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Changes to GOV.UK support pages: making it easier to help users

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: User insights

Right from the beginning of GOV.UK, we knew we wanted to provide a single place where users could get help using the site. We called it 'support', as the sections within it were broad.

FAQ style support index page

The content was originally gathered from product managers, Zendesk and press releases. With the release date looming, we took this ready made content and published it in the FAQ-style format it was already in. The content wasn't based on user needs, and as a result it has been performing badly ever since. Sarah Richards describes why we don’t recommend FAQs.

How well did the support pages do

Analytics showed that instead of users engaging with the content on the support pages, they were simply using it to navigate to the contact form.

We also noticed that we were receiving a significant number of queries relating to other government online services. As these services weren't managed by us, a lot of resource was expended forwarding them to the correct department or agency to be dealt with. The generic naming of the section 'Support' hasn't helped this, with users assuming it to be support for all government services.

Initial improvements

To help address these issues, we have:

  • changed the name of the support pages to ‘Help using GOV.UK’, which clearly sets out the scope of the pages
  • created a new format for the help pages to make them more consistent with the rest of the site
  • rewritten the content, making it clear, simple and easy for users to understand
New help using GOV.UK index page

Iterate and learn

The new 'Help using GOV.UK' section is live, but it’s not finished. Over the next couple of sprints we plan to add a form to the index page allowing users to suggest what content they would expect to find there. We're also planning to improve the contact and FOI forms, which we hope to start soon.

And we’ll also be monitoring Zendesk feedback from users and Google Analytics data to help us improve the support section in future.

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  1. Comment by Andrew Robertson posted on

    Hi. Good to see question and answer style has been replaced. Wasn't looking forward to explaining why GDS don't like FAQs but do that on the help pages!

    Will you be changing the wording of the link 'support' in the grey section at the bottom of every GOV.UK page?

    • Replies to Andrew Robertson>

      Comment by Roo Reynolds posted on

      Hi Andrew. Yep, always glad to follow our own advice.

      We'll definitely be revisiting the 'support' link in the footer (and, as Amy points out, some other related bits and pieces like the contact forms, FOI, etc too).

  2. Comment by simonfj posted on

    Just one note here Amy,

    Just discovered insidegov. Up till mid Jan the GDS teams blog on the cabinetoffice site was the one where i thought all these conversations happened.

    You have this zendesk, which for me is the proverbial black hole. What I would prefer is a link to the right space in an online forum, where i could see the number people who were ahead of me, and read your answers before i have to repeat the same question.

    I can se why FAQ's are not the way to go, from a(n insider's) publishing perspective, but from a communication's perspective, both insider's and outsider's are looking at the same page, and helping one another to share the best solution. It's always rewarding to see that others are as stupid as you are, regardless of which side of the fence one comes from:)

    • Replies to simonfj>

      Comment by Graham Francis posted on

      Hi Simon - replying in Amy's absence (she's off this week). To pick up your points:
      1. Sorry to hear that Zendesk feels like a black hole. We've published our service standards for responding to comments ( - and a guide to what to do if you don't get a response in time.
      2. We're always looking at the 'is anything wrong with this page' feedback - and things like onward search terms - to find the questions that users are trying and failing to find answers to. Have you seen any examples of where forums have helped users in a similar context?

      • Replies to Graham Francis>

        Comment by simonfj posted on

        Hi Graham, (Amy)

        Sorry this reply has taken so long. Been a bunch of stuff going on to keep up with.
        I hope you don't think I'm criticizing "the black hole". That's is way it always worked in the good old days. It's just that these days a community tends to build around questions, and there's no need (for a functionario, as my Spanish mates say) to keep answering the same ones, if you keep the conversations above the radar.

        So e.g. zendesk can be turned, from a black hole, into an online community pretty easily. (no, I'm not pushing getsatisfaction. It's just an illustration).

        You asked about forums. I'll point you at this commercial one. It's primarily for people (in .au) who are looking for a broadband product. Been running for over a decade. This is "external facing" but it's much the same with internal ones, where peers can track down their peers in different departmental silos. And departments can have their own space (i.e. like the "companies" in these forums)

        I've waited up to now to have this discussion, as we seem to be at the point where you're looking at improving the comms between inter-departmental GROUPs, as well as the people using the same page/info. e.g.

        We're also having some discussions over at the OPM forum, which you might be interested in. e.g.

        If you'd like a few hundred other examples I can point to them, usually around communities who use forums for both support and research. Just choose a topic, add "forum", and Google.