Bracknell Forest Digital Services


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My way or the highway; creating new content for roads

Roads icon

My first experience of creating structure and content for the new website was for the roads section.

We had two workshops about this section. One was with Highway Network Management (which has several teams within it) and the other was with Highway Asset Management.

For customers, these teams do one overall thing: look after roads. So it’s not relevant to them that there are different teams, and teams within teams, some of which deal with traffic flow, others which deal with potholes. Instead, the customer journey needs to include the services offered by both these teams without breaking that journey into two parts.

Secondly, both these service areas are pretty keen on the word highway. It’s important to them – and it’s what they are all about. But, from a user perspective, we’re really talking about roads. Okay, so it’s actually roads, pavements and even some verges, but that’s getting complicated which is the opposite of where we want to be.

Keeping our content crystal clear is a priority – our current website was highly rated by the Plain English Campaign just this week. What I’ve noticed, is that you can always review content for the better. So let’s use the word roads, where roads makes more sense in the context.

 

Guide pages

We sourced the idea of guide pages from GOV.UK; the format is an overview or introduction page with related (numbered) pages that you can clearly see at the top. If it’s a process, you can go through them in numerical order, or you can click straight to the content that’s relevant to you. Here’s a snippet taken from GOV.UK:

Snippet taken from GOV.UK of an example guide page

There were two instances where I re-structured content into a guide page. One was a PDF about gritting and one was a page about abandoned vehicles that was so long I’m not sure anyone but me has reached the end of it. For both of these, I changed the content into the new guide page structure so they had a short intro and simple, associated pages.

In terms of making sure the content was in Plain English, turning the bottomless page into more manageable pieces of information was pretty straightforward as it was already written for a web audience.

Much more editing was required with the PDF, which raises yet another problem with PDFs – not only are they generally not very accessible – they tend to be created without that keen focus on a web audience. If they are serving no purpose and no-one is looking at them (over half of our PDFs currently get no views at all) – get rid of them. If they are important – consider changing them into web pages instead.

 

Make things better

If our content team had a tag-line, this could be it. T-shirts anyone?

Image of a tee shirt with the words: Make things better

flat-testing-results


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Design testing

Last week we went out into key areas of the borough to ask members of the public what they thought of our initial website designs.

We visited libraries, sports centres and shopping centres to find a range of people to talk to.

We had flip charts with print outs and clipboards with questions; nothing hi-tech about it but enough to get the quick feedback we were after.

User testing guerrillas with clipboards at the ready!

User testers with clipboards at the ready!

The below infographic presents some of the key findings from the testing we carried out. Carrying out the survey was a great learning experience and has given us good ideas on how to improve the next one. Overall the results are really positive and affirm that we are on the right track with out initial designs.

Key statistics around flat design user testing.

 

Overall, everyone was very positive. Participants really liked the clean and simple design with the increased emphasis on services. Some participants felt that perhaps it was a little plain but that this aided it’s functionality and improved their ability to find the information needed.

Next steps are to go back to the design team with a few changes, and then we will push on with building our beta site. We’ll be back out and about in the borough over the coming months to carry out more testing so keep an eye out for us.

gaad-logo-mini


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Global Accessibility Awareness Day

Today is Global Accessibility Awareness Day!

The purpose of this day is to get people all around the world talking, thinking and learning about digital accessibility and users with different disabilities.

Digital accessibility involves ensuring that people are not excluded from using and interacting with the web, regardless of ability and technology.

We have worked with an organisation called the Shaw Trust to ensure that the council’s public website can be used by people with a range of disabilities.

Some examples of the testing carried out include:

  • blind and partially sighted users who have web pages read aloud using a screen reader
  • users with cognitive or motor impairments who rely on a keyboard or joystick instead of a mouse
  • users with Dyslexia or difficulties with colour contrasts

Digital accessibility is very important to us and this will be a priority as we build the new website. The new website will also be responsive to assist users visiting on a mobile device and we are looking to reduce PDF documents as these are generally not very accessible.

