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Our analytics guru Lana Gibson recently showed us how to improve our users’ experience by looking at what people were searching for on specific pages of GOV.UK then making it easier for them to find it.
Our theme leads all identified ‘quick wins’ and made a number of changes based on the data. After a month we looked at the data and there were some significant improvements.
This got me thinking about the various ways we try to smooth out the journey for our users and I thought it might be useful to share some underlying principles.
1. One content item for one user need
We keep going on about it, but it really works. It makes it easier for the user to find in the content they're after in the first place (if they can't find your content, they can't benefit from it).
It also means they don’t need to wade through stuff on the page that doesn’t apply to them right now to find the stuff that does.
The whole thing is what they need to know to do what they want to do.
2. Use data to figure out related needs and have them easily available from the page
That’s what the mini-project I just mentioned was all about.
3. Optimise the page based on the language your audience is using
Having the most important keywords in the title or first sentence helps the right people to find the right page in the first place.
It also helps them find out exactly what they want to know straight away, instead of having to wade through oceans of content.
4. Design the content flow logically
An important point here is designing it based on the order in which the user needs to know it. For example, you don’t want to tell someone how to appeal against a decision before you’ve told them how to apply in the first place.
The general flow for a lot of task-based government content is:
- find out about it
- apply for it
- get a decision
- appeal or complain (if you’re not happy)
Look at the user's journey through the entire task, not just through your content. This helps you design the content so it mirrors the user's experience and is therefore easier to comprehend.
5. Your users won’t read your content - don’t try to make them
Use standard web writing principles - like plain English, plenty of subheadings, bullet lists and plenty of white space so that users can scan your content and get what they need from it.
6. Provide the right amount of content in the right level of detail
Keep it short, simple and clear. At the same time, you need to make sure there’s enough depth for the user to actually achieve what they’re trying to achieve.
I'm sure there are at least 7 principles. What have I missed?