https://insidegovuk.blog.gov.uk/2013/07/31/top-tasks-what-you-can-feature-on-your-homepage/

Top tasks: what you should feature on your organisation homepage

The information in this blogpost may now be out of date. See the current GOV.UK content and publishing guidance.

We’d like to bring a bit more consistency and user focus to the links in the top right-hand corner of organisation homepages.

During transition, these links were sometimes described as ‘mainstream’ links - but in practice, they were used to highlight any number of destinations.

We're now calling them 'top task' links. Their purpose should be to help users jump off to the top tasks they associate with that organisation, if these tasks are not featured elsewhere on the page. This page gives guidance on how they should be used.

We’ll be checking organisation pages across the site during the week beginning 19 August, with a view to making sure everyone’s going in the right direction.

In the meantime, please give us a shout if you have any concerns.

Base top tasks around evidence of usage

Top task links must be used sparingly - and only retained if there is significant evidence that people are following them.

As a guide, each top task link should be followed by no fewer than 2% of total visitors to your homepage (measured in total unique pageviews). This works out at 1,000 - 2,000 clicks per month for a typical department.

A top task link should be followed by at least 2% of your homepage visitors

We understand that getting the right set of links will involve some trial and error. However, as a guide to user need, we’ve documented two months’-worth of search terms from each department homepage.

What can go in the top tasks area

Top tasks that users associate with your organisation

These are the main things you have evidence that users come to your homepage to do, but which aren’t covered by existing content types on organisation homepages.

Links should point either to GOV.UK mainstream content; or information or tools on other domains. The text of the link must be as specific and active as possible, and not overlap with titles used for ‘corporate’ content types.

Link text should be in the form of a call to action

Good examples of link naming:

  • ‘Get help with your energy bills’ (DECC)

  • ‘Taking your pet abroad’ (Defra)

Examples of links which would need to be renamed:

  • 'Jobs’ should be renamed, ‘Search for a job’ (DWP)

  • ‘Regional advisors’ should be renamed, ‘Find a regional advisor’ (UKEF) 

Substantial sources of information outside GOV.UK

In a handful of cases, users come to an organisation homepage looking to access a set of information that’s not on GOV.UK. In cases like this, it's OK to use the top task links to hive off this audience to the alternative destination, providing there is evidence of user demand.

Examples could include MOD's links to the army, navy and airforce sites.

What shouldn't go in the top tasks area

Destinations which are already covered by homepage content types

You shouldn’t put anything in the top tasks list that’s already covered by a link on your organisation’s homepage. This includes:

  • detailed guidance

  • sub-orgs or high profile groups

  • contact information (for press offices or other bodies)

  • lists of ministers

  • links to all press releases/announcements

  • links to all statistics and research

  • blogs and social media (these can be personalised under ‘follow us’, or calls to action added to relevant policies / publication pages)

  • working for us

  • procurement

  • our priorities

Instead, if you have evidence of your users struggling to find this information you should share that with us so we can iterate the organisation page and solve it for everyone.

Destinations which can be featured in promotional slots

You should use the standard ‘news’ promotional slots - not the ‘top tasks’ links - to highlight items of topical relevance to users. These include:

  • publications

  • detailed guidance  

  • specific topics and policies

  • press releases and announcements

  • topical events

It will soon be possible to feature document series in promotional slots.

External websites and microsites which aren’t associated with a top task

Top task links shouldn’t be used to promote microsites or campaign sites, unless there is evidence of significant demand for this.

14 comments

  1. ERosello

    Thanks for that. Our HR team regrets that the "Working for us" section is not visible enough - yet it is a popular page of our website. Any chance GDS can propose a way to feature this more prominently?

    Thanks for your comment

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    • Graham Francis

      Hi Emmanuelle - cheers for your comment.

      I suppose the first thing to mention is that, although 'working for FCO' is undoubtedly a popular page, 88% of visitors to the page get to it in ways other than following a link from your homepage. (Only 2,304 of last month's 18,765 total views to the page came via the FCO homepage).

      And we're also not seeing any evidence that visitors to your homepage are searching for phrases such as 'working for FCO' - again indicating that visitors looking for this information are already finding it.

      But we'd obviously be interested if your experience is different, and you have evidence that people aren't finding important information.

      Hope this helps - G

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  2. Tim Lloyd

    I know we are currently guilty of using this space to promote press releases for example, and we're running a blog listing press office contact details, which is linked further down the page.
    We really need to know what you are planning to do for journalists before we can make the case for removing a press release link from the priority area.
    We put it in there because we had feedback from media that they couldn't find the content they were looking for.
    I think you have or had something on Pivotal to look at this, but I haven't heard any more for some months.

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    • Graham Francis

      Hi Tim

      Thanks for this comment -

      We'd be interested to know more about this feedback from journalists - eg whether it's recent, and how widespread it is. (A search for 'BIS press releases' on Google for example takes you to the right place). If so, what are the reasons given - for reasons specific to BIS, or more widely applicable?

