Start of the beginning…

On Monday 6 March we officially moved out of our beta phase and into live, launching our website.

This is where you will start to see the new website emerge.

We decided not to have a big switch over from the old site to the new as we learned from past experience that this approach wouldn’t work.

Instead we are building the new site, content up. This means we are working on specific pages and services, prioritising ones such as:

  • emergencies
  • allotments
  • self service
  • garden waste
  • elections
  • voting
  • jobs
  • births, deaths and marriages
  • Council Tax
  • beaches.

When you go to these pages on the current you will see a yellow banner above the content with a link to the new version of the page.

This is so we can get as much feedback as possible on the new content to ensure it meets the needs of our users.

After 2 weeks we will remove the banner and redirect the page to the new version.

Once all content has been through this process, we will be able to launch the homepage and change from to

This has been an interesting and useful process and allowed us to find and solve issues in a live environment. Now the final stretch begins and we will be adding more and more services over the coming weeks and months until we have created all relevant content.

It’s really exciting to see how our customers use the new site and what we can improve on.

… beginning of the end

Claire Ryan-East – Data Scientist and Digital Support Officer
Claire Ryan-East – Data Scientist and Digital Support Officer

Just as we have launched our we also say farewell to our brilliant Content Design Lead, Claire Ryan-East, who is joining Dorset County Council Children’s Services to edit their website content.

Claire was part of the project team right from the start and has been a creative, energetic and enthusiastic force of nature; keeping us going when we faced challenges and always willing to learn new skills and ways of working.

The would not be the site it is without Claire and the whole team and the council will miss her enormously.

Thank you Claire and enjoy your next digital adventure!

Matt Louis – Project Lead


What we’ve been working on – October/November

It’s been a while since we last updated the blog but we have been working hard on the new website.

We want to share with you what we have been doing and how you can get involved.

Content design workshops

Since the last blog post we have held 15 content design workshops with all kinds of services from allotments to zebra crossings.

We have found out so much about our services; the tasks people come to the website to do and the differing needs of those who use them.

This info is helping us start to put together the content for the new site.

Allotments, starting a business and find a planning application

Following the workshops we have created some content to test the new page layouts. There are 3 sections that we would really like you to have a look at and give your feedback on:

find a planning application
starting a business.

Tell us what you think by using the link on the page.

Homepage design

We want to share our new homepage design with you soon.

We have a couple of versions we have been working on and want your feedback to help us make the right design decisions.

Watch this space..

Matt Louis – Project Lead

Content redesign workshops


Thinking about the user need

Firstly, I know we haven’t updated the blog for a while but rest assured we have been working hard on the next phase of the project.

We are about to start developing the content for our new site, working with service experts who know their processes inside out. Exciting times!

Getting the right information on a page is something we need to work at to make sure we are giving the customer exactly what they need.

To do this we have begun holding workshops with experts from the main services we provide.

Rather than looking at the current website content, we are working from a blank canvas. This gives us the opportunity to think about the content from a fresh point of view.

We start by asking:

  • what their services are
  • who their customers are
  • what tasks people come to their webpages to complete.

We invite our experts to a room and ask them to post-it note out the list of services, put them into sections under main headings, then order the tasks.

This prompts a lot of useful questions and discussion:

  • why do we even have this on our site?
  • can we help people find this information more easily?
  • how would that make a user feel?
  • is this information stored elsewhere?
  • are our pages accessible to everyone?

We are using Trello to organise our post-it notes from each session. This gives us a shareable, online base where anyone involved can amend or contribute to the boards.

Learn from the best

We have encouraged our workshoppers to look around at other websites to see how they present information that is relevant for many councils, for example, Council Tax or licensing.

If another council has been through a similar process and has created content that serves user needs effectively, we can use this to build on.

Pair writing

Following these initial workshops, we will start pair writing with our service experts.
This is a collaboration, where one of our digital team sits with a service expert to draft brand new content for their page. It’s a fairly new concept for us that ensures the user and the reason behind the content are always kept in mind.

Pair writing: work side by side, commit time to slowing down in the service of meeting user needs.

These are the steps we will follow:

  1. we will choose content that supports the completion of top tasks
  2. then invite our service experts to spend an hour or so working with us on this content, clarifying what we hope to achieve by using the pair writing technique
  3. before we start writing, we will establish the user need that we’re trying to meet with this content, for example, in the format of a user story (ideally this will be based on user research)
  4. we will sit together at a computer or laptop, and take it in turns to write
  5. the person who isn’t writing can read out loud, ask questions, suggest changes, and compare the current draft to the user need
  6. we will then swap roles so that each person spends about half of the time in each role; the more varied the feedback, the better
  7. at the end, we will get everyone to talk about the content they’ve created and how it helps support task completion; is this content simple and clear enough?

