There are more than 900 pages on the Hackney website, covering probably thousands of user journeys, small and large. With the closure of Hackney Service Centre to visitors and more traffic shifting to the internet, we need to make sure key tasks and information are as easy to access online as possible.
So what are those key user journeys? Step up to the plate, Google Analytics. We don’t just want to know which are the most visited pages as that may well be consistent before and after lockdown. We want to understand, particularly, which pages are experiencing more traffic than usual because of the knock-on effects of Coronavirus.
We found that, compared to the same period the previous month, pages around benefit claims, discretionary payments and council tax discounts were well up in the stats. We already collect feedback on the website and this quantitative data was backed up by comments that pretty much boiled down to: “I have less income and need help.”
The existence of ‘Benefits Specialists’ in the Contact Centre attests to the somewhat complex nature of the benefits system. Our user journey and content lead on this, Eleanor Snow, was able to utilise these agents’ expertise to help us understand the process, and also residents’ queries, more fully. We learnt that there are three main groups of users, with different reductions and schemes available to each:
- Those who are already claiming benefits of some sort
- Those who aren’t
- Those with no recourse to public funds (eg certain immigrants or asylum seekers)
The second cohort is expected to grow during coronavirus, and comprises residents possibly entirely unfamiliar with the benefits system. This underscores the necessity of making the content and user journeys as simple as possible, which we attempted to achieve by looking at:
- how best to lead users through their individual user journeys
- how to reorganise the menu to signpost users to content
- which pages need editing or removing
- ensuring plain English as much as possible
We worked closely with the Benefits and Customer Services teams and the result was a new page entitled Coronavirus financial support. We included the word ‘Coronavirus’ as it will help the page gain greater traction in Google search results. The design of the page funnels users down either of the three user journeys and presents the options available to each.
What we do not want to do, however, is repeat information available on central government websites, such as https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus. Therefore, we signpost users to those resources where appropriate and concentrate instead on highlighting the additional support that Hackney Council is able to offer. We may not always be able to “solve the whole problem”, as per the GDS service standard, but we can at least give a steer.
‘Financial help’ also encroaches on departments beyond Benefits, notably Council Tax and Housing, and we liaised with key staff in those areas to provide a joined up approach. We regrouped existing pages in the benefits and council tax menu to reflect better the process and challenges that residents go through when making a claim. There is some crossover with benefits and council tax content and this collaborative approach ensures that relevant content is flagged at a relevant time, regardless of department.
Of course, we want to measure the success – or otherwise, we’re not infallible! – of our changes. We can already see that the new Coronavirus financial support page has the lowest bounce rate of pages with more than 20 page views. For those not familiar with Google Analytics parlance, this indicates that users are sticking around to read the content. We can confirm this by looking at a Hotjar heatmap, which shows how users are interacting with a page by tracking cursor clicks. 16% of clicks were on ‘I am not currently claiming any financial support to pay rent and council tax’ and 15% on ‘I am currently claiming financial support to pay rent and council tax’.
The new page also has the lowest exit rate of pages with more than 20 page views (22% compared to the site average of 52%). Meaning that 78% of users are continuing with their website journey and not leaving the Hackney site. We cannot yet confirm where they are going – and we would hope it is to our signposted pages – but, once we set up Google Tag Manager, this will become clearer.
We’ll continue to monitor progress but, for now, we say adieu to Benefits. And it’s back to analytics, call logs, site feedback and good old-fashioned anecdotal evidence to identify the next user journey ripe for optimisation.