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Creating pathways for users

Posted by: and , Posted on: - Categories: Product changes

We've blogged about how we're bringing our different subject taxonomies together and allowing content designers to tag with a single topic, describing what the content is about. We also have to work out how to present topic pages to users in a way that gets them to what they need, but doesn't overwhelm them with unnecessary information.

What we’ve learnt from user research

We've often observed in research that users can't find the right level of information; either finding too much detail, too little, or information that doesn't have quite the right focus.

For example, the topic 'Special educational needs and disabilities' has content for parents needing help and advice, professionals who use the information in their work, as well as government policy information. The way the site is structured at the moment, we don't have any pathways connecting these different types of  content, so when people are in the wrong place they can come to a dead end.

Many users have said that they want to feel confident they are seeing all the content there is to see around a particular subject, to know where the 'edges' are. Others need just the introduction to a topic, or have detailed professional needs, but sometimes it's not even that straightforward.

People often start off wanting introductory material, then progress to needing more complex information as their knowledge grows: for example setting up and then growing a business, or going through the process of adopting a child.

How we plan to support these different needs

We want to build a framework that's flexible enough to allow people to see all the information on a single topic, or just to get the right type of information for them. We're calling this idea of filtering the content display based on level of need a 'view'.

We think that there are 3 main views for a topic: a 'simple' view, giving basic, introductory guidance; a 'detailed' view, showing more detailed guidance for those who need or want to see more; and a 'policy'-type view with information showing what government is doing about a topic. (Note: these names are very much working titles.)

We know that not all topics will have all 3 views. Some, like  ‘Bovine TB’ and ‘Medical devices regulation and safety’ won’t have any introductory guidance associated with them. Others, like ‘Conflict in fragile states’ may only be relevant for policy content. So we need to make sure that the navigation system can adapt appropriately.

What’s next

We'll start by mapping content formats to the views. For example:

  • the 'simple' view would contain ‘smart answers’ and ‘guides’
  • the 'detailed' view would display ‘detailed guidance’ and ‘forms’
  • the 'policy' view would show ‘policy papers’, and ‘research and analysis’

We also think there will be a need to allow editors to order and create headings for the links on those pages, where it helps the user to do so.

We're beginning to build a prototype to test this idea so that we can learn about how best to display the relationships between those views and the associated navigation challenges. We'll let you know how we get on.

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  1. Comment by James Low posted on

    How might having 3 separate slices (views) meet the user need to see all of the content on a topic? Is having a 'see all' option something you are considering?

    It might also be nice to let users with a deep enough interest to subscribe to alerts for a particular topic also have the option to make 'see all' their default view for that topic.

    • Replies to James Low>

      Comment by Gaynor Burns posted on

      Hi James.

      Yes, the 'see all' view is definitely something we think there will be a need for. We'll also be exploring how to integrate features like email alerts - we'll have more ideas as we get further into prototyping.

      Thanks, Gaynor

  2. Comment by Gus McCarthy posted on

    I am glad that will be adopting the approach/methodology that was used by back in 2010. For an example of what user research showed worked very well, see the Business Link pages on the National Archives website:

    The respective paragraphs:

    "This guide contains basic information. For additional basic information see our section on export basics. For intermediate and detailed guidance see our section on practical exporting."

    "This guide contains intermediate information. For basic information, see our guide on international trade paperwork: the basics and for additional intermediate and detailed guidance, see our section on using the UK Trade Tariff."

    Are what worked well on most of the guidance and received great feedback from the majority of users. The placement of the para.'s is another point in question but I am happy to share more insight on what you are proposing above.

  3. Comment by Angela Moore posted on

    Sounds great, but I need a bit of help to understand how this will resolve the basic workforce/mainstream divide?

    This (still) feels like an audience question, rather than a question about levels of detail. (So if you're adopting a child, you still need different information than if you work in adoption services. And both of those audiences could benefit from different levels of detail.)

    It's not totally clear to me how this will change that - people will surely still get lost and confused in the 2 silos?

    • Replies to Angela Moore>

      Comment by Vicky Buser posted on

      Hi Angela,

      Yes, these are exactly the sort of scenarios we want to test with our prototyping, so that content for particular audiences is grouped and displayed together in ways that support their needs.

      Thanks, Vicky and Gaynor

  4. Comment by Hai posted on

    Will there be topics and subtopics? and the views exist also on subtopics?
    what is "forms" and how will the user know this exist beneath a "detailed" view?
    good luck with prototyping!

  5. Comment by Hai posted on

    Another question: Will this topics list also replace the Policy areas. Or will "policy areas" be highlevel topics, and contain subtopics?

  6. Comment by Angela Moore posted on

    My comment is still awaiting moderation?