Posts tagged ‘Directgov’

Nielsen and initial text

Jakob Nielsen’s Alertbox reviews a test of how well users understand the first 11 characters of a website’s links and headlines.

“Why test text that’s so severely truncated? Because online reading is often dominated by the F-pattern. That is, people read the first few listed items somewhat thoroughly — thus the cross-bars of the “F” — but read less and less as they continue down the list, eventually passing their eyes down the text’s left side in a fairly straight line. At this point, users see only the very beginning of the items in a list.”

Participants were shown truncated (11 character) links, one at a time, and were asked to predict what they’d find if they clicked on the link – they had  the site’s name and a brief site description for additional context. Then particpants were given a task and asked to pick the relevant link from a list of 10 truncated links, 9 of which were distracters.

He cites a Directgov example of a page title/link, Working while you study: paying tax, as performing badly.

So, some thoughts:

  1. I’d definitely agree with front loading links and titles to get the keywords up front, and advise colleagues to do this. But surely users scan, looking for relevancy and context, so how useful is this test?
  2. In the Directgov example there are three concepts:
    • working
    • studying
    • tax

OK, it is a bit complicated, but the usefulness of the article is about the context of all three – do you have to pay tax when your working but studying too. I don’t think there’s a quick fix, but clearly the most important context is studying. So here’s my suggestion:

Student tax – do you need to pay if you work?

Any better suggestions?


11 April 2009 at 21:52 Leave a comment

Lords Committee on Government Communications

Teresa Perchard and Fiona Munroe from the Citizens Advice Bureau gave evidence at the Lords Committee on Government Communications today.

Interesting comments on the difficulty of finding good information about new government entitlements and obligations and also that the channel shift to online can be disempowering for some. The digitally excluded may find it hard to get the information or need to rely on others to get it, whereas they could be independent with a printed leaflet. Also if you’re needing to negotiate with your employer or council, something printed off the internet looks less official than a printed leaflet.

At minute 30 on the video, Fiona Munroe talks about Directgov, saying she was impressed with its presentation, accessible language and useful links.

I was delighted to hear she found Directgov’s search quite easy to use, saying it offered quite meaningful lists with headings and descriptions, unlike many government websites.

She also pointed out some perceived shortcomings – that some information was fragmented, still reflecting fragmented systems in government and a lack of detail where there were differences between England and the Devolved Assemblies.

22 October 2008 at 22:50 Leave a comment

Visibility of government information

“Yet government websites rarely fit the way that people actually use the internet. A Google search for ‘UK‘ ‘government’ ‘childhood’ ‘obesity’ and ‘“help’ brings up a site that links to some mildly interesting statistics, but the excellent ‘children and healthy weight’ page on directgov does not come up among the first 100 results.” says Edward Lucas in an Economist special report “Look it up on the web

I’d comment on two fronts:

  • If you search for his keywords on Google (searching the whole web) there are relevant Directgov results at #7 and #11 – although not the article he refers to, they are relevant results. A search on Google restricted to UK gives the same results at #5 and #6. From these pages you can get to the article he refers to.
  • He seems, like many commentators, not to understand Directgov’s proposition to write content in the general public’s language. If you change the search to ‘UK government childhood weight’ or ‘children healthy weight’, the “Children and healthy weight” article comes top in whole web and UK. So the article is optimised for general language, rather than more official language.

Nevertheless, it is vital for government to recognise the importance of web search when citizens are looking for information and to start taking visibility in search engines seriously.

17 February 2008 at 21:17 Leave a comment


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