Making it easy for people to find local services

This is a post by Reece Cargan, one of our content designers.

Over the past 12 months, I’ve seen lots of changes when it comes to content on mygov.scot – in terms of its appearance and the way we approach content creation. This is due to a number of factors:

  • we work in an agile environment
  • the technical evolution of our publishing platform dictates a content change
  • UX input, usability audits and user feedback help us improve content

We’re constantly evolving our offering in an attempt to ensure user needs are met, and hopefully exceeded.

Meeting the local needs of our users

One of the biggest changes has been the way we meet the needs of users who are looking for local services, like council tax or bin collections. As our colleagues at GDS have already established, people shouldn’t need to understand the structure of government to be able to access services.

So, how do we create content that’s appropriate for Scotland as a whole, yet manages the expectations of our visitors looking for services from local authorities?

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Using feedback to improve content for victims and witnesses

This is a post by Angela Morrison, one of our content designers.

Feedback is an essential part of our content lifecycle on mygov.scot, especially when our users – such as victims of crime – are experiencing complex and often stressful life events and need the right help and support at the right time.

To help us make sure our new victims and witnesses content is meeting the needs of our users, we reached out to a community of subject matter experts from across the public and third sectors and asked for feedback.

Here are just a few examples of the comments we received, and how we’re using them to improve content for victims and witnesses on mygov.scot.

Plain English

You said

We should consider ways to make the content more accessible to people who may have difficulty reading and writing.

We did

Half of the UK working population have a reading age of 11-years-old or younger, so we use plain English as best practice so all audiences can understand our content, no matter what their literacy levels are.

We’re investigating ways we can continually improve how we write in plain English – this includes testing readability through ‘SMOG’ tests which calculate reading age based on sentence lengths and syllables.

 

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What we’re doing about content debt

This is a post by Kate Ho, our Head of Product.

Understanding content debt

In software development, there’s a term technical debt: it’s a metaphor used to describe the amount of work required to tidy up a system in order to keep the code clean. Cleaner code means it’s easier to make changes and updates.

Code debt becomes a problem as a system gets bigger and matures. For example, over time you’ll have parts of code which might have been written a long time ago (legacy code), and may not reflect the current requirements of the system.

Why does no one talk about content debt?

Doing a quick search on Google for technical debt throws up a lot of articles, but do the same for content debt, and you’ll see that it’s a hardly-used phrase with nowhere near the same popularity. With a big site like mygov.scot, we’re constantly adding more and more information about how to access information… but one of the biggest issues is how to make sure that we keep our information up to date and relevant.

Content debt can look like:

  • broken links
  • changes in policy, and not reflected in the information
  • changes required as a result of user feedback
  • inconsistent content across multiple pages
  • badly designed/poorly linked content

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Making improvements: evolving our content based on your feedback

This is a post by Jono Ellis, our Social Media Manager

As part of our commitment to meeting the needs of our users we have three different ways for users to give us feedback – a feedback area at the bottom of all of our article and guide pages, an email inbox and our Twitter account, @mygovscot.

Over the past few weeks we have received feedback on and improved upon a few different content items on our site:

  • We were asked to clarify the eligibility for the home owners support fund page. This page deals with a fairly complex subject; supporting citizens who are at risk of having their homes repossessed and are requesting either a partial or complete purchase of their home through a government fund. The work here was to provide further clarity by reworking the wording, especially around the complex set of clauses as to who may be entitled to apply.
  • We were asked to clarify wording regarding the advice for private landlords who rent property, specifically whether the text should read Care Inspectorate or Care Commission. This was updated to reference the Care Inspectorate as the appropriate organisation.
  • For the transport help for older or disabled people page we were asked to simplify the content around what people are entitled to when they get a National Entitlement Card. Here we looked at really clarifying the wording of the exemptions, such as how card holders are generally entitled to ride on any bus for free but not on a night bus (midnight to 4am – as this is a premier bus service), and the conditions around Citylink cross country coach services.
  • On our apply for or renew a disabled parking permit (Blue Badge) page we were asked how you track a Blue Badge application. We have updated this content with a new section, explaining what information you need to be able to track an application and which website to go to take this action.

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Designing content for mygov.scot

This is a post by Rachel Dowle, our Head of Content

ContentDesign

In 2012, the Scottish Government set out its intention to deliver a “single – but not exclusive – point of entry to all digital public services at national and local level”.

So, what does that mean for how we design content on mygov.scot?

We want to make sure citizens don’t need to think about organisations to deal with their complex needs.

We can assume users often don’t know who provides a service – whether it’s provided at a UK reserved level, devolved to Scotland or administered by local councils.

As a user, you might:

  1. know what you’re looking for and need to complete a specific task (often involving a transactional element like ‘I want to pay my council tax’)
  2. know what you’re looking for, but this requires multiple services and organisations (for example dealing with a change to your financial circumstances)
  3. have a need but don’t know how to resolve it (for example dealing with debt)
  4. be at crisis point and have no idea how to deal with it (dealing with abuse)

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Supporting Scotland’s businesses

This is a post by Rachel Dowle, our Head of Content

Over the last 100 days, we’ve been finalising what’s needed to close the Scottish Business Portal and move the website’s content and tools on to mygov.scot.

The portal (business.scotland.gov.uk) was originally designed to bring business service and support information into one place – pulling content via an API from partner websites like Business Gateway, Scottish Enterprise, Highlands & Islands Enterprise, Skills Development Scotland and GOV.UK. It also hosted interactive tools to calculate business rates and access funding opportunities.

This will now be taken forward within mygov.scot and the mygov team is, therefore, keen to work with business stakeholders and users to ensure that the content is kept up-to-date, continuously improved and is responsive to the needs of Scottish business users. We’ll also be using analytics to help us make design decisions to improve the user experience.

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Content Rally

Content Rally

This is a post by Jono Ellis, our Social Media Manager

It’s been a busy few weeks here in the mygov.scot team. One of my personal highlights of our recent work was the Content Rally where everyone, irrespective of discipline, took on the role of Content Designer.

To explain more about the Content Rally here are some thoughts from Angela Morrison, one of our Content Designers.

Why did we hold a Content Rally?

Working in a busy environment it can be hard to find time to step back and think about how we’re working. The Content Rally came about from a need for us to take stock of how our publishing platform works, what our Content Team processes are and plan some improvements. It happened at a time where there was a lot of content requiring processing at once and it helped us with a big deadline. It was definitely successful in importing lots of content, giving everyone insight into how the platform works and bringing to the surface some bugs and future feature requirements. Content Designers have a different view on how the platform works to people with other specialisms and those other ideas are vital on how to improve the platform.

Content is everyone’s responsibility, not just content designers. Content has a very long process – it starts with Stakeholder Managers engaging with organisations to get them involved. Developers are involved in the creation of a platform that is easy to use. UX ensures that the interaction of users with the content (and the user’s journey though the content) is optimised. We are all responsible – if any of these steps don’t work it’s a barrier for good content being on the site.

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