Redesign of ColimaApp

The app redesign for the City of Colima in Mexico

Introduction

I was one of 40 lucky Canadians selected to partake in a federally funded program by Canada Global Affairs in an international internship working with local partner organizations on the theme of urban sustainability and food security.

I was placed with the Instituto de Planeaciòn para el Municipal de Colima (IPCO) which is the local Institute of Planning organization based in Colima, Mexico on the redesign of a city app.

Why?

Colima has some very aggressive plans towards becoming a sustainable, smart city with the intention of making a reputation for themselves on a global scale. To build a city for tomorrow for the people of today, municipalities are engaging citizens in its planning efforts, consulting them on their needs and wants in an effort to design a more inclusive and engaged Colima of tomorrow.

ColimaApp 1.0 was born with the minimal viable product (MVP) to allow Colimenses to easily report issues relating to infrastructure damage, request for garbage removal services, streetlight repairs, etc.

ColimaApp 1.0

My job was to redesign ColimaApp 1.0 prototype without restrictions throwing out the constraint of MVP to allow people at city hall to have a broader discussion and make adjustments later.

Alas, this was my opportunity to design a unicorn app for the city.

Research

Coming into a new city, I was battling the challenges of communication in a third language (Spanish), in a totally new culture, environment and context. Nothing excites me more than living for these type of challenges, so I embarked on trying to collect as much data as I can for a better understanding of its local people.

I was starting from zero, I wanted to know everything. How people lived, what it means to be a “Colimense”, what were their cultural nuances? Where did people spend their spare time in the city, how do they engage with technology, how do they engage with the municipality, what was their relationship with the municipality?

Luckily, Mexicans and especially local Colimenses love nothing more than to share their culture and build relationships with outsiders so I embarked on interrogating every single colleague at IPCO (with a lot of broken Spanish and help of Google Translate).

My data collection involved getting to know a Colimense from a personal one-on-one level. When it came to directing technological questions, these were the questions I was fishing for:

  • smart phone use (if any; how, when, internet connection, service plan, restrictions on browsing use)
  • peoples sentiments about the city when it came to their relationship with the municipality
  • involvement with civic duties
  • involvement with the community (when, where, how, why)

At IPCO, I had at my hands a wealth of professional engineers, architects, planners, and luckily, student interns. I needed a more inclusive research group so connected with a student as we engaged business owners and citizens of Colima for more data compilation. The main purpose was to collect as much data on their technology use and relationship with the municipality.

These were my findings:

Type of cellphone users:

70% Android user, 20% Apple users

Internet activity:

  • 86% connects to the internet
  • 67% uses mobile data connection while 33% needed wifi connection

Type of Internet Users (by age):

  • ages 12–17 — -> 86% used internet
  • ages 18–24 — -> 83% used internet
  • ages 25–34 — -> 71% used internet
  • ages 35–44 — -> 56% used internet
  • ages 45–54 — -> 41% used internet

Educational background of internet users:

  • 95% of internet users had higher educational background
  • 83% of internet users had a middle level educational background
  • 46% of internet users has basic education

General observations and findings:

  • Business owners often organized local events but lacked a space to promote to a diversified audience since current marketing efforts were based on word-of-mouth and Facebook/social media
  • business owners expressed a desire for a more engaged and connected community
  • City Hall was open every Wednesday’s in the main public square for citizens to connect with civic officials regarding any municipal matters such as taxes, property, businesses & inspections, permits, policy, etc.
  • Since garbage was placed in plastic bags without protection from a closed container, locals would place their garbage on the curb as close to pickup time as possible. Some would rush home to ensure they catch the garbage collectors just in time to avoid pests from tearing and eating plastic garbage bags
Clearly Colima had a strong presence in cellphone and internet use. This gave me the confidence and reassurance to design a scalable digital product.

Designs

Note — I am by no means a visual designer yet. As such my designs are for purposes of functionality and information infrastructure.

Loading screen:

An image of the iconic downtown centre of Colima. Though the first thing people associate with Colima is it’s active volcano, I chose the city centre instead to align with the municipalities aggressive plans on regenerating the downtown core. Logo design remain the same but simplified to white instead of the original multi-colour logo.

Home screen:

To maintain the visual appeal I’ve included images of notable places of Colima. I played with a horizontal menu on the home page but didn’t want to have a layout with a perceived prioritization of features so I broke it down to four quadrants to occupy an even amount of screen space for an implicit equal weight. Final menu features include:

  1. Report Services
  2. Events & Places
  3. Transmittals and Processes
  4. Garbage Details

Breaking it down further:

Reporting Services

  • a list and map viewability
  • quick CTA to upload your own report
  • overview summary of currently reported submissions with quick glance at what stage of the process your report is at (eg, submitted, received, processing, complete)
  • CTA contact directly to person at the municipality responsible for stage or submission
  • top horizontal scroll bar to select which department user is submitting report to
  • radio button to allow report to be publicized or remain private

Events & Places

  • list and map view of places & events
  • keeping in line with existing app theme of vertical scroll bar for user to select which type of event or what type of places user is searching for
  • events separated by “this week”, “next week” or “other” to populate in separate screen to view additional options in horizontal scroll style
  • a quick summary of important business information prioritizing information that matters most: Business name, price, address, reviews. Priority of placement of this based on AB testing with subject users

Transmits & Processes

  • horizontal scroll to select different departments user want information from
  • under each department will list the types of necessary information per category. eg, under contact screen images and information of contact personnel will populate for users
  • once user selects department, and process, the screen will load into details of specific information under category

City Collection Services

  • again horizontal scroll menu for heuristics where users select which type of trash service information they are looking for
  • hover-over details about garbage services including neighbourhood, time and dates
  • a real-time GPS route of garbage location

User Testing

The app was configured with InVision and tested with the team at IPCO. Over well received comments with excitement for the app to be developed. Some frustrations:

  • not all screens were designed and configured so user would select “submit” and not receive clarity. Takeaway? Build every screen and every expected action
  • when a user didn’t know what they were looking for, there was no menu search option

Next Steps

One of my biggest challenges working in Mexico is how slowly things can move. On one hand, knowing the right people can land me an immediate meeting with the Director of the University of Colima, or the mayor. On the other hand, people are easily amused, interested, and inspired with a project…until the muse dissipates. That being said, it was easy for me to gather information and talk to people of authority at the municipality. Unfortunately, due to bureaucracy, it was harder to get a meeting with the Director of Economic Development than it was with the mayor. That being said, as my internship ended before I was able to meet, I have handed my designs to my boss at IPCO as he waits to present the prototype with City Council. Should it be passed and approved, I will work with them on a remote basis to develop this app.

Until then, thanks for reading my post and feel free to get in touch with any questions!