One of the design projects we’re working on at the moment is a complete transformation of the Council’s website. We want to make it so helpful and easy to use that it becomes our residents’ preferred choice for engaging with us. This means having a really sharp focus on our user’s needs and behaviours.
From our user research we know that the majority of people want to use a search to find what they’re looking for on the website, so we’re working to ensure this is a really easy to find, easy to use and effective tool on the website. But we also know that some people prefer to click through the navigation of the site to explore or find something specific, so the structure of information is really important and has to be user focused.
As the Government Digital Service (GDS) say, you shouldn’t have to understand government to use it, so we want to avoid laying out our site around how the Council is structured, which may make sense to use as officers but won’t necessarily be easy to navigate for members of the public.
To combat this we’re using a technique called card sorting to get some user input on the structure of our site. In each session we give a group of users a pack of cards, each one printed with a user need which represents something we know people currently visit our site to do, like “Pay my council tax” or “Report a missed bin collection”. We then ask the users to group these cards in a way that makes sense to them, and then give each grouping a heading.
We’ll repeat this exercise with staff and members of the public, and it will be really interesting to compare the two responses. Of course, we’re unlikely get a perfect layout that will match everyone’s preferences exactly, but by talking to users about the choices they’re making we can get valuable insight into why they link certain tasks and topics in particular ways.
Using card sorting has helped us to be much more user focused in structuring our website, and we know this will ultimately give us a more effective digital tool.