Building close to home

The City of Austin Innovation Fellows program invited designers and developers from the private startup world to build user-centered digital services for city residents and civil servants through fellowship appointments of up to one year.

Started by a UX designer from the founding class at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the Fellows partnered with municipal departments to bring user-centered design thinking to their existing process and software technology.

I eagerly joined the Fellows when I first moved to Austin in early 2017, working alongside a dozen other multi-disciplinarians in a large conference room covered with sticky notes and whiteboards. Our mission was two-fold: to prototype ideas that benefit city residents and employees as well as partner with various departments and help them learn and apply user-centered design principles to their activities even after our appointments ended.

The challenge:

Partner with City of Austin employees to clarify and streamline the convoluted residential building permit process.

We started by working with the City of Austin’s Development Assistance Center to redesign the onsite intake process, reducing wait times and easing the frustrating experience of navigating complex municipal regulations on top of remodeling a home or replacing a roof.

After months of collaborative research, trust-building, user testing, and prototyping with the City of Austin‘s Development Service Department and city residents, the Fellows published an informational website to help residents understand how to apply for residential building permits.

Although I participated in user research, concept testing, and design activities as well, developing this Jekyll website was my major contribution.

You can check out the residential permitting resource, which is based on the US Web Design System, at and read more about the project in the presentation below:

I make other stuff too!