The foundation of a great website (aside from the technology) is content. Whether it’s words, video or images, content needs to be findable, useful, usable and accessible.
We will be moving from alpha phase for the essex.gov.uk project into the beta phase shortly. This means that we’ll be using our understanding from our alpha prototype work to build out a Minimum Viable Product in our chosen technology using our tested design patterns.
It also means that we’ll need to think more broadly about our content, which means thinking about:
- Content types
- Information Architecture
- Prioritising our next phase of redesign work
- Content migration and resource planning
What have we done so far?
Our work to date has been focussed on redesigning our Adult Social Care content and getting that live on its current microsite, Living Well.
It’s been more than just a rewrite. It’s involved talking to our residents about their lived experience and working with them to improve our online offer. James Pallister has posted previously about his work with people living with dementia and carers.
The redesign of Adult Social Care content is almost complete:so what next?
We need to develop and agree a set of content types for our new website. This is a foundation activity and needs to be right from the start. If we get it wrong we may not be able to deliver on future requirements or it will be costly to put right!
Content types refer to the attributes and behaviours of particular types of content. If we want to carry news stories, for example, we need to make sure that at the back end the editor can see the necessary News content type and can add:
- a news article title
- an author
- a date of publication
- a summary line
- body content
- an image
At the front end we may want to display the summary and a small image as part of a News landing page and then show an individual news article page once the user clicks on the link. That’s a lot to think about and this is just one example of the many content types we need to capture in this way.
Another key building block to our project is the Information Architecture (IA) which usability.gov defines as the ‘organization, structuring, and labeling of content in an effective and sustainable way’.
We’ve developed a set of top level options on our prototype homepage which have tested well in our lab testing.
We also set up an online test which you can try. We’ve had about 90 submissions and after analysing the results we can see that some of the language might need to change. We can also see that users don’t all have the same mental model about where they might find content. There’s often a 50/50 split and we need to make sure that a single piece of relevant content can appear in more than one place.
In addition to the homepage we’ve got 12 top level landing pages which also need to have content options developed and tested with users. It’s a big job and underpins the structure of the content on the site so we’re going to work with an IA specialist to make sure we get it right.
Prioritising our redesign work
There are over 55 microsites in the Essex web estate and we can’t redesign all of that content now.
To help us prioritise the order of our work we’ve been using a set of criteria:
- Are there high call volumes for general information enquiries about that service?
- Is there lots of negative user feedback?
- Do the analytics tell us that users are struggling?
- Is it high volume?
- Is completing our work a dependency for another project?
From this assessment of content we’ve been able to develop a list of priority services that we’re going to do a full redesign on. This involves user engagement and testing and takes time.
There’s also the rest of the content that sits on our existing essex.gov.uk website that isn’t a priority, but we’ll need to move it sooner rather than later so that we can can shut the old site down. This content will be rewritten using Plain English and insight from our feedback and analytics. This is a much quicker process.
Migration and resource planning
As well as redesigning and rewriting content, we need to plan. One of our activities is to understand how we’ll migrate our content from one website to another.
It’s not a case of just copying and pasting! If we move content the web address (URL) for that content changes. Google won’t know this and users will just get a content not found message. Instead we’ll need to set up redirects so that if a user clicks on a search result it bounces to the new location. The user doesn’t need to worry about it, they’re just happy they’ve found what they wanted.
Another thing to think about is resource for the work. We’ve got a team of 4 Content Designers and we’ve used our experience from working on the Adult Social Care content to inform our time estimates.
I’m working with Technology Services on a technical discovery which is looking in more depth at the content management approach that we want to take. I’ll be posting about this shortly.
Comment by Richard posted on
Great work, love the transparency and sharing ethic of the blog!
One small bit of feedback: I would personally find those 12 headings much easier to parse if they were in alphabetical order, as on the gov.uk site.
Comment by Nicholas Ward posted on
Thanks for the positive comment Richard, and your feedback on the usability of the headings - we'll make sure that's part of the test plan.