What we have been up to: March/April 2016

We have blogged about some key parts of the poole.gov.uk redesign project but I want to give you more regular updates on what we have been doing.

Discovery phase

We are now reaching the end of the discovery phase. This phase is primarily about understanding user needs and using them to inform how the site will look, be structured and what should be included on it.

We split the phase into sprints:

  • IA (information architecture) – how the site is structured
  • UX and accessibility (user experience) – how it will work
  • Design part 1 – how the site will be laid out
  • Design part 2 – how the site will look

UX and accessibility

We have created accessibility standards that we will be used to help make our new website accessible for all.

We hope to test the site with users who have particular accessibility requirements such as:

• blind/partially sighted, screen-reader users
• screen magnification users
• deaf British Sign Language users
• keyboard-only users
• speech-recognition software users
• users with dyslexia
• users with autism.

Information architecture – how the site is structured

We have been analysing the results of the card sorting exercise  and will be using them as a basis for structuring the content on the redesigned poole.gov.uk.

We will then start creating the structure of the site and test it with our users.

Design part 1 – how the site will be laid out (wireframes)

We have created over 20 wireframes for all the types of pages and elements we will have on the new poole.gov.uk.

A wireframe is commonly used to lay out content and functionality on a page which takes into account user needs and user journeys. Wireframes are used early in the development process to establish the basic structure of a page before visual design and content is added.

Design part 2 – how the site will look (visuals)

We have just returned from a trip to Nottingham to see Ideagen, our content management system provider. We met with Dave, one of the designers, who took us through the early designs we have created.

We hope to be able to share visuals with you all soon to get your thoughts and feedback!

Matt Louis, Project Lead

Card sort : results are in!

Many thanks to all of you who took part in our card sorting exercise. This information is going to help us form our new user-centred poole.gov.uk.

The main aim of the exercise was to help us understand where users expect to find information and how they would label and group this information.

We contracted Dr Emily Webber from The Insight Lab to conduct the research and most of this post is based on her report.

Who took part

136 people started the card sort and of those, 96 completed it.

The majority of participants (70%) had visited poole.gov.uk before and were at least partially familiar with it. Of those remaining, 17% had never visited the site before, and 13% had visited but reported not to be familiar with it.

Whilst participants represented a range of ages, we failed to target those aged 70 plus resulting in a lower proportion of older users.


Results and findings

Participants were asked to group cards together in categories that made sense to them.

Some grouped in very small categories with only a few cards per group, e.g. Adoption and fostering; Museums; Garden and Commercial waste; others grouped broadly using categories such as Environmental services; Community services and Care.

Similarities and differences in the ways that cards were grouped suggest that multiple routes to information are needed to meet user expectations, and ensure that content is clearly understood and found.

Whilst neat groupings give us useful categorisations to form the basis of a user-focused structure, it is the ‘difficult to sort’ services (such as Prejudice incidences and hate crime) that are the key to minimising user frustration.

If they are difficult to sort, it stands to reason that users will also struggle to know where to look for them.

Following analysis these 11 primary content groups emerged:

  • Waste and recycling
  • Education, work and training
  • Local issues and law
  • Carers and caring
  • Roads and highway maintenance
  • Report an issue
  • Transport and travel
  • Weather warnings
  • Housing and buildings
  • Things to do
  • Births, deaths and marriages.

It’s important to note that the names given to the categories above were chosen as a representation of the range of those given by participants.

Next steps

Using this valuable feedback we can now start to shape how the site will be structured.

The groupings will be a foundation to build the rest of the site around, with a few tweaks here and there.

We need to make sure we provide a clear structure for all users to be able to complete an action and find information easily.

User personas: how Jean is helping shape poole.gov.uk

I’d like you to meet Jean…Jean2

Jean is 72 and lives on her own in Oakdale, Poole.

She doesn’t own a computer, or use a smartphone but she often gets her daughter who lives nearby to look things up for her on the internet.

Recently Jean got a tablet from her daughter for Christmas. Jean loves gardening and is community minded.

Ok, so Jean isn’t real (as you can tell from my artwork!). Jean is one of several personas we have created to help us make sure the redesign of poole.gov.uk meets the needs of all our users.

We have used our data about the population of Poole and the people that use our current online services to create these personas.

Why personas are important

The reason we have created these personas is to put ourselves in the shoes of a selection of users and see if what we are building works for them.

For example: we decided that Jean only really uses the council’s services when she has an issue to report such as a blocked drain. So we tested our site using a tablet to see how Jean might feel when attempting to complete this task.

This has really helped us focus on the issues someone like Jean could face and how we could solve them.

We have deliberately chosen personas that cover our broad audience. These include:

  • people over the age of 70
  • people who are on a middle income and aged between 40 and 65
  • single parents who are on a low income
  • people who have a mental or physical disability
  • people who find reading difficult
  • people accessing our site using a range of devices.

With these we can ask ourselves a number of key questions:

  • is the user journey to this information or service straightforward?
  • is the content written in a way that would make sense to this user?
  • how does our user feel when they try to complete their task?

