Background / Problem:
The city has placed a strong emphasis on improving the aesthetics of neighborhoods and ensuring work done on properties is properly permitted to promote safe, well-planned neighborhoods. The city uses code enforcement citations as the primary enforcement mechanism to ensure residents follow development codes and keep properties clean and safe.
Poor forms and explanations
The current code enforcement process relies on poorly-designed door hanger forms that provide little context for residents on why they were cited with a violation and how to fix the violation. The city website does not have effective resources to help residents understand the municipal codes that are behind code violations, further complicating the process.
Our team rode along with a city code enforcement team from Development Services Department. The code enforcement officer’s main job is to go door-to-door and notify residents if anything on their property does not comply with city development and upkeep codes.
If the residents are not at home when officers find a problem a door hanger is left with some information about the violation and a phone number to contact the code enforcement office.
A detailed look at these door hanger forms revealed a few issues:
- The language is hard to understand and is written for city, not for residents There is no explanation of why confusing ordinances exist
- Website links are broken or lead to pages that are difficult to navigate
The checklist or possible problems is too long, and provides little context for each issue Solution: We want to make it easier for the process easier to understand for residents by redesigning the form and language from their perspective. Specifically, we want the new form to:
- Explain to residents why they need to follow the ordinance
- Lay out a step-by-step guide for fixing the code violation
- Link to easy-to-navigate resources to learn more about the city code behind the violation First steps
We have gone through a number of design iterations exploring better ways to present the information on door hangers. We’ve explored simpler-to-navigate forms that include all the violations and breaking forms down to include only one violation with in-depth details.
We’ve also created iterations that simply improve on the information architecture of the current form, but keep many of the details intact:
We hope to pair these door hanger forms with a simple-to-navigate website that breaks down each code violation, the city codes behind the violation, and to provide resources on how to fix the problem.
Moving forward, we are planning to work closely with the code enforcement officers to put the test forms out in the field and see how to best explain issues to residents in a language they understand. We’re also interested in working with the San Antonio website team to implement the web explainer improvements on the San Antonio website.