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"

Usability testing

I asked three participants to carry out these tasks on the Leeds City Council website, while they thought aloud. This uncovered all sorts of issues with the navigation and visibility on the website.

The most difficult task

The final task—"You have a broken refrigerator..."—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.