The GAAD website has some great ideas on how to participate in Global Accessibility Awareness Day – such as going mouseless, or using a screen reader for an hour. Why not give it a go?

site-visitors


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Publishing website statistics

Last month Public Service Digital published an article around the data that council digital teams share and how, this being 2016, we really ought to be making better use of the tools available for doing this. Further, the article raised the idea that perhaps there ought to be some form of standards around the publication of the data in order to make it comparable.

This raised some discussion in our team around what we are currently doing, and how we could improve the provision of data for our public website.

Like many councils, we use Google Analytics to monitor our website performance. We already publish some basic statistics on a monthly basis, but it is limited.

GOV.UK have some really interesting presentation of their website statistics, and whilst we are not there yet, it is something to aim for in terms of data publication.

Instead, we have opted for something quicker and simpler to get us moving in the right direction. We have used the Google Analytics Spreadsheet add-on to put together a new website statistics page.

This page currently shows some of our key website statistics in the shape of interactive graphs, like the one below.

 

We’ve added what we think are some of the key metrics for looking at website performance, but we would be interested to know what others publish, and whether providing more information would be useful. It would be great to have a discussion around what data councils should be publishing in this area and whether there ought to be some form of shared standards for publication so making comparisons becomes easier.

Finally, thanks has to go to Croydon council’s web team as their website statistics page and spreadsheet really helped us understand what we needed to make this work. Using this, plus the tutorial videos available from Google, we managed to put this page together quite quickly. The whole process is simple and these videos are a great starting point if you want to make something similar out of your statistics.

Over the coming months we will look to improve on this initial offering and share further data for our website performance. Is there any particular data you think we should share on this page? Let us know in the comments!

Orange and blue lines on a graphy


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Home sweet home? – a look at homepage usage

Last week Brighton published a great blog post about their homepage, and how really, Google is their homepage.

This prompted me to take a look at our homepage to see how it performs in relation to the rest of our website. What we found out was pretty interesting stuff (if you like this kind of thing anyway!)

Looking at a standard content report for our website shows that our homepage was the top ranked page in March.

Table showing the top page views in March

However, this presents a slightly misleading interpretation of homepage usage as when we look at homepage visits in comparison to all other visits, we can see that actually, over a year, 82% of sessions on our website did not visit the homepage at all.

Graph showing sessions with and without homepage visits

Where is home?

Approximately 15% of sessions start on our homepage. What about the other 75%? The table below shows the top ten pages that customers started on for March.

Top ten landing pages (excluding homepage)

Unsurprisingly, given it’s popularity, and the current work going on, Coral Reef is the most popular landing page, followed by The Look Out Discovery Centre.

All of these pages are some of our most popular pages on our site so it is not a shock that these pages would be entry points. However, this doesn’t tell us how customers are getting to these pages.

Do they Google it? Do they have a direct link? What about other sources?

According the the numbers, Google is the most popular starting point, and direct links follow.

User flow diagram

Even more interesting, and something we should probably explore at a later date, is that when we add the homepage as a landing page back into the figures, we see that large numbers of customers are actually still coming to it via Google rather than by other means.

Diagram showing usage of homepage as a landing page

Using the homepage

Let’s now take a look at those sessions where there is a visit to the homepage after looking at other pages. Why are the majority of our customers not doing this, but some are?

To help us understand, we can look at where customers were before they ended up on the homepage. The following table shows the top five pages that people navigated from.

Pages used before homepage

What is it about these pages that mean customers decide to head to the homepage after using them?

Is it because they do not find the information they want, or is it because they did find that information but wanted to do something else?

These pages are generally well used, but perhaps they are failing customers in some way that results in the backtrack to the homepage. Some focused user testing may be in order to see if we can work out why this is happening.

Another key indicator we can look at in relation to homepage usage is time spent on the website.

Graph showing average session duration

In March, the average time spent on the website when the customer did not go to the homepage was 1 minute 46 seconds.

If the session included the homepage this jumped to 3 minutes 41 seconds, suggesting that those customers who go to the homepage navigate around a lot more before they find what they want. They may also be interested in more than one thing.

Again, we need to be monitoring how our customers navigate much more closely in order to understand this.

