Four Simple Steps for Creating a User-Centric Local Government Website
When it comes to delivering great online experiences, meeting customer needs is key. This is why it’s so important for local governments to place an emphasis on the user experience (UX) design of their websites – to enhance the experience that people have and ensure they find value in what is being provided.
Most local government websites house a substantial amount of information while also providing numerous important services. This makes it tricky to pinpoint where to start to improve the overall website UX. At a recent Local Government Association of South Australia event, Peter Krieg, our Global Head of Creative & Consulting, offered South Australian Councils four simple steps to understand website visitors and improve their UX:
Step 1 - Understand user demographics and website usage
The first step to improving the experience offered to local government website users is to have a rich and informed understanding of who they are and what tasks they hope to achieve by visiting the website.
During the research phase, important questions to consider include:
- What are the demographics of the users?
- It is best to have a detailed breakdown of the age, gender, location and needs of users.
- How do users behave?
- This includes gaining an understanding of which devices are used to visit the website, where users are coming from (did they Google your name or find the website via social media, for example) and how users behave on the website itself.
- What do they want to achieve?
- Users are unlikely to come to your site for a leisurely browse! What jobs do they need to be done, and which of these jobs are priorities for your users and for your organization?
To discover even more about your users, turn to the website’s Google Analytics reporting:
Dive into the analytics — don’t just look at visitor numbers, consider also user behaviours to understand how they utilise content and services:
- Analyse which pages are most viewed and what insight that offers you.
- Look at the time of day that users visit the website as this can shed further light on the reasons for visiting and how best to meet user needs.
- Consider popular search queries. Inspect how users describe the services or facilities they are looking for and whether the website content currently addresses these queries.
To build on the information provided by Google Analytics, it is also recommended that local governments conduct click tracking. This can easily be done by using the free version of Hotjar (heatmaps) to get some initial insights into how people are interacting with your key pages.
Step 2 - Build empathy for website users
Knowing how users interact with the website is one thing but, in order to deliver the best possible experience, it is important to really know who those users are.
Learn as much as possible about the customer/ user journey:
- Get more intel by working closely with front-line customer experience staff. These professionals interact with customers regularly and will have a goldmine of insight.
- Pinpoint top customer enquiries, try to answer them yourself on the website by going through the journey. Examine whether there is anything that stands out as particularly challenging during this journey.
- Determine whether customers are lodging complaints. This can be a great source of information to help guide small improvements.
Real-world data, user insights and testing can make all the difference when it comes to improving your website’s UX. It reveals things that aren’t obvious and highlights unintuitive workarounds. All while validating or challenging internal ideas of the users and user journey.
Step 3 - Work through challenges in the order of priority
With a comprehensive understanding of users, it is helpful to define and allocate a weighting to any key challenges these users face. By harnessing this weighting system, a list of priorities will naturally be created - casting light on where to start with UX improvements to your website.
Your list might look something like this:
- The colours used for the background and text are making it difficult for the visually impaired to read.
- Not enough spacing has been allowed between the text so it's difficult to read, particularly on a mobile device.
- The flow of the website is long-winded and complex, so users are giving up and calling the call centre.
Step 4 - Iterate
Remember that Rome was not built in a day. And the perfect local government website does not need to be either. Making small, meaningful improvements regularly can have a substantial impact in the medium-to-long term.
Plan to make incremental changes and measure their impact, so you have a confident understanding of the changes that are making a difference. And remember that the audience of any website will never remain the same, it is dynamic and in order to keep up with changes in the market, steps one to three should be completed on a regular basis.
At the end of the day, local government websites and services are nothing without users. This is why it is pivotal to ensure that users have a great user experience when navigating your site. Applying these four simple steps will contribute to this and likely inform future projects too.
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