The current website of the city of Tartu is www.tartu.ee and it has been in use since 2002. Over this period of more than a decade the information society has evolved substantially and the website is now outdated both technically and essentially. Plans exist to develop a new website and involve as many Tartu residents as possible in this process from the very start. The project comprised two stages: at the first stage the new website’s navigation schemes were created with the input from the city residents and at the second stage the website prototype was completed. During the project the wishes and needs of the ordinary residents and the city officials were recorded concerning the new website. The following methods were used to engage the residents: public poll, interviews with ordinary residents and officials, card sorting, testing of navigation schemes, testing of prototype usability. A total of over 500 Tartu residents were involved, including more than 30 city officials. The project output consisted of the generalised methodology and the working prototype that can be used as the basis for the new website.
The goal of the project was to create a generalised methodology and a working prototype with maximum involvement of the city residents, to be used as the basis for the new informative and user-friendly website for all the city residents, allowing them to be more closely engaged in the urban management and decision-making processes.
- The project has been a success because the city residents participated actively and expressed interest, the planned methods produced results and the project was completed in a timely manner.
- The most important thing was the chance that the city residents were given to express their opinions and the subsequent efforts have relied on those opinions.
- This fact was confirmed that communicating with the residents is not as time-consuming as sorting and analysing the received information.
- Facebook served as an excellent channel of communication with the city residents as the posts inviting all to take part in the public poll gained prominence.
- At the second stage, when the website prototype was created, a lesser number of participants was envisaged but this reduction did not affect the high quality of the result because those involved were more motivated and better matched the user profiles.
- Public involvement should be planned thoroughly and in advance, including assessment of involvement duration so it is not a formality and can produce an essential result.
- When the opinions of the city residents are taken into account throughout the process, it truly becomes a people’s project.
- It is important to maintain contact with the participants at all project stages.
- User participation in website development is vital because without it the developers can only speculate about user needs and habits.
- Successful involvement is not directly dependent on the number of participants. Involvement of a large number of people in quality-related surveys only serves to inflate the volume of the material to be analysed without further affecting the overall results.