New York City's platform for accessing and learning about benefit programs, ACCESS NYC, increasingly struggled to adapt to new use cases, technological innovation, and more efficient methods of website maintenance and content sharing. These challenges impeded NYC’s ability to deliver up-to-date accessible benefits information and eligibility screening to residents when they needed it.
In 2016, the Mayor's Office for Economic Opportunity (NYC Opportunity) undertook an extensive redesign of the ACCESS NYC website, methods for storing website data, and internal processes for maintaining the website.
Taking a human-centered approach, the team grounded the redesign in the needs and experiences of benefits-seeking residents. To do this, the team engaged residents, benefits navigators, and staff at government agencies via iterative prototyping and user testing throughout the redesign process. NYC Opportunity eventually produced guides in plain language for 80 benefits programs and reduced the eligibility screening process to 10 steps. User feedback informed the organization of content on the website and a formal style guide for future content. The website is currently mobile-friendly and available in 11 languages reaching 86 percent of the city.
NYC Opportunity streamlined their editorial process to allow people with broader skillsets to manage the website. The office also transferred its data to a content management system and an application programming interface (API) to codify the new style guide, improve data management, and share content efficiently.
Project Outcomes and Impact
ACCESS NYC provides hundreds of pages of information about benefits in plain language and in accessible format. The website registered more than 6.4 million browsing sessions and 326,000 eligibility screenings during the first 18 months of the COVID-19 pandemic. NYC Opportunity now regularly helps other city agencies communicate changes to benefits programs.
Designers and government agencies can use plain language and user feedback to redesign content, communicate policy, and engage users. The ACCESS NYC redesign may also serve as a model for seeking ways to incorporate and utilize modern technology to share and present data more efficiently.