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We recently talked about some of what we found in our last round of user testing. As well as our user research sessions, we’ve been collecting feedback from people looking at the beta site — there have been a few common patterns that have influenced our priorities in a big way.

The changes we just released

We’ve been making our way through the reports, prioritising design work for the biggest problems and diving into some quick fixes. Today we released:

  1. an updated homepage
  2. font size and colour adjustments
  3. a change to make contact details easier to find.

Screenshots of the old beta.govt.nz homepage (left) and new one (right) with updates to font, colour, and access to contact details.

The original version of the beta.govt.nz homepage didn’t work for a lot of users. People could generally find what they needed, but the distinction between service information and contact details in the government directory wasn’t quite so clear. So we’ve made some changes — and they might look familiar.

If you’re following the work the UK’s Government Digital Service are doing on GOV.UK, you’ll see that our new homepage continues to follow their lead.

Why adapt the design of the UK page? We've got a few reasons:

  • it’s a solved problem. The most recent version of their homepage came about because people couldn’t find their way around the page — we were seeing exactly the same kinds of issues
  • the UK design is open source, so adapting it saves us a huge amount of time and money — it also means we can iterate quickly and do more research with users
  • we’re focusing our effort on getting our content right, and working with agencies to make sure the content is fact-checked.

Recently the GDS team published data showing that less than 10% of users visiting GOV.UK viewed the homepage — we already have similar evidence. Google drives users into content pages deep in the site, so it makes sense to focus our effort and resources there instead.

We’ll test the updated homepage again. If users still have problems with the layout, we’ll commit the time and resources to coming up with something unique for Govt.nz. If it works… well, why reinvent the wheel?

BIG fonts aren't so big anymore

Screenshots of the same content page showing older, larger heading font size (left) versus newer, smaller heading font size (right).

Lots of people told us the font sizes for some of our headings, especially page titles, were too big — so we’ve fixed that. This doesn’t mean we’re reverting to the 12-pixel font sizes you see on many other government websites. Readability of content is still a major consideration for us.

You’ll also see that some of the colours on the site have changed — but just a little bit.

We haven’t chosen the flat UI approach because we think it’s cool. Rather, it keeps the design simple. We’re using colour to draw users’ attention to certain parts of the design and brighten the site up a bit, but the new colours still don’t get in the way of the content.

Easy to find contact details

Our biggest area of focus at the moment is the government directory — now called “Contact government” on the site.

Users struggled to find it, and when they did they rarely realised that it was a whole different area of the site. Finding one agency’s contact details didn’t mean they felt confident finding another’s.

We identified two main problems here:

  1. It wasn’t obvious how to find contact details on content pages.
  2. The main directory page has a filtering feature. It works, but users didn't always understand the results they were shown.

We’re still working on some updates to the filtering feature, but the updated content page layout was ready, so we’ve released it now.

Linking to contact details from information pages

Screenshots comparing previous and new positioning and labelling of responsible agencies on information pages.

On the bottom of all our information pages, we used to show links to the departments and agencies responsible for the content. (While we’re in “thin” content, we’ve often got multiple agencies represented on a single page. As our content fills out, we expect this to happen less and less.)

This section of the page was originally labelled “Responsible agencies”, but that didn’t really help users work out what they’d get if they clicked a link. We tried the label “Information provided by”, thinking it would make the content look more authoritative, but it wasn’t enough. So now, it’s back to basics. These links are all about providing contact details, so that’s what we’re calling the section now: “Contact”.

Take another look and tell us what you think

All the changes we’re making to beta.govt.nz are the result of the testing we’ve done and the feedback we’ve received. As we add more content to the site and try out design changes, we know we’re going to find other things that don’t quite work — which is part of the fun. There are more changes to come.

Like the most recent changes? Leave a comment below.

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