Over the past few months we have been building, testing and developing our corporate website. We will soon be going live with our public beta, and before then we will be telling stakeholders through our blog how we have developed the site with the user at heart.
Why the overhaul?
The corporate website has grown to an unwieldy size with lots of content being added but never removed, with information sitting in odd places. A lot of guidance sat in PDF format, which is very difficult to search for.
We knew people couldn’t find what they needed. A lot of customer enquiries were from a wider audience, not just the primary audience of solicitors and paralegals. On close inspection we found a lot of legal language: quite alienating for many people.
It wasn’t compliant with the Government Digital Standards for usability and accessibility that all of our new products and services adhere to, and doesn’t reflect the major digital transformation work happening across all of our services.
Who needs to know about RoS?
First we checked out our website analytics. Data only tells you what the website users are doing, but not why.
Then we set about building a better picture of all the different types of people we might need to reach, and the tasks they could be coming to us for.
Luckily we had a lot of customer-facing colleagues across RoS willing to help us understand the customer journeys.
With colleagues’ help we ran various workshops and one to one mapping exercises, we built up a collective understanding of customers and their tasks, and planned out what the answers would be as the basis for writing content.
At that time we heard about an experiment going on in the Innovation Centre to build up data on the types of customer enquiries we receive, so we worked closely with the team and shared our findings. We saw a lot of correlation that opened up potential to use the website much more to answer the big hitters. For instance we have a high number of people looking for copies of title deeds and ownership enquiries.
Some questions were much too complex for the website to answer, but there were some clear ‘wins’ we could make that maybe – just maybe – might take some of the pressure off the RoS phone lines.
With the help of subject matter experts groups of tasks began to emerge that would help us to get to grips with the thorny task of creating a more meaningful set of navigation labels.
Too much to cover!
We realised we’d have to focus on a fairly narrow group of audiences and tasks for getting the website over the line, or we’d be looking at a launch date of 2030! We will take on new elements once we’ve released the beta site into the wild.
Prototyping and iterating
User journeys became rough sketches. Big scrawls on a whiteboard became wireframes, with first drafts of content to really get a feel for what someone could be interacting with. Labels, layouts and content changed and the user journeys got simplified.
Prototyping and tinkering
We sketched out information journeys, and wrote some radically minimal content to create prototypes. Everything went up on whiteboards, to let people add scribbles and comments.
This allowed us to refine and reduce the flows, adjust content and labels, and put together some quick prototypes to test with people outside. If it we ripped it up and started again, no problem. It had been a rapid process. We had a starting point and discussion tool.
Putting it to the test
The first designs were tested with paralegals in Edinburgh and Glasgow.
We had built in some hypotheses but couldn’t say if they would work for customers until we’d tested them. For instance, we started out with a full end to end journey for registration but we soon realised that experienced solicitors were more interested in easy access to each individual service. However they pointed out that we’d hit on a quick guide for trainee solicitors, an unexpected win!
Two more testing sessions with trainees, solicitors and paralegals in Dundee and Aberdeen, allowed us to further refine the designs, labels and content.
Getting the tone right
We’ve aimed for straightforward language wherever possible that describes what we do and the services we offer, to reach a broader audience than before. We’ve removed legal terminology, but designed routes through to detailed legal guidance on the Knowledge Base. We hope the Knowledge Base will become the go-to place for solicitors and paralegals looking for that level of granularity, and the ros.gov.uk for everything else.
More to come
We’ve now reached a point where we’ve tested the site enough to launch a public beta website. It will evolve over time to serve the different user groups that we have. We’ve incorporated easy feedback mechanisms into every page so that we can make changes based on real needs and we’ll be monitoring our analytics against a set of goals.
We’ve already been beavering away to create some more engaging content that we can test with members of the public.
We’re kicking off a piece of research to understand the needs of legal students, lecturers and trainee solicitors.
The website will launch in late May, but watch this space for blogs from other team members coming very soon. If you are interested in testing the new site please get in touch with the team at email@example.com