A responsive web application for political action
DecisionLoop is a responsive website that address the usability shortcomings of the current system of public
political participation. For organizers, it provides a way to gather action steps around a cause and to
advertise those steps to people interested in the cause. For people who may not be familiar with political
strategy, it provides an easily accessible, jargon-free place to find out anything they can do to help.
1. Description fades
out to indicate that it
will expand if tapped.
is eliminates the
need for a small “read
2. Before the “What
You Can Do” section
is an alert of the next
related to the issue.
is lends a sense of
urgency to the
3. Each action step in
the What You Can Do
section goes to a
separate page with
4. e “Get Educated”
section leads the user
to more information,
remind them that
there is still action to
Post a New Issue
5. e jurisdiction
that the issue falls
under will determine
who the relevant
contact are. ere are
options for “I don’t
know” and “Not
6. e option to
configured based on
7. Other action
screens to ask the
user to enter more
Contact your representative page
8. e representative contact page
takes advantage of device
capabilities to enable single-click
calls, emails, and tweets, as well as a
single-click post oﬃce finder. For
many jurisdictions, this
information is publicly available in
an easily accessible format.
Design Research | Background
Ramírez De La Piscina, Txema. “Social Movements in the Public Sphere New Forms
of Communication Arise and Transgress Old Communication Codes.” Zer: Revista de
Estudios de Comunicacion 12, no. 23 (November 2007): 63–87.
Barnes, Gary, and Peter Langworthy. Increasing the Value of Public Involvement in
Transportation Project Planning. St. Paul, MN: Minnesota Department of
Transportation, March 2004. http://www.lrrb.org/media/reports/200420.pdf.
Grengs, Joe. “Community-Based Planning as a Source of Political Change: The
Transit Equity Movement of Los Angeles’ Bus Riders Union.” Journal of the
American Planning Association 68, no. 2 (2002): 165–178. doi:
Hillier, Jean. “Beyond Confused Noise: Ideas Toward Communicative Procedural
Justice.” Journal of Planning Education and Research 18, no. 1 (September 1, 1998):
Maskovsky, Jeﬀ. “Governing the ‘New Hometowns’: Race, Power, and
Neighborhood Participation in the New Inner City.” Identities 13, no. 1 (2006): 73–
I had previously conducted research in the field
of public participation, specifically in the field of
transportation and sustainability planning.
I found that the basic logistics and diﬀiculty of
participating at all was the main barrier to
participation, and allowed planning
departments to legally get the required level of
participation without actually having the
relevant members of the public represented.
Design Research | Competitive Analysis
Meaningful relationships are possible, and people
involved are willing to put in a lot of time and
knowledge to figure out solutions
ey take a lot of human power, photocopying, and
phone banking to work
Open Town Hall
Allows citizens to comment directly to the
government agency anytime and anywhere with an
internet connection without necessarily having to sit
through a lengthy public meeting
To access, users must go to the agency website, which
may not be where they usually are. Commenting requires
knowledge of planning documents and planning jargon.
Social interaction between users is limited.
Mobilizes huge numbers of people to do something,
often written in a compelling style, and very easy to
do for almost everyone
A few levels away from direct action for the sake of
convenience. Makes people think they are doing their
civic duty without following up with those people to keep
Neighborland Easy for anyone to state anything they want in the
city and would be willing to organize around.
Suggestions for change are divorced from the context of
action already being done, the larger political ecosystem
that include opposition, and the people who hold power.
Design Research | User interviews
30 responses to an online survey about
online political participation
Phone interviews with a journalist, a
student organizer, a government employee
responsible for public outreach, an
organizer at an LGBT athlete advocacy
organization, and an organizer that
facilitates discussions to help people isolate
their issue and strategize
Discussions with other GA students and
people at the Code for San Francisco Civic
Persona | Kendall
Kendall has been working in organizing for over 20 years, and is
used to, though still frustrated with, the diﬃculty of bureaucracy,
strategy, and mobilizing others. Still, she has had many successes
(and failures), so she is well aware of her own capacity to aﬀect
change. She is also aware that it is meaningless without
community support and empowerment, so when she interfaces
with those outside of her organization, she always tries to let
them know that there are many things they can do to contribute.
She is starting to use Facebook to post the images from the
events she attends, and to show oﬀ organizers, organizations,
and people she is impressed with. She also uses Facebook to
encourage people to come to her organization’s events and to ask
people to vote and volunteer on campaigns.
She is busy with the day-to-day activities of her organization,
which is concerned with serving people, and the political
activities, which are intended to make it easier and less necessary
to serve those people.
Vice President of
nonprofit for the
She learned about the political process years ago in her high
school government class, but has never really thought about the
possibility of incorporating it into her everyday life. Although she
reads blogs and news articles and casually talks about politics
with her friends when it’s interesting or relevant, she is
somewhat embarrassed to admit that she has no idea how or if
she could have a say in politics.
Sometimes her friends post links to petitions on Facebook. If she
agrees with them, she will usually sign it because she wants to
contribute to her friend’s cause, she wants to stay politically
involved, and petitions are easy to sign.
Although she feels that signing petitions helps, she is somewhat
distrustful and unsure of how exactly they help. She never finds
out about the outcome of the petition, but still seems to receive
heaps of spam email from the petition organizers.
Persona | Daniela
User Roles in the system
elects to oﬃce
citizen to be
active in politics
spends a lot of time interacting with
government so others don’t have to.
trusts organizations with experts over
Issues Tags People
Action Steps ("What
You Can Do")
User Feedback on First Iteration
Making the central feature on the front page a huge search box with the
text “What issue are you working on right now?” is prohibitive to a huge
segment of potential users who are not activists.
e site is too neutral: where are the emotional appeals?
“Your Issues” sounds like a psychological problem. Perhaps “Following”
would be a better word choice.
All notion of time is missing (i.e. legislative timeline, deadlines for
participation, a sense of urgency, etc.)
User Feedback on Second Iteration
Navigation is entirely unclear.
ere is too much text and not enough imagery.
Having “Post to Social Media” as an action step perpetuates slacktivism
and is counterintuitive to the purpose of the project.
Action steps are vague and uninviting. Being specific is possible and
Using twitter hashtags as issue names is confusing. So is the word “issue”,
for that matter.
User Feedback on Third Iteration
e “What You Can Do” boxes don’t look like calls to action. ey have tiny
text and are hardly oﬀset from the background.
ere is no visual hierarchy of which action steps are the most important
ones to do. Try giving a single option.
Key dates seem disconnected from the rest of the page. ere is no sense
of relevance or urgency.
Crowdsourcing action steps is asking for trouble. Let the organizer choose
the steps and who else can contribute.
Flow | Daniela’s path
She enters through a link posted on
Facebook to “Support healthcare
workers in San Francisco!”
Once on the issue page, she reads a
little about the cause, and chooses
to contact her senator
Since she is most
Twitter, she chooses to
tweet her concerns
Flow | Kendall’s path
She uses the
select “Post an
She adds in the
An issue is successfully
posted and she sends out
the link to friends,
family, and colleagues
Add in a helper page before the
Post a New Issue flow to tell
people what an appropriate issue
for the site is.
Add an “I don’t know what to say”
section of the “Contact your
Representative” page to give
people a script or template that
might help them.
Interview more organizers about
their current strategies and
mental models of organization.
Prototype an overlay bar on
external news articles that
prompts people to take action
Code it up and keep iterating!
Project by Maya M. Wagoner