Bracknell Forest Digital Services


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Easy read content now available

What is easy read?

Easy read is simplified information for adults with learning disabilities. This includes a huge range of different needs and abilities. GOV.UK encourages local authorities to provide easy read information, particularly for key stages and decisions in someone’s life.

The information should be distilled to just the key elements. We have 12 standard council tax pages; this has been condensed to just one easy read page that includes the key points that are likely to be most relevant to our easy read audience.

As a side note, the guidelines also highlight that easy read can be useful for people with English as a second language, as it is based on a simple, clear image with a short sentence next to it. Here’s an example from the bins and recycling page:

bins-easy-read-snippet

Easy read landing page

We’ve launched with an easy read landing page. This includes:

We also have 2 pages that relate specifically to adults with learning disabilities – Approaching adulthood and Shared Lives – and we have more of these to build.

On relevant standard pages, we’ve linked to these using our ‘related links’.

As part of phase 2, we’ve designed a new easy read button:

easy-read-button

This is in development to sit next to our current ‘listen’ button which sits at the top of our pages.

Work in progress

We’re really pleased to share the start of this project, which is a work in progress.

We have come across some difficult questions which are not completely resolved.  For example, for marriages and civil partnerships, we’ve moved away from pictures of people to pictures of rings, so that we don’t exclude anyone. At the same time, I can’t help feeling that a picture of rings is not that helpful.  It’s correct, but is it helpful?

Some user testing could very well help with questions like these and we’ll be looking to get feedback from real users over the next few months.

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Reviewing the (statistical) situation

It’s been over 7 months since we last posted on here, announcing the launch of our website. No excuses, but it’s just been one of those periods where there hasn’t been the time to sit and reflect and blog.

In brief, we’ve been moving from project to project, many of which were time sensitive and demanding. In addition, our team has been changing, with members leaving and devolved editors being merged into our centralised team. It’s been a time of change for the council as a whole as well and our team has been working to keep up.

That said, I’ve finally had a chance to sit down today and look at the stats from our site over the first 6 months. Whilst we’ve been monitoring the site stats, it was the first time I’ve put all the data together to get an idea of the bigger picture. I thought I would share some of that data with you.

Note: Technically we launched in mid-June, but for the ease of reporting, I’m working with data from 1 July 2017 to 31 December 2017.


Sessions

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In 6 months, we had 1,036,510 sessions logged on our site. This is compared to 880,360 sessions in the same period last year on our old site.

Users

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We had 548,475 users of our site during the 6 month period. This compares to 574,506 users in the same period last year.

This is a slight decrease in users, some of which is accounted for in changes to the way we monitor our stats as for our site as we are now blocking internal traffic from being reported.

Pageviews

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In terms of pageviews, we hit over 3 million hits in the half year. This compares to 2,388,654 for the same period last year.

Some of the increase in pageviews is likely accounted for by our move to guide pages. We are now splitting longer and more complicated content into multiple pages to help the customer journey. This means that what was once a single page, a user might need to work through 4 or 5 smaller pages on their journey.

Traffic sources

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We often tell our colleagues that most people use a search engine to find our content, rather than navigate from the home page. With over 70% of traffic coming from organic searches, our new site is certainly proving this.

Even with direct traffic, we see that most customers go to a page they know. Only 12% of our direct traffic is going to the homepage first. This really emphasises that the homepage isn’t necessarily the most important page on the site. This is made clearer still when you realise that our homepage, whilst the second most popular page on the site, is still getting less than 5% of pageviews overall!

Site search

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Whilst we really like using Drupal for our new site, we have had some implementation issues with our search, particularly relating to content within guide pages. This has caused a number of complaints from customers and staff looking for content. We’re looking into resolving these issues as soon as we can, reviewing how we use guide pages to present content.

That said, based on our search report, only 3% of sessions used our site search in the 6 months from July 2017. So whilst it’s key we get our search functioning properly, it’s clear from the stats that most customers go directly to the content they need, generally using an external search.

Devices

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With a responsive site, it’s great to see that mobile traffic continues to outperform desktop usage. We’ve put a lot of work into getting our site mobile friendly and as these numbers continue to increase, it’s ever important to make sure future developments are mobile friendly.

(For those of you who want to know what devices our user’s love, that’s fairly clear: 45.28% of all mobile traffic was from an Apple product!)

