Bracknell Forest Digital Services


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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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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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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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Lessons from a GDS service assessment

I spent much of yesterday at the Government Digital Service (GDS) in London observing a four hour(!) service assessment. Service assessments by the GDS currently take place at three occasions: at alpha, before beta, and before go live. You can see this full process outlined on the GDS service design manual. It’s worth a read, even if you are not looking at running or attending an assessment, as it provides a lot of intelligent questions to ask when a service is being designed or redesigned.

So, what did I get out of sitting in someone else’s meeting?

Well, for a start, it’s always nice to get out of the office and see others working towards the same goals as us; a better online experience for customers! I also got a lot of ideas from the session as to how we can improve our in house reviews of online services and how we can approach user testing.

The first part of the assessment was of most interest to me. That’s the first three points on the standards that focus on user research and user testing. I have pages of notes that basically repeat the same user-centric message:

  • ‘ask the user’
  • ‘find the evidence’
  • ‘run comparison testing’
  • ‘check it works for the lowest skilled user and if it doesn’t, how are you going to assist them’

This is where the assessment hit home to me that we need to place more emphasis on user testing.

We are just getting started with our navigation testing and we know we want to do more. It’s just we haven’t got there yet.

As we move into alpha and beta versions of our new website, we will look to do a lot more user testing, both remotely through online channels and in person through lab days or pop up sessions in the local shopping centre. This research should then give us the reassurance that what we are doing is what the customer needs, or if it’s not, give us the knowledge and understanding to change and improve the customer experience.

Don’t forget you can sign up for user testing online at www.bracknell-forest.gov.uk/getinvolved or by emailing us directly at digital.services@bracknell-forest.gov.uk