Personas are a good way of keeping the user and their needs in mind as we build our digital services, although they don’t replace contact with real people to research and test what we build.

There’s some great background reading about personas and how to create them on Usability.gov

Claire Ryan-East
Data Analyst and Digital Support Officer

Sort our site: help make poole.gov.uk easier to use

Card sort_Biscuits

What’s your favourite biscuit?

Is it a custard cream? Bourbon or jammy dodger? To dunk or not to dunk? And does a Jaffa Cake count?

So many questions, so many choices.

On the homepage of our current website www.poole.gov.uk you also have many choices: use the search; top navigation; category links on the left; top tasks; service links; A to Z…

Surely it shouldn’t be so difficult to find what you are looking for?

We agree. That’s why we really want to ensure that navigating around our site is both simple and intuitive.

We want to use the most appropriate language and understand how pages fit in to one another to create a flow that feels natural.

That’s where you come in.

We want you to spare some time to help us sort some information into categories and a structure.

We have contracted The Insight Lab to work with us on this and they have created an online ‘card sorting’ exercise.

Card sorting

In our online card sorting exercise, we want you to put selected content into topics or categories that make sense to you.

Card sorting will help us identify your expectations and understanding of our services.

Specifically it will inform:

• how we build the structure of our website
• how we design our homepage
• how we label categories and navigation as simply as possible.

Gaining input and feedback from people like you is vital.

This is a quick task that we hope you will find interesting – it should take you no longer than 10 to 15 minutes to complete.

(And mine’s a dark chocolate digestive please)

Why accessibility is important to us

My name is Alexander Hearn and I’m the UX and Design Lead for the poole.gov.uk redesign project.

For me, designing with accessibility in mind isn’t just about ensuring people with disabilities can access our site.

There are many more benefits that can improve the user experience and reduce costs simply by:

  • making things easier to find
  • removing the clutter
  • having content that is easier to understand
  • ensuring the site works for all devices and browsers.

This means that, regardless of ability, everyone can navigate it, understand it, and use it successfully.

What we have done so far

We have done a lot of research into how we can make the new poole.gov.uk accessible to as many people as possible.

The most important lessons that we have learnt are:

  • we should always start with accessibility, it can’t be an afterthought
  • we need to understand how real people with disabilities use our site
  • we should be working with local charities such as Dorset Blind Association
  • we should make sure we choose the appropriate formats for documents
  • we need to understand how important visual design is, for example; font, colour contrast, buttons, etc.

Simple eh?… well it’s all well and good making sure we tick the right accessibility boxes. We have standards provided by Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 which we can follow to make sure our site is compliant.

However, this only gives us so much. We need to understand how real people use our site.

User testing for accessibility

Testing with actual users (both able-bodied and disabled) will help us identify user needs and help us focus on the right areas.

This is where you can get involved.

In particular we are looking for:

  • blind/partially sighted, screen-reader users
  • screen magnification users
  • deaf British Sign Language users
  • keyboard-only users
  • speech-recognition software users
  • users with dyslexia
  • users with Aspergers or autism.

If you want to help us test our site, please email us at webmaster@poole.gov.uk.

Alexander Hearn, UX and Design Lead

Improving the way you use Poole.gov.uk

You’ve probably used Poole.gov.uk to find information or a service over the past few years. We know the journey to that information or service isn’t as good as it could be; we know it’s not responsive; we know it isn’t always straightforward.

Here at the Borough of Poole we’re constantly striving to improve our online services for you. We want to make our services so good that you choose to use them. To do this, we’re starting a new project: the redesign of Poole.gov.uk.

Redesigning Poole.gov.uk

As more of you are accessing our website using a mobile or tablet, we are creating a single version of our site that adapts to the device accessing it (this is commonly known as responsive web design). In other words, whether you view our site on a smartphone, tablet, laptop or desktop computer, you are accessing the same content, formatted for your device.

However, it’s not just about how the site will work but the content that is on it. We will be looking at improving the quality of the content by writing it in a way that is easier to read and understand.

All about the user

We’ll be starting with real user needs and then designing online services which meet them.

We intend to identify and analyse audiences on our existing site, so that we can build a site based on the data we already have.

But data can only tell us so much…

We want you to get involved in the creation of great online services for the council by;

  • sending ideas about how we can improve
  • trying out the services we build
  • letting us know what you think we could do better.

How you can get involved

This blog is one of many ways that we will communicate what we are doing, how we are doing it and what you can do to help us build the best website we can.

We will also be using Twitter, Facebook and our newsletter service ’email me’ to keep you up to date with our progress. We also intend to get out and meet users of the site to really understand user needs.

We have a great team behind the project and we will be working with expert external partners too.

The best way to keep up to date with progress on Digital Poole is by subscribing to this blog by email (just click the ‘follow’ button at the bottom right of this page).

Matt Louis, Project Lead and Senior Digital Services Officer