https://insidegovuk.blog.gov.uk/2013/11/29/topic-analysis-and-top-tasks/

Topic analysis and top tasks

We looked at the analytics for topic pages recently, and noticed some issues that we wanted to address, including a relatively high bounce rate. Topics give an overview of government activity in a particular area, and provide a browse route to the relevant policies.

Policies and topics are an important part of our vision for GOV.UK. They allow users to understand what the government is doing in a particular area, for example defence and the armed forces, without having to know the intricacies of which government department or agency works on what. Government policy should be accessible to all users, not just those who are experts on the machinery of government.

However, our analysis showed that the bounce rate on topics was high for a browse-type page, which implied to us that we could be meeting the user need better. One of the features we have delivered so far to address this is featuring on topics, which means that topic pages aren't so static and cater better to returning visitors. Featuring has been used to good effect on the UK economy topic, for example.

Top tasks for topics

Another behaviour we noticed was that some users who ended up on topics were actually looking for mainstream content of a similar name. To address this, we have made it possible to add top tasks on topics - these are links in the top right of the page which can provide a browse route to related mainstream content.

Top tasks on the planning and building topic
Top tasks on the planning and building topic

We also did some research to identify the most popular mainstream needs related to each topic, and added these to the top tasks. If there was no relevant mainstream content for a topic, for example the Media and Communications topic, we didn't add any links. These choices are based on the best data we have available, but they are not set in stone - we hope that editors will measure and improve the top task links on topics they look after, just like on their organisation pages.

Is it working?

In our preliminary analysis comparing topics before and after the changes, we saw some positive effect. We have reduced the bounce rate on over half of the topics, and on 10 of the 47 topics we have seen the bounce rate reduce by 10% or more. However, on some topics it's still too high, so we know that there's more work to do.

A related change that we intend to make is to rename topics: the current name doesn't describe what they do and we've had feedback that many users don't understand it. We plan to change the name 'topics' to 'policy areas' and perform A/B testing to see if this makes a difference to how many people navigate to the topics pages.

9 comments

  1. Andrew Robertson

    Look forward to hearing more about the A/B testing perhaps in a future post?
    My opinion: I am now confused between 'policies' and proposed 'policy area'. And there is a publication type 'policy paper'. The distinction isn't clear to me but perhaps it will work on your testing.
    Thanks for the post!

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    • Alice Newton

      Our current thinking is that 'policy area' explains more clearly that topics are groups of policies while a policy paper is a publication about policy and appears in the publications section of the site. But we're keeping an open mind and will definitely write a post about the A/B testing.

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  2. Graham Lee

    Hi Alice,

    If users are often looking for so-called mainstream content, rather than policy information, does it make sense to rename these pages 'policy areas'?

    Some of the anodyne descriptions may not help bounce rate - especially truisms like "public health is about helping people to stay healthy".

    Some topics definitely need more thought. For instance, the 'law and the justice system' page focuses narrowly on criminal justice issues (which are also covered under 'crime and policing': 4 of the 5 policies listed on each page are exactly the same) and 'youth crime prevention programmes' shouldn't be in the top tasks.

    Thanks,

    Graham

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    • Alice Newton

      Hi Graham,

      GOV.UK contains both mainstream content (which is called 'services and information' on the site), and content about departments and policies - but we need to make sure people find the information they're looking for. Changing the title to 'policy areas' wouldn't change the kind of content on this page, but it will make it more obvious to users what they'll find there.

      We hope that the topics will continue to improve. I see that MOJ has lead responsibility for the Law and the justice system topic (the list is here: https://insidegovuk.blog.gov.uk/2013/10/04/featuring-on-topics-what-publishers-need-to-know/), so I'd encourage you or your colleagues to put some of your ideas into practice on this page!

      Thanks,
      Alice

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      • Graham Lee

        Thanks Alice.

        Who writes the spiel for these pages?

        Regards,

        Graham

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        • Alice Newton

          Hi Graham,

          GDS wrote them originally, but departments are welcome to update them after a chat with us. We still play a coordinating role, particularly where many organisations work on the same topic.

          Thanks,
          Alice

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  3. Graham Lee

    Great - will do - thanks again!

    G

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