What next?

What should we take away from all this? How can we make our new homepage more useful for those customers who have ended up on it? I think there are two key things we need to consider:

  1. We shouldn’t over engineer the homepage. It doesn’t need to be fancy but it does need to provide customers with a simple way to get to the information they need. Customers should also be able to find what they need quickly.
  2. We must focus on the content and ensure that customers can get to it through the channels they want – for example, let’s make sure that customers can find our content easily through search engines.

We’re already doing some of this for the new website.

We’re trying to keep the homepage as simple as we can, with clear navigation into services. In our first wireframe testing last week, users really liked this, and found it clear and easy to use. Once we have some stats on our new homepage, it will be very interesting to run a comparison.

BFC-User-Testing-Round-one


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Wireframe User testing

Last week we held a user testing session on our initial website wireframes. With 10 participants at the session, we were able to test the wireframes across desktops, tablets and mobiles, giving us an insight into how the website would perform across all devices.

The participants were recruited through our Open Learning Centre, and as such they had a range of technical ability. Some had come from a course about learning to use an iPad, whilst others were recruited from our ‘English language café’ where they attend to improve their English. Others were from an IT open session, and had more of an understanding about how to use a computer. This gave us a wide range of participant skill level which helped us check whether the site would be usable for a variety of customers.

BFC-User-Testing-Round-one.png

As this was our first in-person user testing for the re-development, we were all pretty nervous about how it would be received. Thankfully, it all went off fairly well and we got some great positive feedback that proves that the path we are on is the right one.

Examples of feedback include:

“Very clear website”

“Straight to topic”

“Very straightforward”

“Good to have all the key information near the top of the homepage”

However, the testing wasn’t all positive and it did highlight several issues with the website that we will need to consider how to resolve.

The 3 main usability problems which everyone had were:

  • The “More Services” button is not visible enough. Most of our participants couldn’t find it without prompting.
  • Most participants expected to find “register a birth” under “family information”.
  • Most participants struggled to find local news.

It was also really interesting to see that no one used the main drop down menu. As such, the users testing the mobile version could not find “My account” button because it was hidden in the drop down.

Having carried out this initial wireframe testing, we will now hold some internal testing with some of our councillors and staff. This should help us double check the issues raised through the customer testing.

Diagram showing routing to birth information


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Homepage navigation survey: the results

Our recent homepage navigation survey produced some interesting results. In all, 281 people took part, with 201 participants completing all of the tasks. Whilst we are analysing these in our team, we thought it might be interesting to share what we learnt about our proposed navigation with you.

We will take a look at the overall results, as well as the breakdown of results and what we have learnt from running the survey. It’s quite a long read, with lots of diagrams, so it might be worth getting that cup of tea first!

Overall results

Taking a look at the overall results provides some positive indications that our suggested navigation is on the right track.

Chart showing success and directness ratings

The success rating shows that 89% of tasks completed by participants ended up at the correct answer. The directness rating shows that for those tasks completed, 78% found the correct answer without having to backtrack.

This is good news for us as much of the proposed navigation seems to work. We can confirm this, and check where there are issues or changes needed, by looking at the task results in more detail.

The tasks

1. Council tax

Our first task, about setting up a direct debit, was very successful, and participants found it easy to find with a 96% success rate and the information being found in under 12 seconds. Comments on the survey back this up:

“Seemed very simple and user friendly. I was surprised how quickly I located things.”

Council tax task information

The ease of finding this information is highlighted when we look at where participants navigated to from ‘Home’. As we see below, other than some outliers, most participants went straight to the right page.

council-tax-task-pie2. Births

Our second task, about registering the birth of a child, proved more challenging for customers and had the lowest success rate for a task within the survey. We can see from our analytics that whilst customers managed to complete the task 70% of the time, they often did not directly find the answer.

births-task

To explore where customers went instead, we can take a look at the routes they took.

Diagram showing routing to birth information

From the chart above, we can see that many customers looked within children and family services for this information. This was backed up by participant comments.

“I would have registered births under children’s service and social care, but I didn’t get this option.”

