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Making Code for America Products Easier to Adopt

I started 2015 with a hypothesis that if we made it easier to adopt Code for America products, many more governments would do so, and would benefit from doing so. Working with the internal product team and former fellows, we set out with this goal:

For products that have been tested locally and are ready to move to a nationwide beta stage, make deployment easy enough that the subject matter expert who would do the actual government function (web analytics review, citizen surveys, public records administration) could set up the software on their own.

Making it Easy

We started by creating web-based builder apps for three beta products: CityVoice, the Analytics Dashboard, and RecordTrac. That said, easy means not only the builder apps themselves, but access to help, clear guidance about what to expect, and proper handling of pauses in complex processes.

We also aim for a consistent experience of adopting Code for America software – ultimately this will be end-to-end from the types of information we show when you’re looking for a tool, to the deployment process itself to the post-adoption communication and care you receive from us.

3 Beta Products

We’re just at the beginning, but here’s where we stand in our efforts to make this process easier:

Analytics Dashboard: We’re well on our way. More than 50 cities have set up and used the city analytics dashboard. The builder takes less than 5 minutes, is easy to follow, and is the only set up step required. We didn’t think nearly so many cities would have redeployed the code from a Github repo.

CityVoice: We’re ready to test the builder in a beta program this summer. The builder helps users with complicated steps such as recording voice prompts and creating appropriate signage to invite participation. It is not a single-step process, and we’re going to be doing careful user research with public servants who set up CityVoice, so we can iterate and improve.

RecordTrac: We’ve just launched an MVP (minimum viable product) of the builder and we’re pretty sure we have more work to do. The builder is stable, but the public records function is very complex and changing it is not a one-hour task. The builder app requires users to have everything (including several API account keys) ready at the beginning of the process, and is short on inline documentation. We’ll be testing and iterating with partners who are interested in working with us at an early beta stage.

We’re very excited to make the process of re-using great civic technology simple, beautiful, and easy.