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Leeds City Council Website

When I used the Leeds City Council website for the first time, it wasn't easy to find what I needed. I decided to carry out some usability testing to see if I could find out why.

Many people rely on government websites to find what they need, so it's very important that the design helps those people with their tasks. If the website can't help them complete their tasks, then a person from Leeds City Council needs to get involved, which costs taxpayer money.

Top Task Analysis

I surveyed people who had used a council website before and asked them what they had used it for. I picked five of these answers, and wrote them up as tasks I could use in a usability test:

  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 found three participants and asked them to work through these tasks on the Leeds City Council website, while thinking aloud.

Problems Found

There were a number of problems with the main navigation, which is shown here:

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 web chat support function when they could not find the page they were looking for. Fixing these problems might mean saving money because less support staff are needed.

On the home page there is a section with tiles showing popular tasks, and a "See our services" button:

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, which makes it easy to miss.

The final task - "You have a broken fridge..." - 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 think 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 charity donation section more obvious. 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 surrounded by other elements that grab more attention.

Redesign

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.

Usability testing with 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:

Reaching Out

I sent these findings to Leeds City Council web team, and was told that they were forwarded on to their web team.

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