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Mapping and user needs - best practice

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

Agile transition wall

Transition shouldn't be jarring for users. A successful transition means users can still find what they're looking for, wherever it's hosted.

Mappings maintain continuity for users when your website transitions to GOV.UK. A mapping is either:

  • a redirect to GOV.UK content, if the user needs are valid for transition
  • a link to view the old content on the National Archives, eg if the user needs aren't valid for transition or if the content is out of date

You should always redirect to content that covers the same (or similar) user needs, even if that content doesn't contain the same words and wasn't written by the same agency.

Best practice for users' needs

  1. Mapping and user journeys should be part of your content planning.
  2. Pay particular attention to your most popular pages.
  3. Work with the people best placed to understand the content, eg content designer, data analyst, subject matter expert.
  4. Update mappings throughout your planning if the scope of new content changes. Use the transition tool.
  5. Don't redirect to a GOV.UK browse category if there's more suitable content elsewhere - browse categories shouldn't be dumping grounds for content that no longer exists. Redirect to browse only if it meets the user need.
  6. Do your mappings as you write content for GOV.UK. Don't wait until the end and leave it all until the last minute.
  7. Look out for 'unresolved' redirects in the transition tool and make a decision about them. Anything left unresolved at the time of transition will automatically be treated as an archive link, which may not be best for users.
  8. Mop up anything that's fallen through the net as soon as you transition, and make quick fixes. High on-page search on GOV.UK should help you spot the mappings that need attention - it usually indicates that a user hasn't found what they were expecting to find.

Grey areas

It's not always obvious where you should map to. Leave a comment if there's a grey area we haven't covered here.

If there's no direct replacement for your content

Search GOV.UK if you're not sure what to redirect to, as another agency or department may have content on a subject you thought was your agency's niche.

When Environment Agency transitioned, content on Japanese knotweed was redirected to a GOV.UK browse category, even though Defra had already produced guidance on the plant that could've easily been surfaced by searching GOV.UK, avoiding a poor user experience.

Redirecting to browse worked well when we redirected UKVI's content on visiting the UK (covering multiple user needs) to GOV.UK's 'Tourist and short stay visas' browse category.

If you don't think your specialist content will be ready in time for transition

Try to get it ready in time - the 2 weeks after transition are absolutely crucial, and you're risking low search ranking by changing the redirect after transition.

Don't archive your content as a temporary fix. We're risking our reputation by replacing up-to-date content with static words that may be out of date, and we're confusing Google by suggesting that the archive is of the same worth as what it replaced. It will probably hurt your rankings on Google, even if you change the mapping when your specialist content is ready.

Search GOV.UK for alternative content instead if you're sure it won't be ready in time.

If there's nothing on GOV.UK that covers the same user need

If a search on GOV.UK doesn't reveal any similar content, use Maslow to see which user needs relate to what content. You can now add user needs to detailed guides in Whitehall too.

You should also think about how related links, callouts and keyword analysis can help.

You can iterate post-transition once you've got data. The analytics in the transition tool help you spot missed user needs.

After Environment Agency transitioned we found a high volume of searches for 'public register' on the 'Recycling and waste management' browse category - we fixed it with a better redirect and related links, and saw on-page searches go down from 252 in 2 weeks to zero a month later.


If you need help

Talk to your transition manager if you need help before you transition. A content designer will get in touch from there.

Send a Zendesk request for advice on mainstream or departments and policy content once you've transitioned.

See the technical glossary if you need help with any of the technical terms around mapping and redirects.

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