“Birth registration should be under children and families not ‘other services’. I had to go there as a last resort rather than actually wanting to find it there.”

In order to account for this within our navigation, we should make sure that we link to this information from within the Children and Families section, as well as with the Births, marriages and deaths section.

3. Housing

Our housing benefit task had a 97% success rate. The directness rating was a little lower than council tax at 90% but still indicates that the content was easy to find.

Information relating to housing benefit task

Looking at the navigation routes taken for this suggests that most customers are not actually taking the direct route via ‘Benefits’ but rather are navigating through ‘Housing’. This indicates that putting it within the main housing section was a good assumption, whilst also accounting for those looking for ‘Benefits’ first.

Diagram showing routing to housing benefit information4. Trees

Our tree task scored a little lower than most of our tasks, with a success rate of 82%. However, only 73% of participants got there directly, suggesting that they were looking for it in a number of places.

Information about the tree task

As the diagram below shows, whilst the majority of participants made it to the trees section, there was a lot of variety in how they got there. Looking at the analytics, 153 participants made it to ‘Trees’ via ‘Environmental issues’ and only 13 made it via ‘Parks and countryside’. So whilst trees have traditionally sat within the parks section, the results suggest that customers will not look for it here. Further, 96 participants went to ‘Planning and building control’ for tree information, suggesting that tree information needs to be signposted here as well.

Diagram showing routes taken to tree information

5. Councillors

Finding out who your local Councillor is, is an important task for local democracy. Our survey results show that participants were, with the exception of a few outliers, able to successfully find this information.

Information about the Councillor task

The diagram below shows that most customers went to ‘The council and democracy’ to find this information, whilst our signpost back to this from elections helped those that did not.

Diagram showing routes taken to Councillor information

With regards to this question, we received several comments regarding the use of the term ‘The council and democracy’. We are now investigating other options for what we call this section, including ‘About the council’. It is likely that we will do more testing on this to find out what works best for our customers.

6. Fostering

The task relating to fostering was one that participants found straightforward.

Information about fostering task

The diagram below highlights that the majority of participants (196) found fostering information under ‘Children and family services’. Most of the remaining participants found it through ‘Health and social care’ where fostering information is referenced for those looking for it there.

Diagram showing navigation route to fostering information7. Graffiti

We were interested in looking at graffiti as a task because of where it sits under the heading ‘Environmental issues.’ As a team we had debated the use of this term and we wanted to test it out. The success rate was 94% which is great, but there were some issues with directness. 75% of participants got to the task directly which means that 25% of participants didn’t manage to find it straight away.

Information about the graffiti task

This was backed up with feedback on the survey. For example one participant commented:

“I found the … task particularly difficult – ‘Environmental’ is a broad term and it took me quite some time to discover the Graffiti branch.”

So, where did participants look for this task? As we can see from the diagram below, they looked in a range of places. The most notable was that they checked under ‘More services’ for this task, although ‘Housing’ was also popular. This may be because we referenced the task to graffiti outside a house. This suggests that we will need to investigate how we link key tasks around the website, rather than feature them exclusively in one area.

Diagram showing routes to graffiti information

8. Licensing

When discussing the initial navigation to test, we struggled with where to put licensing information, so it was interesting to see where customers looked for this. This test, whilst having an 86% success rate, shows that having licensing information under ‘Business information’ was not where participants were looking for it. We can see this because only 54% of participants went directly to the task.

Information about the licensing task

In order to work out where else we might locate licensing information, we can look at where customers went before they made it to ‘Business information.’

65 participants went to ‘Planning and building control,’ whilst 62 went to ‘More services.’ This suggests that, at the very least, we need to reference licensing within ‘Planning and building control,’ and perhaps even consider having licensing as its own section. Again, this is something that we will need to carry out further user testing on.

Diagram showing the routing towards licensing information

What next?

Having carried out this survey on our main navigation, we will now take the results and look at how we can improve how the navigation works. For example, we will make sure that the licensing section is easier to find and that births information is linked from children and family services, among other changes.

Thank you once again to everyone who took part in the survey.

 

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