Developing digital – what local government can learn from central government

We recently went to visit GOV.UK, part of the Government Digital Service. We went to see what we in local government can learn from the user-focused digital work happening in central government.

GOV.UK

GOV.UK is where to find government services and information.

GOV.UK brought together hundreds of government websites under one domain.

Learning about user research
Learning about user research

A focus on users

The success of GOV.UK largely comes from the focus put on their users. They have a small user research team. This team conducts a wide range of research to find out what users want and how they use existing websites and services.

Research includes usability testing, focus groups, online surveys and visiting people in work places to speak face to face.

Visiting GOV.UK has enforced the need for us to continually speak to you, our users, to ensure what we develop is truly user-focused.

Quality content

The content team at gov.uk
The content design team at GOV.UK

GOV.UK have a large content design team. The team is split into four sub-teams, who work on business as usual changes. Staff from these teams will sometimes work on larger projects to improve GOV.UK.

The content team work with user research and analytics to look at how people are using the website and ensure they are developing content that is meeting user needs.

Each content change is sent to the relevant Government service for “fact check”.

The content team then use a process called 2i reviewing. Every piece of content that goes online is reviewed by another team member, before it can go live. The purpose of 2i reviewing is to ensure that the content meets the GOV.UK style guide and is consistent across the GOV.UK site.

Having people working for your team who are content experts, to ensure your website is easy to use and navigate, as well as separately checking content for accuracy were two clear messages we took away with us.

Analytics

GOV.UK have a strong focus on using data to evidence what works and what doesn’t.

Data analysts work alongside user researchers, using Google Analytics.

We met with a data analyst. He showed us how he tracks users’ journeys through the GOV.UK website. This shows if users drop out before they complete a task, the routes into the site. He works with the content team to test ideas on how the site is used are accurate. This ensures that content meets users’ needs and expectations.

The team gave us some good advice on how to use Google Analytics more effectively. We’ll also soon be using heatmapping analytics on our new beta website and our online forms, to gain a deeper understanding of how our users interact with us online.

Moving forward

The projects gov.uk are currently working on
The projects GDS are currently working on

We will embed a lot of what we learned at GOV.UK in to the work we are doing as part of the council’s customer first in a digital age programme (CFDA).

We want digital developments that we release to the public to be:

  • focused around user needs
  • usable across devices and browsers
  • easy to read and understand
  • free of errors
  • simple to transact online

Some of the digital developments already in place: