Bracknell Forest Digital Services


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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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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.


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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.

stat

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.