For the past six weeks, I have been honing my ideation and prototyping skills in order to create an app for my hometown of Hillsborough, NJ. Why would a township need an app? Good question. I believe that a township app could help maximize their communication efforts for a fraction of the cost of what they are currently doing. Although the project would require budget, the township throws away so much money by creating paper flyers, posters, sandwich boards, and other forms of advertising that just doesn’t reach the intended audiences.
In today’s world, people need to be able to find answers quickly. By creating a township app, residents of Hillsborough would be able to stay up to date on events with push notifications and be able to find town-centric information without having to Google anything or get lost on the larger township website. For me, the thing that sealed the deal for this app was the need for community and resident-driven content. If you look at the current website, you’ll find that it’s not really MADE for regular people. It is more for local government and municipal people. Another thing that made me want to focus on more community and resident-driven content was the fact that their social media presence is shoddy at best. From these needs and identified opportunities, BoroConnect became my project for this mini-mester.
I started off the process by breaking down the Hillsborough website’s information architecture. This allowed me to see how things were organized, what could be organized better, and the various topics’ hierarchy. This allowed me to then create an information architecture for BoroConnect. Then came the issue of figuring out what content was going to be on which pages and what additional value I could add to this new application to make it worth downloading.
The answer came to me in the form of social media. To attract users and let them interact directly with others in their community, they should be able to make a profile, be able to create their own posts and be able to review local businesses. These features help to personalize the experience and allow it to be interactive without having Hillsborough content be in the “soup” of other social media platforms like Facebook or Twitter.
From there, I created paper prototypes (and digitized those, although I wasn’t necessarily supposed to) in order to begin some user testing. Although my user testing subjects were all pretty similar in terms of age, ethnicity, and demographics, the way they use and view digital content was unique. It was from these perspectives that I found various holes in the prototypes I had created and was able to address them.
The last stage of the project involved creating a high-res prototype that took into consideration the findings of the user testing. When tasked to create the interactive high-res prototypes, I had a couple of options. Lots of industry professionals use programs like Sketch, Adobe XD, InVision, or Marvel. While I do have a subscription to Adobe CC, Adobe XD only came out in the last two years or so. Instead of having to learn a completely new prototyping software, I decided to opt for InVision. In past internships, my design team used Invision to mockup landing pages as well as advertising on third-party pages so we could see what they would look like and test internally with stakeholders. InVision has a lot of great features, like hotspots, that make prototyping easy and time-efficient. This step helped my app come to life and seem like it was truly a product that could be used in a person’s busy life.
After all of that exposé, I’d like to introduce you to BoroConnect. Check out my Google Docs presentation where I break down the whole process that I described above. If you would like to experience the app for yourself, check out the InVision mockup. In case you’re a tad lazy, and would like to see me walk through BoroConnect, I’ve provided a video below where you can see me go through all of the app’s functions.
Would you like something like BoroConnect for your town? Let me know in the comments below.