Bracknell Forest Digital Services


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How to make an enormous website seem simple

Coming from a private sector marketing background, I’ve been involved in the launch of two new websites, one for a shopping centre and one for a niche B2B company in the airline industry. I thought these were decent sized projects, until recently…

Redeveloping the council website is a bit like having to do 10 shopping centre websites all at once, because the breadth of services that we offer is so huge. The challenge is to make your journey through our site, as clear and simple as possible, so that you won’t even notice how large the rest of the site is.

On 16 Feb, we spent a day focusing on the Information Architecture of the new website, and a simple user journey was our top priority. This part of the process is not linked to the design of the site (which will equally need to pay good attention to the user journey), so the picture below is not design – rather it’s a way of capturing steps in the user journey.

Homepage IA

Once these wireframes are refined, we can then test them and improve them. One of our goals with the new website is to strip everything down to be as simple as possible, whilst continuing to follow the approach that the GDS (Government Digital Service) have developed for GOV.UK.

We also want to extend the range of accessibility options and discussed ideas around creating an easy read landing page which is easier to read (as well as creating more of this content in the first place). We challenged our current approach to accessibility – and agreed that if something isn’t helping we will remove it and use something that is.

Flexibility is key in other areas as well, which is why using new open source software is such a big advantage for us. How can we promote important things at certain times of the year – such as school admissions or elections – whilst retaining the bread and butter parts of our site?

Although the day opened up new questions for us to investigate, we now have a very clear direction for the back-end build of the website, which has been informed by the service area workshops (read about a particularly fun one at The Look Out). The new site will be responsive so it doesn’t matter how you access it (over 50% of our website visitors aren’t using a PC), and I am certain it will be really quick and easy to use. Next stop, design workshop!

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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.