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.
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.