21 January 2018

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

By Megan Bruce and Emily F. Keller

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.