Browsers

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Based on the prevalent use of Apple devices, it’s no surprise that Safari tops our browser list with 40.25% of sessions. In addition, Internet Explorer has significantly decreased in usage, although Edge has yet to make the top 5!

Top pages

With over 3 million pageviews across some 2000 pages, our site is well used. However, as you can see from the top 10 below, Coral Reef Waterworld significantly skews our pageview statistics.

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Within the next couple of months, these stats will be radically different. Coral Reef, Bracknell Leisure Centre and Downshire Golf Complex are being outsourced and so 7 of our top 10 pages will be removed from the site.

This is obviously going to have a big impact on our pageviews (and probably sessions in general). In fact, I think we can safely say that our stats will decrease significantly and our next 6 month review will likely tell a different story!


If you’ve made it this far, well done! It might be time for a tea break!

We will hopefully be back before long with more updates for you as to what we’ve been up to. In the meantime, thanks for reading and have a great weekend.


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New website launch

Our new website is now live!

It’s been a journey of almost two years from initial workshops and planning, to finally building the site over the last few months. The past six months have borne the brunt of the work, hence the radio silence on the blog!

We’ve put a lot of focus on redesigning the site to make our online services easier and faster to use.

We have also simplified it so that our customers can find the information they want without having to wade through large amounts of unnecessary information. We’ve removed documents where possible, taking off over 1000 of them in the process.

This is not to say the site is perfect. It’s not. It’s a work in progress.

We still have a long way to go to get the content perfected, to get the number of documents down further and to work out some of the issues with navigation and search. But in making the site live now, we will better be able to capture feedback and solve the problems that affect customers.

Thank you to everyone who has helped us with feedback and testing over the course of the project.


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Visit our beta!

beta-image-blog

We have launched a beta version of our new website.

The beta includes:

Please take a look and let us know what you think.

What is a beta?

A beta is a great way to test our new website. It’s like a demo – it allows us to test a few new sections as well as being able to show the design and layout of our new website.

You can use the beta like any other website, but it’s not a finished product yet. You may be re-directed back to our existing website where services have not yet been redesigned.

Beta services will sometimes be available at the same time as existing ones. When a beta version of a service is running alongside the current version, you can use either.


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How the beta came to life

We began this blog not quite 2 years ago – in April 2015, to be exact – though the project had been going prior to this. We took a look at some of the work we did in 2015 in our end of year roundup post.

We’ve come a long way in 2016. Here’s a quick look at the 4 main areas:

Content

In 2016 we carried out a further 25 discovery workshops with service teams. These tended to be smaller sections, having already tackled the giants.

Re-writing content continued in earnest, reaching fever pitch in the last half of the year. Our content review process is extremely thorough – each piece of content goes through several stages of review before final sign off. This included over 30 formal content review meetings.

Design

Visually, the website came to life in 2016. The homepage was designed, and with it an array of icons that were tweaked multiple times.

One example where the icon changed is the ‘planning and building control’ icon.

floorplan-iconThe original design was based on a floorplan. User testing showed that customers were unsure what this was supposed to represent.

person-with-hard-hat-imageThe new design was based on an image of a person in the building industry (wearing a hard hat) but there was concern in the team that it should be more gender neutral.

gender-neutral-person-with-hard-hat-imageWith a slight narrowing of the shoulders, and removal of the tie, we felt the final design was more inclusive. 

Within the site, 2 main designs were chosen:

  • a standard, information-based design
  • a promotional design for sections such as leisure

The promotional design includes a wide range of pieces (almost like LEGO) which are available to build in sections. Using these, we can tailor parts of the website so that they have their own unique identity, whilst remaining consistent with the rest of the site.

Technical

Alongside all this activity, the kicking and breathing part of the website was created too. This involved the development, in Drupal, of every functioning part. Of course, this links in very closely with the design, which ties in very closely with the content, so lining all 3 up together is the real trick.

User testing

We did plenty of user testing, using in-person testing as well as Treejack surveys. We tested the homepage navigation and wireframes with different groups of people. We also tested different design options, from overall page designs and colours to icon details.

Our next round of testing is the beta. There’s no better way of testing the website than actually putting it out there for people to use – and we’re really pleased to announce it is coming soon – so watch this space!

 


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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


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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.