As I worked as a junior architect for 2 years, I noticed a disconnect between many private developers’ goals and the community’s needs. Planning initiatives and zoning laws in certain cities are meticulously designed to provide guidelines for developments to minimize the aforementioned disconnect, nevertheless, it is difficult for the public to navigate through and participate the obscurely complex system of urban development. OUrban is web-based platform designed to help promote public participation in shaping their own built context through an engaging interactive map that is a part of an intuitive yet informative system.
Types of Developments
Foundamentally, development projects can be categorized into 2 types: private development and public planning. Public engagement is often in the form of council meetings and hearings for private projects while being more flexible for planning projects. Public planning initiatives naturally have longer project life cycle. The public may find the numerous participation opportunities disorienting due to the complexity of the system.
Based on interviews with urban planning professionals and average citizens, I documented the journey map of an typical citizen who is trying to participate in the urban planning/development process.
Most users who are interested in engaging in urban planning have a hard time navigating through the municipal website to find exactly what they are searching for.
A part of the interviewees expressed a lack of interest in participating in the urban planning due to the bureaucratic process and commitment.
The new system needs to intuitive and easy to navigate. The simplification of the proposed interface relies on the clear cataloging of information.
The interaction experience with the proposed system needs to be fun to capture new users. A stylized 3d map with interactive elements evokes experiences of a game.
Some users who aren’t actively engaged in planning found out about exercises and surveys too late, thereby missing the chance to participate.
The proposed system needs to feature simple online surveys and exercises to prolong the interaction window for busy users.
Solution 1 Intuitive System Flow
Solution 2 Interactive Map
The system architecture will prioritize information clarity by establishing a clearer flow.
The mapping interface will respond to different planning information, thereby showing changes in a visual, fun way.
Solution 3 Online Mapping Exercises
Mapping Exercises and Surveys would be key feedback features that allow users to participate independently in their own time.
I created a storyboard of how an user could utilize OUrban to engage in the planning process of her local community.
Martha is walking around her neighborhood, but became frustrated with the newly developed 5-over-1 apartments as she doesn’t know why these are being built.
Martha encounters an out-of-home advertising board that shows her OUrban, an interative platform that could help her engage in the planning of her own neighborhood.
Excited to know that she too can make a change in her community, Martha searches for her neighborhood on the OUrban interactive map.
OUrban’s intuitive interface showed Martha ongoing developments and planning context. She learns about the increasing housing demand that explains the new 5-over-1s.
Martha still has some ideas about the community planning, so she did some surveys and watched a past meeting on OUrban. She becomes well-informed and confident.
Martha finally decided to attend an in-person workshop. Engaging in urban planning used to be daunting and inaccessible, but thanks to OUrban it has become easy, fun and fulfilling!
Prototype and Information Architecture
Based on key solutions and features informed by user pain points, I created information architecture and prototypes that prioritize addressing these key findings. The navigation process is all done through a core map, which contains an intuitive menu of interaction flows that changes based on the scale of the map.
High Fidelity Prototypes
Informed by user behaviors, identifying location of interests could inform a series of actions. The workflow of OUrban capitalize on utilizing the interactive map to help users to navigate through all the functions. The map itself is also a visually engaging education tool.