Bridging the digital divide is a major goal of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s vision for New York City. The broadband initiative included the rollout of free broadband internet service at NYCHA housing developments. As part of the Innovation and Design Team in the Mayor's Office of Operations, I researched and designed services for the pilot at Queensbridge Houses.
Queensbridge Houses is the largest public housing development in North America with almost 7,000 residents. It is well-known as the home of notable hip-hop artists such as Nas, Marley Marl and Mobb Deep, and also has a reputation for being crime-ridden and dangerous. Queensbridge is located in Long Island City at the western edge of Queens across the East River from Manhattan. Rapid changes in the neighborhood's economic landscape such as new hotels, luxury condos and corporate headquarters, have not translated into opportunities for NYCHA residents. Many residents see the disparities between NYCHA housing and the improvements in the neighborhood and feel excluded and are understandably skeptical of new offerings. This required our team to work closely with NYCHA residents, community based organizations (CBOs), and the internet service provider to gain community trust and meet users' needs with a human-centered design of the new broadband service.
Field research included user and expert interviews, field observations, and service safaris. I created empathy maps, journey maps, and comparative analyses to better understand our users and service operations. Our synthesis of the research translated findings into actionable insights for the design of the service, as well as long-term enhancement ideas included in the research report.
Once a new user signed up they would be directed to a splash page customized for Queensbridge residents. Our user research informed what designs and content types would be most useful and accessible for our user group which has a wide range of ages and digital proficiency. We created paper prototypes, tested and iterated on the designs ensuring we designed with and not for users.
As I gathered requirements for the new service to be implemented, it became clear that a service blueprint was the best tool to envision how the entire system worked from a customer experience and operational perspective. I created a service blueprint template in spreadsheet format so all team members could contribute without requiring design skills. Then I began mapping out the service with post-it notes, isolating fail points in the system as well as identifying assumptions and information that needed to be confirmed.
The service blueprint provides an operational overview of the service aligned to the user experience. Customer touchpoints and back-stage processes are outlined with enough detail to verify, implement and maintain it.
The Queensbridge Connected project served as a pilot for a new Service Design Lab that would work across City agencies to improve services for low and middle-income individuals. I developed a stakeholder map for the Lab in various roles in internal design consulting, design procurement, developing design tools, and community empowerment. I also created design templates and compiled a knowledge base of research methodologies and tools and presented them to the team.
Queensbridge Connected successfully launched in October 2016. Check out the Queensbridge Connected splash page.
Our feature in WIRED Magazine.