Writing user-focused web content

Our website redevelopment continues, with the technical build well underway ready for the launch of the new site on 1 April 2017.

We’ve been using agile and design inspired techniques to build and test our new site, including getting out there with prototypes to test it with real residents and card sorting to determine the structure of the site. The project has given us an opportunity to learn and share new skills across the Digital and Web team.

But we didn’t want to stop there. Creating a website means working with every team across the Council to update their website content. This is just as important as the technical functionality of the site – there’s no point in everything looking slick and beautiful and having a great search function, if the words on the page don’t help the user get something done.

Speaking to teams about their webpages was an opportunity to get them to think differently about their content and ensure everything on our website is there because it meets a user need. Through a series of content workshops, we’ve worked with teams to develop user stories and turn these into short, focused content that can easily be understood.

At times it’s been challenging; like many council websites, our site currently holds lots of information ‘just in case’ someone may need it at some time, or extra detail and background that can clog up a page and stop users getting to the information that’s relevant to them quickly. Addressing this has required a change in mind set, but will result in a much more effective website. We have also been massively encouraged by and grateful for teams’ willingness to engage in this new approach.

Our content principles help us decide what should and shouldn’t be on the website. They are:

It’s in scope if…

  • It’s statutory for London Borough of Bexley to provide it on the Council’s website
  • We as the Council are best placed to provide this information
  • It’s a high level strategic priority

It’s out of scope if…

  • It cannot be justified with data
  • Managing the information puts a disproportionate strain on Council resources
  • It doesn’t meet a justifiable user need

We know that our web content will change over time – a project like this is never finished – but with clear principles to guide us and a growing understanding of user needs across the organisation, we’re starting on a firm footing.