Finding the Right Problem
Wireframe Step 1
Wireframe Step 2
Wireframe Step 3
Making a new request
The ultimate goal of a user is to get the content they're seeking.
My research led me to examine the competing organizations and agencies responsible for ultimately fulfilling the users' request.
The system is complex, even after examining all the agencies and organizations I still wasn't clear on which organization or agency could best fulfill a given request.
A successful Request a Record solution would have to solve the problem of getting the request to the right organization and agency.
What it does
My solution broke the Request a Record process into a series of steps that would eliminate duplicate requests and deliver a request to the right organization/agency.
Step 1A: Define Request and Search Organizations for a Match
Once a user has defined a request (title and description) Open Records searches for a match on:
• Open Records
• Open Data
• Municipal Records
• Public Collections
Step 1B: Search Results
If the content is already in the public domain Open Records would share a link – regardless of the organization that has fulfilled it.
Open Records could recommend the appropriate organization. (ie. birth certificate request - the user would be directed to Municipal Records)
Step 2: Select an Agency
There are a series of options available to Open Records to handle this step.
Option 1: Self Selection
Using the content from the title/description the user submitted in Step 1, Open Records could present a limited number of agencies for the user to choose from. (this is similar to how category works on the current site)
Secondly, Open Records should list not only the Agency name but also provide a detailed description of what each agency is responsible for in order to provide users with a better chance of routing their request to the correct agency.
Option 2: Auto Selection
Perhaps the most risky of the three options, Auto Selection would determine the right agency based on the title and description provided in Step 1.
Option 3: Expert Intervention
Because defining the right Agency is very tricky and determines whether a request is fulfilled or rejected, perhaps it would be best to install a "traffic cop," an expert who could route a request to the right agency to increase the likelihood of fulfilling the request or offering more guidance to a requestor.
Step 3: Contact Information & Submission
Moving Contact Information to the last step saves a user from entering personal information if the content they are seeking is already in the public domain. (Step 1)
It's best practice to acknowledge a successful submission and manage a users' expectations of the next steps.
How I built it
I approached this problem using an abbreviated Human Centered Design process.
Challenges I ran into
Working virtually, without access to the Open Records team or other collaborators led me to make some untested assumptions.
1) Is it feasible for Open Records to search Open Data/Municipal Records and Public Collections?
If no, Step 1 could be about education in which the differences in the organizations are clearly defined and users can confidently select the right organization to file a request with.
2) My recommendation for Step 2 would be Option 3: Expert Intervention
However, I recognize that there's an economic, business impact to tasking an employee with routing Open Records requests to the right agency.
Accomplishments that I'm proud of
This was a complex problem and it was difficult to find a solution.
I appreciate the simplicity of the current approach - a single form - and see the benefits of shortening the process. My approach runs counter to user efficiency but has the potential to deliver better results.
What I learned
How to balance efficiency and successful requests.
Ultimately I decided it was better for a user to get the content they were seeking even if the request process took more time and effort.
What's next for Ben Olson vs. Challenge 1
I'd love the opportunity to see the data on how many requests are currently being fulfilled correctly and how many are rejected and revised. This could inform the proposed solution.
Finally, I was grateful to have a chance to lend my expertise to the Open Records Hackathon. I learned a lot about the initiatives that NYC sponsors and enjoyed the challenge.