Bracknell Forest Digital Services


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Publishing website statistics

Last month Public Service Digital published an article around the data that council digital teams share and how, this being 2016, we really ought to be making better use of the tools available for doing this. Further, the article raised the idea that perhaps there ought to be some form of standards around the publication of the data in order to make it comparable.

This raised some discussion in our team around what we are currently doing, and how we could improve the provision of data for our public website.

Like many councils, we use Google Analytics to monitor our website performance. We already publish some basic statistics on a monthly basis, but it is limited.

GOV.UK have some really interesting presentation of their website statistics, and whilst we are not there yet, it is something to aim for in terms of data publication.

Instead, we have opted for something quicker and simpler to get us moving in the right direction. We have used the Google Analytics Spreadsheet add-on to put together a new website statistics page.

This page currently shows some of our key website statistics in the shape of interactive graphs, like the one below.

 

We’ve added what we think are some of the key metrics for looking at website performance, but we would be interested to know what others publish, and whether providing more information would be useful. It would be great to have a discussion around what data councils should be publishing in this area and whether there ought to be some form of shared standards for publication so making comparisons becomes easier.

Finally, thanks has to go to Croydon council’s web team as their website statistics page and spreadsheet really helped us understand what we needed to make this work. Using this, plus the tutorial videos available from Google, we managed to put this page together quite quickly. The whole process is simple and these videos are a great starting point if you want to make something similar out of your statistics.

Over the coming months we will look to improve on this initial offering and share further data for our website performance. Is there any particular data you think we should share on this page? Let us know in the comments!

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Orange and blue lines on a graphy


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Home sweet home? – a look at homepage usage

Last week Brighton published a great blog post about their homepage, and how really, Google is their homepage.

This prompted me to take a look at our homepage to see how it performs in relation to the rest of our website. What we found out was pretty interesting stuff (if you like this kind of thing anyway!)

Looking at a standard content report for our website shows that our homepage was the top ranked page in March.

Table showing the top page views in March

However, this presents a slightly misleading interpretation of homepage usage as when we look at homepage visits in comparison to all other visits, we can see that actually, over a year, 82% of sessions on our website did not visit the homepage at all.

Graph showing sessions with and without homepage visits

Where is home?

Approximately 15% of sessions start on our homepage. What about the other 75%? The table below shows the top ten pages that customers started on for March.

Top ten landing pages (excluding homepage)

Unsurprisingly, given it’s popularity, and the current work going on, Coral Reef is the most popular landing page, followed by The Look Out Discovery Centre.

All of these pages are some of our most popular pages on our site so it is not a shock that these pages would be entry points. However, this doesn’t tell us how customers are getting to these pages.

Do they Google it? Do they have a direct link? What about other sources?

According the the numbers, Google is the most popular starting point, and direct links follow.

User flow diagram

Even more interesting, and something we should probably explore at a later date, is that when we add the homepage as a landing page back into the figures, we see that large numbers of customers are actually still coming to it via Google rather than by other means.

Diagram showing usage of homepage as a landing page

Using the homepage

Let’s now take a look at those sessions where there is a visit to the homepage after looking at other pages. Why are the majority of our customers not doing this, but some are?

To help us understand, we can look at where customers were before they ended up on the homepage. The following table shows the top five pages that people navigated from.

Pages used before homepage

What is it about these pages that mean customers decide to head to the homepage after using them?

Is it because they do not find the information they want, or is it because they did find that information but wanted to do something else?

These pages are generally well used, but perhaps they are failing customers in some way that results in the backtrack to the homepage. Some focused user testing may be in order to see if we can work out why this is happening.

Another key indicator we can look at in relation to homepage usage is time spent on the website.

Graph showing average session duration

In March, the average time spent on the website when the customer did not go to the homepage was 1 minute 46 seconds.

If the session included the homepage this jumped to 3 minutes 41 seconds, suggesting that those customers who go to the homepage navigate around a lot more before they find what they want. They may also be interested in more than one thing.

Again, we need to be monitoring how our customers navigate much more closely in order to understand this.

What next?

What should we take away from all this? How can we make our new homepage more useful for those customers who have ended up on it? I think there are two key things we need to consider:

  1. We shouldn’t over engineer the homepage. It doesn’t need to be fancy but it does need to provide customers with a simple way to get to the information they need. Customers should also be able to find what they need quickly.
  2. We must focus on the content and ensure that customers can get to it through the channels they want – for example, let’s make sure that customers can find our content easily through search engines.

We’re already doing some of this for the new website.

We’re trying to keep the homepage as simple as we can, with clear navigation into services. In our first wireframe testing last week, users really liked this, and found it clear and easy to use. Once we have some stats on our new homepage, it will be very interesting to run a comparison.


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3 years and counting

Over the past few months we have done a lot of stock taking on our existing website. This has helped us inform the way we want to move forward with the re-development.

It’s also a good way of benchmarking for the future. Our current site is over three years old. In this time, we have gathered a large quantity of statistics about usage of the site. We can see what people come to our site for, as well as what type of information we present to them when they do – from content pages to PDF documents.

By looking at where we are now, we hope to get a good idea of how our re-developed site has improved the customer experience.

We’ve put together an infographic to highlight the most interesting (to us, at least) key statistics from the last three years. If infographs are not your thing, the statistics are also available below with a little explanation of the figures.

Key statistics from the public website since April 2012

Content growth

The figures around content show that the site has grown, despite attempts to keep page numbers down. This has sometimes led to unnecessarily long pages, something we are going to be looking at during the re-development.

Year Number of pages
2012 996
2013 1208
2014 1191
2015 1244

Likewise, the number of PDF documents on our site has also grown, getting up to nearly 3000 at some points. We have managed to bring this back down through careful assessment of the need for a document, but we still have a long way to go.

Year Number of documents
2012 1874
2013 2840
2014 1197
2015 2170

Overall key figures

Page views 17,752,383
Visitors 2,841,258
Visits 5,898,175

Yearly key figures

These figures show us that in terms of visits and visitors, we have had a steady increase in both, reflecting the general trend towards online services. Similarly, the number of page views has also grown over the years.

2012-13  2013-14  2014-15
Visits  1,581,131  2,172,729  2,354,903
Visitors 793,654  1,097,603  1,227,738
Page views  5,097,905  6,144,779  7,028,221

For a more detailed breakdown of our statistics, we update our website statistics page monthly.

We’ll also be back over the coming weeks to take a closer look at what these figures have shown us.