We will be using Google Docs for our pair writing as it means we can use it for commenting and sharing afterwards.

We have learnt a considerable amount from the three workshops we’ve held so far; this will help us create the best content we can.

Claire Ryan-East: Digital Support Officer

Homepage navigation survey results

Once again, many thanks to all who completed our homepage navigation survey.

We had 236 completed surveys mainly from Poole area but also as far afield as Bristol, London, and Kent.

There is a lot of data to digest but we wanted to share with you some of the early findings.

Overall results

We had a success and directness rating of 88% which means that these people found what they were looking for and were able to get straight to the information.


This helps us to understand that we already have a fairly good and straightforward navigation.

We have analysed the paths that people used to get to answer the task questions and mostly people were able to get the information they needed without going a different route or having to backtrack.


Most of the tasks were straightforward. The software we used gives a rating out of 10 to rate the success of each task.

The breakdown was:

  • two rated 10
  • two rated 9
  • four rated 8
  • one rated 7
  • one rated 3.

As with these type of things we can often learn more from the tasks that people struggled with.

For example, question 7 – ‘You want to extend your house and need to find a trusted builder. Where would you go to find out about trusted traders?’ was the question that was rated 3 out of 10.

We kinda expected this.

This question was devised to test a theory we had been working on during the project.

We had made an assumption that the current page we have on our website, Buy With Confidence, wasn’t titled in the way people would understand.

So we created the question to see if we were right.

Below is a pietree of where people went to try and find the answer to this question.


It really makes clear that we have to ensure we make this easier to find in the future.

Compare this to task 3 – ‘You need to find out how to register the birth of your child. Where would you find this information?’

This was one of two tasks rated 10 and you can see how much easier it was to find this information directly.

It took just under 9 seconds to complete this task compared to nearly 29 seconds to complete the trusted builder task (or not as the case may be).

How long it takes someone to complete a task is a critical  measure we will be using to check that the site is working well.


Overall we had 162 comments in the exit questionnaire. These will help us directly make changes and inform decisions on wording and placement of pages on the new site.

They ranged from very positive feedback, to suggestions on wording, placement of content and even what content we should test in the future.

What next?

Having carried out this survey, we will now take the results and look at how we can improve how the homepage navigation works.

We will also look to use this type of survey again on other parts of the website so we can learn more about how people will navigate throughout our site.

Matt Louis – Project Lead

User feedback update

Homepage navigation survey

Huge thanks to those who have completed the Homepage Navigation Survey.

We have had over 200 people so far and the feedback has been really useful.

We will keep the survey open until Monday 18 July and will share the findings soon after.


More chances to get involved

We want to share a couple of versions of our new homepage with you soon. Each one has different design features and content.

We will want you to let us know which one you prefer and why.

We will be blogging about this in a couple of weeks.

We are also looking into holding some user participation events over the summer and will post on here, Twitter, Facebook and through our newsletter service.

Take our homepage navigation survey


It’s been a busy few weeks on the redesign project.
We have signed off how the site will look and our partners at Ideagen are busy putting it all together. This lets us get on with making sure the site structure is as easy to use as we can make it.
To do this we would love to have your feedback.  If you have 5 minutes to spare, please help us by taking our homepage navigation survey
We will post the results in a few weeks’ time.
Many thanks

Matt Louis: Project Lead

What we have been up to: April/May 2016

It’s been a very hectic few weeks on the redesign project but also very exciting.

Design part 2 – how the site will look

We are now reaching the end of the Design part 2 – how the site will look (visuals) sprint.

This has been about taking the wireframes we have created and developing them into how the pages will look and work together.

We have created visuals for:
• homepage
• landing page – pages used for navigating around the site
• content page version 1 – a simple content information page
• content page version2 – a page which has transactional elements or instructions
• facilities landing page – such as Libraries, Parks, Beaches etc.
• facilities content page – such as Libraries, Parks, Beaches etc.
• news landing page
• news content page
• news archive page

The next step is to integrate the visuals into our new site.
Once this is done we will be able to share them with you.

Information Architecture – how the site will be structured

We have been busy sorting the structure of the site and how pages will sit on the site.
Once this is complete we want you to help us understand if the structure makes sense and if you can find what you are looking for in a logical way.

We are going to use some software called Treejack to enable users to test our structure so we can make the site as user-friendly as possible.

Have a look at what Bracknell Forest Council are doing with their website navigation testing to get an idea of what we will be asking from you in the near future.

Next steps

Overall, loads going on but we are all really excited to see the site taking shape.

We will be blogging more soon about how you can get involved to help us make the new site work.

Matt Louis – Project Lead