urbanter

Student blog of the Stanford University Urban Studies Department

Going Live…

This week, my first project of the summer went live.

As I discussed two weeks ago, Working Partnerships USA has been leading a campaign to enact a new comprehensive Living Wage Ordinance in Santa Clara County. This would ensure that County workers and employees of County contractors earn enough to make ends meet, receive healthcare coverage, and can take paid time off if they get sick. It would also encourage full-time jobs, predictable shifts, and give workers the right to request flexible schedules so they can take classes or take care of kids. The County is currently in the process of studying the costs and impacts of such an ordinance, and we’re building community support for the living wage.

For this campaign, I’ve been creating materials to explain what the living wage policy is and why it’s so important. The first of these is a one-page micro website. Eventually I’ll be expanding this into a full website with more details, but we wanted to get an initial page up quickly. It looks like this:

Silicon Valley Living Wage

For me, creating this site was a great project. I’ve built plenty of websites in the past, but this was different in two key ways: it was only a single page, and there was very little existing content to work from. These two factors created some fun challenges.

When I started work on this site, we were still in the early stages of the campaign, and no one had dug into how to talk about the living wage. That meant I got to figure this out, which was really interesting. I read through a bunch of background research and met with our policy experts, then thought about the best ways to organize what I’d learned. After a few iterations and discussions with other member of the campaign team, I settled on three themes:

  • Better jobs for working families: explaining how the living wage would include a range of policies to create quality jobs and help workers access the middle class.
  • Smarter policy for our County: laying out how a living wage leads to more reliable service, improves public health, and reduces reliance on the County’s social safety net.
  • Stronger communities for all of us: highlights how the living wage benefits far more than just the workers it directly affects, such as by giving workers the flexibility to participate in their communities and generating additional spending at local businesses.

With these themes in place, I then had to decide how to organize the site. A one-page site meant that I had only a limited amount of space. Research suggests that visitors will scroll down a webpage, but only up to a point – people have short attention spans on the internet, so an overly-long page will overwhelms and drives users away. After trying a few different options, I went with four sections:

  1. An initial overview that laid out the need for a living wage, and introduced the three themes I mentioned above.
  2. A section that explained the elements of living wage policy, and linked to additional sources of information.
  3. A section that discussed each of the three themes in more depth. At first I wasn’t sure how to prevent this section from being too long, then decided to make it interactive with one slide for each theme.
  4. A get involved section that encouraged visitors to take action, such as signing up to receive email updates on the campaign.

With both the themes and structure in place, it was then just a matter of writing up all the content, coding the HTML/CSS/JS, and debugging everything to make the site work with various smartphones and old web browsers. This last step is never much fun, but is sadly necessary (shameless plug: make web developers like me happy by upgrading to a modern browser).

After I emerged from the purgatory that is Internet Explorer pre-version 9 and got some final approvals, I took the site live on Monday. So far, the reception has been pretty good. While I can’t discuss exact numbers, analytics data showed a clear traffic spike as we promoted the site via email and Facebook, and it’s currently one of the most visited pages on Working Partnerships’ website. More importantly, it’s a tool we can use to pass a strong living wage and create quality jobs in Silicon Valley.

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