      As we say in the post, we're keen to iterate the homepage to address common problems, rather than use the 'top tasks' links as sticky plasters.

      The problem with using the links for minority needs is that they're the first things that people see on the page if they're looking at the page on mobile etc - so we need to make sure they're as widely relevant as possible.

      Graham

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  3. Michael Williams

    Hi Graham – an interesting post that makes some very good points.

    The DWP corporate site has always had a significant proportion of visits from people looking for practical information about work, pensions and benefits (perhaps our name has something to do with it!). We’ve always tracked this carefully and monitored user feedback to refine how we link to such content – formerly on Directgov, now mainstream. This approach reduced adverse feedback to practically zero on http://www.dwp.gov.uk so we’ve used the same mainstream links on http://www.gov.uk/dwp. Given the improvements GDS have made to mainstream content and the fact that corporate and mainstream are now under the same roof, we’re surprised at the number of people who are still looking for mainstream information on our GOV.UK homepage.

    Given the popularity of http://www.gov.uk/jobsearch it’s interesting that traffic via our top link is relatively low. This is probably because most Jobcentre Plus customers are sent straight there and because mainstream is so well-optimised. On the corporate side, we need to take care not to over-optimise our jobs link – we want the flow from corporate to mainstream to decrease, not increase.

    I understand your point that calls to action are a good way of linking to tasks in most contexts. Like Jacob Nielsen, we believe in extreme front-loading (tinyurl.com/first-2-words) so we chose the sort of short words people use. And users are in search-mode already – so they don’t need valuable homepage pixels to tell them to “Search for” things.

    Some points to consider –

    * I think we’ve chosen the right link destinations

    * the 2 contact links are good calls to action and should be kept together

    * we’re not aware of any feedback that suggests users have problems finding mainstream DWP content (except for tinyurl.com/policy-v-mainstream)

    * there are good arguments for putting jobs before benefits (literally) from a tinyurl.com/wewasnudged point of view

    * if “jobs” becomes a call to action, perhaps “Find a job” is better than “Search for a job” (shorter and the same as the destination title)

    Before we consider any changes, it would be useful to know what effects on traffic flows you would hope to see as a result. If we change the “Jobs” link text, for example, would you expect clicks to go up or down?

    It’s difficult to see how the “Benefits” and “Pensions” links could be turned into calls for action without introducing clunky introductory text that breaks the front-loading like “Find information about…” If there was one top task on the destination pages, we could base the link on that – but that doesn’t seem to be the case. Again, we would need some evidence and some indication of the expected click-through outcome before trying anything.

    Any ideas you have about this would be welcome, especially any user feedback suggesting that our mainstream signposting needs to be better. Is there a way of doing A/B testing?

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  4. Graham Francis

    Hi Michael -

    Thanks for these interesting and considered points (originally in an email, but thanks for sharing for the benefit of others). There are a couple of things specific to DWP I'll respond on separately, but on the general issues:

    1. Link wording

    The main point here is that the destination of the links should be as clear as possible to the user from the link wording. And the drawback with using broad terms such as 'pensions' is that it could refer to policy as well as mainstream content.

    Being specific is the key - and this is something that's often helped by phrasing a link as a call to action. So I agree 'find a job' would be better than 'jobs'. If you really can't find a specific call to action, perhaps look at wording like 'Your state pension' instead of 'pensions'.

    2. Measuring the outcome

    It's hard to say in advance whether the consequence of making 'top task' link text more specific will lead to more or fewer people following it.

    However, we would probably expect to see a decline in the bounce rate for the destination page, for those users who started their journey on your homepage. Eg by making the destination clearer, fewer people will end up following the link by mistake.

    3. User feedback and A/B testing

    The ability to do live A/B testing is in our product roadmap, but I don't think we can do it at the moment. We can provide you with user comments made on your homepage, if you don't already have these.

    Hope this helps - perhaps have a think about your options, and we can pick this up direct in a week or so.

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  5. E. Brown

    Is this review for departments only, or also for agencies? I can't find any stats for our agency.

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    • Graham Francis

      It's for anyone who has top tasks on their homepage - if you'd like to know what the top searches are from your homepage, we can help. G

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  6. John Turnbull

    Hi Graham,

    How reliable is the list of keyword searches from organisational homepages as a guide to the most appropriate top task links? To put it another way: can we be sure that the reason (in BIS's case) 'Press releases and announcements' isn't on that list is that it's already a top task link so people have no need to search for it?

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    • Graham Francis

      Hi John - sorry for the delay in replying. If this is something you're worried about, we can help keep a close eye on what happens when we remove the link. For example, at the end of Day 1 we can see whether there's a sudden and significant spike in people searching for 'press releases' from your homepage. Would that work? G

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