Urban Wire A new Urban.org to elevate the debate
David Connell
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Early next week we will be launching our new website—the website you are on right now. We are previewing the new site in a “beta” launch for a few days so those who visit urban.org often and rely on it for timely policy analysis can get used to the new look, structure, and content.

We welcome your feedback

As you visit the new site, you will see a tab in the lower right-hand corner of the page. You can click on this tab to tell us what you think of the site, or let us know about any errors or broken links you’ve found. We’ll keep this tab around through our beta period and, perhaps, for a few days after our official launch. 

Our new site is completely redesigned to highlight the depth and breadth of our policy research. The site is also designed to cater to all the ways we access information in today’s digital and mobile world, whether it’s searching for a research publication on a desktop in the office, exploring an interactive feature on a tablet at home, or scrolling through Twitter on a smartphone on the Metro.

While I’m thrilled to introduce the new site to our readers, I also want to reflect on all that we’ve done to get to this point.

Creating a digital content strategy for Urban

About two years ago, the Urban Institute began a new digital content strategy aimed at leveraging our rigorous social and economic policy research and making that research more accessible to the policymakers, journalists, academics, and everyday citizens who care about these issues.

At the heart of this strategy was a simple proposition: The work our researchers do at Urban—and the knowledge they have—is far too valuable to remain locked up in PDFs that are difficult to access in a digital world and difficult to digest in an era of shorter and shorter attention spans. We had to find new ways to meet our audiences where they are and create new avenues for communicating our research.

As we set about building a strategy around this proposition, this visual metaphor became an important guidepost for how we would leverage our research and repackage those insights to serve many different audiences.  

At the base of the pyramid on the left are our research products. They are the core value proposition of the Urban Institute. These reports and journal articles serve our most sophisticated consumers of research from the policy, research, and practice worlds, as well as the most dedicated users of our site. As you move up the pyramid on the left, you find different strategies and content forms used to reach broader audiences, from congressional staffers, to city planners and commissioners, to journalists, and “amateur wonks” looking to go deep on an issue.  The credibility and unique value of all of Urban's products rest on the quality and transparency of this evidence base.  The audience that quickly digests insights from Urban research through products higher up on the pyramid knows that they can click through to find a research basis or researcher  upon which they can rely.

For the past two years, we have experimented with and found a variety of new ways to reach all of these audiences, including through

  • our informative and incisive social media channels,
  • the excellent posts you read on this blog every day, and
  • interactive features that demonstrate the depth and breadth of our research in beautiful and immersive displays.

While we’ve been experimenting with and refining these methods, we’ve also been rebuilding Urban’s website from the ground up. These projects are generally referred to as site “redesigns,” but this project was so large and complex that it was really a site “redevelopment.”

New features to elevate the debate

The new site includes an entirely new backend infrastructure; a new, responsive design for mobile devices; and several new content areas that we hope will continue to appeal to our core and broad audiences alike. We’ve set up a microsite to preview some of the features we’ll have on the new site. Over the coming days, we will be writing more blog posts about the site, but for now, here is a quick punch list of some of the things you’ll find on the new Urban.org:

  • A new blog, called Urban Wire, that will be replacing MetroTrends. It will be fully integrated into the new website and will better represent the depth and breadth of Urban’s body of research.
  • A new section called “Policy Debates” where Urban researchers and colleagues from outside the organization can write short posts debating the issues of the day, drawing on research and evidence as their foundation. (You can see an early experiment with this type of content here.)
  • “Advanced” research publications that present reports and briefs in an HTML format, with charts and graphs that can be shared via social media or downloaded for use outside of the site.
  • A more robust search experience that allows users to find exactly what they’re looking for and refine their results based on topics, policy centers, and authors.

This new site represents the culmination of two years of intense, difficult, and exciting work for many people at the Urban Institute. I hope it also marks the beginning of a new period that sees the work of our researchers elevating the debate among increasingly sophisticated and broader audiences.


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The Urban Institute podcast, Evidence in Action, inspires changemakers to lead with evidence and act with equity. Cohosted by Urban President Sarah Rosen Wartell and Executive Vice President Kimberlyn Leary, every episode features in-depth discussions with experts and leaders on topics ranging from how to advance equity, to designing innovative solutions that achieve community impact, to what it means to practice evidence-based leadership.