I worked with Tomorrow Partners to create The San Francisco Business Portal, a comprehensive one-stop web tool that features a wealth of resources aimed at first time or seasoned business owners. The portal was designed to help nurture the small business sector and create an environment where everyone can realize their dream to become an entrepreneur.
Tomorrow Partners reached out to me to co-lead stakeholder research, lead interaction design, and co-lead visual design for the the San Francisco Business Portal.
To understand their hopes, needs and aspirations – as well as their frustrations – we visited business owners where they work. These dedicated entrepreneurs described an inefficient startup process riddled with detours and difficulties. Not enough people knew about the resources available at City Hall, which led to missed opportunities and a perceived lack of support, as well as a sense of isolation at critical moments throughout the business life cycle.
As civic institutions tend to be notoriously complex, we also engaged stakeholders from a dozen city departments in hands-on workshops to view the process of starting and growing a business from their perspective. We mapped out bottlenecks and high and low points throughout the experience, and identified key opportunities for improvement, while also fostering collaboration between city staffers who might not usually have the chance to work together. It was clear from our research that both business owners and City Hall wanted a more streamlined, accessible, reliable and unified experience.
I took the lead on research synthesis, design implications, interaction design and initial visual design concepts. After primary research, I developed an in-depth user journey. I used this for many follow-up activities including identifying pain points and key opportunity areas, creating user stories and personas.
The Portal features intuitive tools and rich resources that streamline the business permit and license process. It includes a 10-step timeline that also serves as the navigation element throughout the Start a Business section, and provides a visual overview of the entire process. Downloadable Starter Kits tailored to the ten most common business types in San Francisco, from restaurants and bars to retail shops and nail salons, outline every detail needed for 85 percent of all businesses launched in the city.
Every aspect of the Portal was designed for clarity and efficiency. Users can save documents from anywhere on the site to a browser cached folder to download later or email to colleagues. And for a diverse city like San Francisco, we optimized the site for all mobile devices and made content translatable into Chinese and Spanish.
To make finding the right permits and licenses intuitive, we prototyped many filter and search models before selecting the type of dynamic filtering often used on retail websites.
Instead of using stock photographs, real San Francisco businesses are celebrated with documentary style images and testimonials, giving people with entrepreneurial ambitions an authentic feel for what success looks like in this vibrant community.