Sarah Schacht

Sarah Schacht

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Something from Nothing: How KAP is doing a usability study of

July 14, 2010 , ,

I’m known amongst my friends as resourceful.

I find a gorgeous designer dress, haggle it down to $56, make a few improvements to the dress, and wear it out to a wedding the next night. At the grocery store, I regularly save 30-60% through matching sale items with coupons. And in my work, I stretch a buck—KAP‘s upcoming civics curriculum development (writing, graphic design, compliance, online posting, distribution), was less than $800.

When I was approached by the Mayor’s office in March for ideas on open gov work that could be implemented across Seattle’s services, the first thing I pointed out was that our city, like many others, doesn’t really know what residents want from their government in terms of openness and online services.  It would be important to do a usability study, and use the results to guide future redesigns’ prioritization.  Problem was, there’s no money for that kind of work, especially  in governments that are slashing staff and announcing doomsday budgets.  So, I put my bargain-hunting to work, again, to help fuel the usability study.

I’m really excited to launch KAP’s first usability study, run with less than $250 in KAP funds.  The study of will give Seattle’s Department of Information Technology (DoIT) and Mayor McGinn’s office a roadmap for improving the site, based on the feedback of Seattle residents. As far as I know, KAP is doing the most comprehensive usability study of  50 participants from all walks of life and areas of the city will participate in one-hour usability sessions led by Dustin Hodge, who has generously donated his time to designing and facilitating the project. The mayor’s office, and the DoIT are both supportive of the study; the hope is that the data will help the city make impartial decisions on prioritization of redesign work.

Top that with, whose Seattle-based group discount site has generously donated $500 of credit to their site, to go towards usability thank-yous for our 50 participants, and Mayor McGinn’s office and DoIt have each chipped in $250 to match Tippr’s donation of $500, so each of our participants will receive a compelling $20 site credit.  $20 Tippr equals $40 to $80 worth of products and services from local business featured on their site.

The study is a great deal for everyone.  KAP gets to produce research which fuels citizen-requested improvements to (and we think meeting citizen’s needs ultimately makes government sites more transparent and open), DoIT and the mayor’s office get valuable research, Tippr gets to be a part of a great community project, and Seattle residents not only get to buy cool stuff from local businesses for cheap, but get to fuel innovation in their city.

I love a good deal for all.


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You planning on publishing the results of those online?


July 14, 2010

Hi Jeremy,

Yes, Knowledge As Power will post the results to our soon-to-launch reports section on I’ll also, through OGW meetups, talk about how we completed the study, so other governments can use our model for completing their own usability study.

Thanks for the question!


July 14, 2010

Thanks, Sarah! Looking forward to the study and the results. I am very interested in your methodology. Good luck with your work!

Alexandra Fercak

July 14, 2010

Looks great. Though I’m curious what the scope is? Are you just focusing on fixing the usability of the existing site for finding existing information? Or going beyond to suggest features (such as more interactive pieces) that people might want?


August 17, 2010

Hi Phillip,

The study is a little of both. The first few rounds are about looking at challenges with the site, that residents might have. What’s working/what’s not. The research so far has revealed use cases that designers may not have considered, so it seems to be generating some new ideas.

Overall, it’s meant to give guidance to Seattle’s IT team, allowing them and other departments to build a case for research-based changes to the site. (The last major redesign was in 1996.)


August 17, 2010

1 notes

  1. Help Make Better « Pinehurst Seattle reblogged this and added:

    […] also some more info in this blog post which explains the usability Study. Posted by Phillip | August 17th, 2010 | Category: get […]

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