Bracknell Forest Digital Services

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Content navigation

As we get more involved in content creation, we are looking closely at how  customers will navigate our site, and how we want to structure section content.

After each workshop with a service team, we are going away and mapping out what we think is the best structure for the information required. Each section is being built into a Treejack survey for customers and service areas to test, feedback and suggest any alternative options.

This one is for The Look Out Discovery Centre, where we are hoping to produce an engaging section that shows off what The Look Out can offer to visitors. For such a popular visitor attraction, we need to make sure that we clearly point to the key information such as opening times, prices and facilities. Why not give it a go and let us know what you think?

The Look Out survey

So why are we investing our time in creating these surveys? Well, for one thing, deciding what to call a page is much harder than it might appear. What we think is a logical sounding heading, might actually be causing confusion for our customers.

For example, on our council tax survey we initially had a category called ‘Information for landlords’. Whilst we had all discussed this in the workshop as a good idea, when it came to the navigation of the tree structure, customers (and staff!) were unable to work out where information about changes to a tenancy would be. Would it be under ‘information for landlords,’ or would it be under ‘Tell us about a change of circumstances’? The feedback was that most people looked under change of circumstances, so we moved the content around to reflect this.

With this feedback, we are able to create council tax section that is logical and clear for customers. This is a fundamental part of the work we are doing with customer journey mapping.

We have five of these surveys up and running so far, with more coming soon. If you want to find out more about them, or take part and complete a couple, then take a look at our Website navigation testing page.


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Talking Local Gov websites


Leeds canal – more picturesque than expected!

I recently had the chance to go to Local Gov Camp in Leeds. Local Gov Camp is an unconference hosted by Local Gov Digital where lots of local government (and otherwise engaged) folks turned up to run sessions on whatever they felt the need to discuss. Sessions ranged from service design, to open source LEGO and much more besides. (Check out the Local Gov Digital site for some great information on the camp as a whole!)

I pitched a session to look at website navigation. As we are about to start trying to pull our new site navigation together, I wanted to hear what other councils are doing.

The session itself ended up looking at a lot of different ideas around council websites, with some great contributions from Sarah Lay over at Nottinghamshire Council, where they just went live with a new site.

Whilst there was no one output from this session, a lot of what we discussed needs to be considered during our redevelopment project. Some of the key points follow:

  • If we ensure that our content works in search, we can reduce down landing pages and hierarchical structures.
  • We are making assumptions all the time as what people want to do. In doing this, we need to make sure we are clear about what they actually need to do. This then must be clearly reflected in our user journeys, so customers can understand and complete their task.
  • Language is fundamental. The site needs to reflect the natural language of the customer and not ‘council-speak’.
  • The website is a digital interface into the whole council and has to work for the customer first, not the service team.
  • Don’t force everything online. The soft approach with some services works better. Some people need to see people.

These ideas now need to inform the workshops we run with service teams, the content we present and the approach we take to the site as a whole. I know I will certainly be thinking about these ideas as we move through the project and will encourage our whole team to do the same.

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My design journey at Bracknell Forest

My name is Leyla. I joined the Bracknell Forest Council (BFC) digital services team in May 2015 as a design and usability officer. I have 14 years of experience in web design and development working in the private sector in various roles. Moving to Bracknell Forest has enabled me to fulfil my desire to work in usability and accessibility and I’m really happy that my new job has provided me with the opportunity to learn and work in this field.

Soon after taking this job, I began to do research on most of the UK council websites. I was surprised to find only a few council websites that are user friendly and responsive.

Today’s smartphones and tablets have changed the approach toward design and user experience.


Usage stats by device 2014 – 2015: Desktop: 46.19% Mobile: 36.28% Tablet: 17.53%

Having a single site which works on all devices is cost effective and also improves SEO efforts by directing all visitors to a single site which is easier for us to manage.  Now a days, over 50% of our users are accessing our site via a mobile device such as smartphones, tablets and laptops.

Our plan is to create a simpler, cleaner, faster and more secure fully responsive website with consistent user-experience while keeping accessibility in mind.

We also hope to attract more visitors to the BFC website by creating an easier to use website and using simpler language which will be more understandable to everyone in the community.

Another task in my new job is to create a global experience language (GEL) in order to drive consistency and coherence across the diverse, cross-platform portfolio of Bracknell Forest Council’s services, and a design style guide and pattern library that will bring consistency to our digital output.

One of our key objectives is to enhance the user experience of the BFC website as it is brought inline with the GEL. Through the use of a GEL we want to make the BFC website experience clear, simple and fast, and a place where individual services become recognizable, easy to use and consistent, and help the user understand our services.

Another task in my new role is to create part of the BFC website in Easy Read format. Our main target audience will be people with learning difficulties and disabilities, but at the same time our Easy Read content will aim to be beneficial to other audiences such as people with English as a second language.

Along side my other responsibilities, my fellow team members and I am participating in workshops we are hosting with service teams in order to familiarize ourselves with their operations and customers, and to listen to their ideas for a new website.
Based on the information I get from the workshops, I am creating wireframes for each section of the website. It’s very important to get these wireframes right because later they will be the source to create the alpha version of our website and enable us to test the website’s usability before we create the final layout and pages in-house.