Update to site is intended to better serve mobile users – who now constitute two thirds of traffic
Government has launched a redesigned version of its core GOV.UK website that is intended to better serve mobile users and enable citizens to more easily browse by topic.
The GOV.UK home and menu bars – which list 16 core topics, such as benefits, driving and transport, money and tax, and disabled people – have not been changed. But, once a user clicks on a topic, they are now presented with a grid page displaying further options; for the disabled people page, for example, this includes sub-topics such as carers, equipment and transport, and benefits and financial support.
This information was previously presented in three columns fanning out from left to right and overlapping.
According to Sam Dub, GOV.UK product lead at Government Digital Service, while this menu design “worked well on desktop, its benefits did not translate onto mobile – which is how two thirds of users now experience GOV.UK”.
The updated site (picture below, next to the outgoing design) directs users to a new page each time they click on an option, until they reach the service or information they are seeking.
Dub claimed that the ultimate aim of the sharpened focus on topic-based browsing is to improve site navigation, and thereby “make it easier for the millions of people who use GOV.UK every day to find the essential information and services they need”.
“While some users will use search to find information… we know that many users on GOV.UK prefer to browse through the site, particularly if they are unfamiliar with a topic, don’t know what to search for, or want to see everything available to them,” he said.
The outgoing layout also contained “several hard-to-fix accessibility problems” which the revamp has helped to address by “simplifying the experience for users of screen readers and people who magnify the page”, he said.
“The new design also significantly increases the size of touch targets, the area of the page you need to tap to follow a link,” Dub added. “We’ve seen this improve the overall mobile experience, especially on smaller phone screens, and can be particularly helpful for people with a tremor or motor impairment.”
The new-look GOV.UK launched last week, following a period of testing in which half of visitors to GOV.UK were presented with the new version, and the other half with the previous design.
The results showed that the update delivered an improvement to what Dub said was GDS’s “key performance indicator”: clickthrough rate, which increased from 61.6% to 65.1%.
Further A/B testing will take place over the coming weeks, with 50% visitors sub-topic pages presented with “expanding sections” and the other half seeing a display featuring “dividers”.