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Leeds City Council Website

Challenge:Find problems and improve them on the Leeds City Council website.

My role:Top task analysis, usability testing, typography and interaction design.

Result:Second set of usability testing showed that problems were solved.

Reasons I'm proud of this project:

  1. I very clearly solved an issue with a page likely used by thousands of people
  2. It showed the difference that simple changes to typography and text layout can make
  3. It gave me a chance early in my career to practice top task analysis and usability testing
  4. My efforts and results have been validated by changes made by the Leeds City Council designers since

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 to find out what they had used their local council website for in the past. I took the most common answers and re-wrote them as tasks that could be completed on the Leeds City Council website:

  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 refrigerator and you want to book a collection so that the council will come and get it"

I asked three participants to carry out these tasks on the Leeds City Council website, while they thought aloud.

Problems with navigation

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 had finished one task and wanted to start another one. This participant instead tried to click on "Where I live" and "Your Council", which did not work.

Another participant commented directly on this when they said that "Residents" was "not very clear" as a link back to the home page, and only tried it as a last resort.

For one task a participant was forced to use the web chat support function to find a page. This design problem meant a paid support worker needed to get involved, which costs the government and taxpayers money.

Problems with visibility

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

Two of three participants missed the "See our services" button, which would have shown them the full list of services and helped them find the pages they needed.

Problems with page design

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 they noticed it.

Redesign

I redesigned the page to make it easier for people to find the right option:

This redesign is based on two assumptions:

  1. The Leeds City Council wants their users to consider donating to charity before they ask the council to take the bulky items away. I wanted to keep this priority in my redesign
  2. A lack of visual hierarchy on the original page led people to miss the section, and the important action, that was relevant to the task. I wanted to use visual hierarchy to fix the problem

Testing the redesign

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

The redesign led to a big improvement:

Results

These usability test results show that a simple page redesign could fix a major issue. I sent these findings to Leeds City Council, and was told they had been forwarded to their web team.

Since then, the Leeds City Council website has been redesigned. I've noticed that the page I redesigned above has been changed and uses a similar approach to the one I used. I don't believe they used my suggestion directly, but I believe that their approach validates my own.

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