Rich Marmura is leading a project to redesign the website for the government of his native city.
Marmura, who grew up outside Pittsburgh and earned his master’s degree from Carnegie Mellon, is the digital engagement content supervisor for the City of Pittsburgh’s Department of Innovation and Performance (I&P). The department is redesigning the city’s website, pittsburghpa.gov. Before they launch the refurbished site in the spring of 2017, Marmura and his team are gathering community opinion on how the site should look and operate.
The city on Oct. 7 launched Alpha, a prototype of the site that will be live in the spring, as a way to collect input from internal departments and Pittsburgh residents. The purpose of Alpha is twofold. I&P posts updates of their work on the final site, so people can view progress as it occurs. People can also use Alpha to post feedback and their own ideas for the site’s development and design.
“It’s a way to have a two-way conversation with the public,” Marmura said. “The goal is to explain our process. We’re building a site for everyone.”
In addition to offering Alpha as a way for residents to post ideas, Marmura is also meeting with communities in person. He and his team are going on tour through a program they call “Alpha on the Road,” where they meet with people from Pittsburgh’s districts and gauge their expectations. He said his department has also received 30 direct emails with suggestions and ideas. Marmura said he used the city government websites of Boston and Miami, which recently renovated their sites, as models for community engagement practices.
One of the most interesting challenges in building a digital city hall is creating a site that reflects all of Pittsburgh’s communities, Marmura said. He said the city hosts an eclectic mix of people at different stages of technological literacy. For example, his parents, who live in the area, bought iPhones for the express purpose of enjoying photos of Marmura’s young son. Pittsburgh is also home to a Google office, an Uber testing facility, and Carnegie Mellon University. Marmura said he is leading so many social outreach efforts because he wants to create a site that represents these different interests, ages, and backgrounds.
“Pittsburgh is at an interesting crossroads. We’re known as an industrial town, but because of universities and tech investments, we’re a changing city,” Marmura said. “We have a really varied populace.”