that technology and how useful – and usable – it is for them.

Seattle’s new Civic User Testing Group (CUTGroup) aims to involve residents in the creation of technology that’s designed for public use, giving residents a voice and a chance to gain technology experience, while helping developers of this technology make it more effective. Given the growing prominence of online platforms in daily activities, technology design has become a key opportunity to address principles of inclusivity, diversity and equity.

The CUTGroup is a partnership between the City of Seattle Information Technology Department; the University of Washington iSchool; and the civic technology community group Open Seattle. It’s modeled after similar programs in Miami, Chicago and Detroit, and supports the City’s Digital Equity Initiative, which works to ensure that all residents have the opportunities and skills to participate in digital activities.

To join the CUTGroup, you just need to be a resident of Seattle — no technology experience or device ownership is required. Residents can fill out a brief form on the CUTGroup website and will be notified when a new testing opportunity is available. Test sessions will be up to an hour long and run by user experience researchers in a small-group setting. Each participant will receive a $20 Visa gift card per session.

Funding for the CUTGroup is provided by the City of Seattle Information Technology Department and will provide support for up to four test sessions for four different civic websites and apps this spring.

In order to form a diverse group of resident testers that is inclusive of all of Seattle’s communities, we’re looking for organizations interested in serving as Community Partners to help spread the word. As a partner, you can help ensure that your community is represented in the feedback provided to developers creating technology for public use, and your organization will be featured on the CUTGroup website and in each published report from our test sessions. For more information about becoming a Community Partner, please email seattle.cutgroup@gmail.com.

Learn more about the Civic User Testing Group on our website.

City for All hackathon is a hit

Pandora for Streets/Smellevation Maps Team

The City for All hackathon was a big civic hit over the weekend. Nine teams competed for recognition and prizes at City Hall’s Bertha Knight Landes room. The theme of the hackathon was to find solutions for the challenges of aging and accessibility. The winner for Best Overall Innovation was the Pandora for Streets/Smellevation Maps team which addressed several of the eight domains of livability in a single app. The app would also include paths in Seattle that present the best smells, sounds, views, and hills. Users can rank how important each aspect is to improve the algorithms of the app. The winner of Best Accessibility Hack was GoInfo Game which gamified the collection of bus stop information that’s crucial for disabled riders. The Winner of Best Use of Open Data and and Best Data Visualization was SeaSidewalks which developed a visualization of data from SDOT’s recent Citywide sidewalk analysis. The team came up with a mechanism for prioritizing sidewalk issues based on factors like proximity to hospitals and other key facilities.