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Leeds City Council Website

The Inspiration

After using the Leeds City Council website for the first time, I thought its navigation was difficult to use. I decided to carry out some user testing to see if I could uncover any issues.

For a large city like Leeds, a council website provides vital services for many people. If people aren't willing to use online services because they are poorly designed, it can put strain on other resources such as telephone lines. Even if people are willing to struggle through, the bad experience can have an impact on their opinion of their council.

User Testing Top Tasks

I sent out a survey asking people to name tasks they had used council websites for in the past, and then picked five of them at random:

  1. "You need to pay a parking fine online"
  2. "Your black rubbish bin has been lost or stolen - order a replacement"
  3. "You need to renew a library book online"
  4. "You've seen a tree that's overhanging council property in a dangerous way - report it to the council"
  5. "You have a broken fridge that you want the council to come and collect - book a collection online"

I had three participants work through these tasks on the Leeds City Council website, and asked each of them to think aloud while they did it.

Problems Found In User Testing

There were a number of problems with the main navigation:

One participant struggled with the navigation constantly - They did not know "Residents" would take them to the home page when they wanted to start a new task. This participant instead kept clicking on "Where I live" and "Your Council", which did not work for their needs.

This was commented on directly by another participant, who said that "Residents" was "not very clear" as a link back to the home page, and only tried it as a last resort.

A participant was forced to use the offered web chat function when they could not find the page they were looking for. If someone is employed to answer navigation questions, I'd argue a redesign is worth the money.

Leeds City Council is separating its website into services for Residents and Business Owners, among others. However, business owners are also residents, and residents make up a far larger proportion of the population than business owners. As a quick fix, the "Residents" navigation title should be changed to "Home".

On the home page, the main navigation is supported by tiles showing popular tasks, and a "See our services" button:

At first glance, two of three participants missed the "See our services" button, which allows them to see the full list of services. My assumption is that the button's dull brown is overpowered by the more colourful graphics below, making it easy to miss. Although out of the scope of this project, redesigning that action to be more noticeable and testing it with more participants would help test this assumption.

The final task caused a lot of problems. It took some participants longer than others, but all of them eventually found the "Get rid of unwanted items" page. Here, they can book a bulky items collection by the council:

None of the participants noticed the link labelled "remove items from domestic properties" to start with, and one participant left and returned to this page three times before noticing it.

I believe there are two factors at work here:

  1. Leeds City Council prefers people to donate items to charity, rather than booking a council collection. Because of this, they made the option hard to find. However, people should not donate broken/non-working goods to charities, which means this design decision is punishing legitimate use-cases.
  2. Despite being a primary action, the "remove items from domestic properties" link is a regular hyperlink lost in a sea of other, more prominent, elements. Many other actions on the page are larger, and more colourful, making the crucial link easy to miss.

Redesigning The Biggest Problem Area

To test these assumptions, I redesigned the page, to make it easier for people to find the option that is right for them:

This redesign is based on two principles:

  1. Leeds City Council has good reason for convincing the user to donate their bulky goods to charity instead of having the council collect them, so this information should be presented first.
  2. A visual hierarchy on the page will help guide the user to the correct option so they can more successfully scan the page, as well as make it clearer that the user has arrived at the correct page.

User Testing The Redesign

I created a clickable prototype and tested it with three new participants, giving them the following task: "You have a broken refrigerator and you want to book a collection so that the council will come and get it."

The results were positive, and confirmed some previous findings:

Reaching Out

I sent these findings to the Leeds City Council web team, but they unfortunately never responded to me.

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