The GOV.UK homepage is a really popular web page, used more than a million times each week to access essential UK government information and services. Alongside search engines like Google and our own internal site search, it’s one of the main ways into government content. It’s also used to communicate the purpose of the site and to create a sense of trust between GOV.UK and our users.
Our strategy for GOV.UK is all about growth: we’re expanding into new channels and trying to reach new audiences where they are. We want to make it easier for users to access information and services, helping them to achieve quicker and better outcomes. We last looked at the homepage a couple of years ago, but we have not changed it significantly since 2014. We want to make sure that the homepage is as useful as it can be for all users and that it continues to reflect the innovative spirit of GOV.UK. Today we’re launching the first of many significant changes to the homepage, including:
- a visual refresh
- changes to the page structure based on what we know about what users do and what they expect
- changes to content
We are making improvements iteratively so that we can learn and tweak as we go. This post explains the changes we have made so far and what we plan to do next.
Bolder, mobile-first design
The visual design of GOV.UK is bold, simple and accessible. We’re building on a rich history of public sector design in the UK, including in our use of typography, which references road signage in the UK. But good design doesn’t stand still and needs to evolve as expectations change. For example, a decade ago, only 20% of visits to GOV.UK were made from mobile devices. Today, this number is over 60%, and continues to grow.
In response to this, as well as to other changes in user behaviour, we’ve made the design of the homepage bolder and clearer on mobile devices. We redesigned the header area and increased font sizes and spacing throughout the page. There are less boxes on it and the layout is simpler. We also reduced the amount of text on the page by removing content that did not have a clear user need or that wasn’t used much.
We think that these changes make GOV.UK easier to read and browse, and we’re thinking about how they can be brought to other areas of the site.
Easier to read
GOV.UK is made up of mostly words and links, and arranging these into clear, usable layouts takes a lot of work. This is especially true on the homepage, where almost everything is a link, as many users begin their journey here.
We know that pages full of links can be hard for users to scan, so we made some improvements to make the homepage easier to navigate. This includes turning the popular links into a bulleted list and increasing spacing between sections. These changes make the page easier to scan and to identify when one section ends and the next begins.
Reflective of what our users are doing
Knowing what users are doing on GOV.UK helps us improve it. For example, if the most popular link on the page is at the bottom of it, that’s probably a good indicator that it should be moved further up.
We get insights like this from analytics on page use, with a user’s consent, and from talking to our users. Over the last couple of months, we’ve been tweaking the homepage in response to these learnings. Doing it iteratively helps us carefully monitor the impact of our changes, so that we can reverse them if their impact isn’t what we expected. The changes include:
- moving search higher up because it’s the most used element of the homepage
- moving the ‘featured’ section above the ‘government activity’ section because we know more people need it
- renaming ‘topics’ to ‘services and information’ because we know it’s clearer to our users
- adding another link to the ‘popular’ section because we know people find this section useful
- turning grids into lists because we know lists are easier to scan
We’re monitoring the impact that our changes have on what people do on the homepage. For example, we have already seen an increase in the number of people using search on mobile since we moved it higher up.
There are more changes to come, too. For example, we know that we can improve how we adapt content in response to trending user needs. We’ll be testing new design patterns to help users find relevant information more easily.