GDS pledges to address GOV.UK search and navigation issues

Written by Sam Trendall on 6 September 2017 in News
News

Fifth benchmarking exercise finds three core areas for improvement

The Government Digital Service has identified the search and navigation functions as areas where the GOV.UK website needs to improve.

GDS outlined the key conclusions of its biannual benchmarking exercise to assess the performance of GOV.UK platforms. The process threw up three main areas of improvement for design teams to focus on.

The first is navigating the site, with GDS pointing out that this is made more difficult by the fact that a number of GOV.UK pages have titles that are too similar to one another – in many cases beginning identically, and differing only in the last few words.


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“Similar titles make it harder for users to scan items on the page and choose the most relevant option,” GDS said. “If the titles are similar, it takes more mental effort to work out what each page is about.”

GOV.UK’s content teams will, in the coming weeks, work on changing page titles so that visitors are able to more easily discern which sections of the site are relevant to them.

Second, GDS has found that GOV.UK’s search function currently “isn’t working in the way users expect”. Whitehall’s digital body said that the list of items thrown up by searches could be “narrower and more specific”, and often includes results unrelated to the search term. For example, searching for ‘passport’ might provide links to pages about driving licences, and registering to vote, GDS said.

“We have a dedicated team looking at how search works on GOV.UK,” it added. “One area they’re looking at is making sure search results are as helpful as possible for users.”

The final area of improvement is hyperlinks, which the blog notes are often too numerous and appear too early on a page. The proliferation of such links means that users often end up revisiting pages unnecessarily.

GDS said: “When people use GOV.UK, they already have a task in mind that they want to complete. So, they tend to quickly skim a page looking for something that will help them to do that task. Links often stand out on the page as they’re styled differently and grab people’s attention.”

It added: “Having too many links within the text can be a problem. Users will click on them and miss important information that might be further down the page. They might make circular journeys, not realising which pages they’ve been to already and which ones they haven’t. This means it’ll take them longer to complete their task, and it makes for a frustrating experience.”

To help combat this problem, earlier this year GDS established a team dedicated to improving “user journeys” on GOV.UK platforms. Each member of this team can pick an area or task of their choosing and work on how to improve functionality. Further benchmarking tests will be conducted once this work is complete, GDS said.

About the author

Sam Trendall is editor of PublicTechnology, where a version of this story first appeared

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