Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council transforms customer user experience with a website redesign
A new website designed and built in collaboration with the GOSS Creative team has enabled an intuitive user experience to help deliver the digital services customers demand from their council.
Its close proximity to London and good transport links make Welwyn Hatfield an extremely desirable area for commuters and families looking to move away from the capital. But that convenience means its population is growing and its demographics are changing - putting increasing pressure on infrastructure and services.
The challenge: a complicated and unintuitive user experience
Welwyn Hatfield's old website principally suffered from being inward-looking. For example, the website's information architecture matched the council's internal organisational structure, rather than the way customers think about council services.
This was also the case for the language and terminology used in the copy. It was full of jargon that's widely used and understood by council employees, but which is often difficult for customers to understand.
Lewis White, Digital Services Manager at Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council explains: "When customers visit their local council's website, it's usually with a specific purpose such as finding bin collection days, paying a parking fine, or reporting a problem - rarely a pleasurable experience. But many found even the simplest tasks were complicated by internal council terminology".
What's more, content had been added to the website over the years without considering the discoverability complications it would create - not least on mobile, which accounts for 50% of website traffic.
The council needed a way to make its website intuitive to navigate with a pleasing user experience, and in a way that made sense for customers. In addition, mobile optimisation and scalability were vital requirements to help meet current and projected future demand.
The solution: a new website that puts customers' needs to the fore
After browsing other vendors for a solution - and based on its pre-existing relationship with GOSS - the Welwyn Hatfield digital team realised that the GOSS Creative team would not only be able to redesign the website to meet Government digital guidelines, but would also be able to give it a "local feel" to make citizens and local businesses feel at home.
Welwyn Hatfield already had a significant amount of Google Analytics data on its website's performance - which gave both teams valuable insight into the most popular areas and services on the old website, including identifying anything that had been lost in mountains of content.
GOSS Creative ran discovery and information architecture workshops to weight content priority in the new website. The two teams then worked closely together to map out the website's new structure - including how it should be designed to maximise usability.
To gain a deep understanding of the council's users and their behaviours - and to define content layout - targeted user journeys were created, which were used throughout the wireframing and design process. This process also helped create a strong brand - based around Welwyn Hatfield's defined audience.
Through their initial discussions, it became apparent that the existing website made poor use of space above the fold. By blending what they knew about page popularity, the team redesigned the homepage's CTAs to be large, clear, and concise - making full use of available space on the homepage.
"Visiting a council website is rarely going to deliver joy to the user, but it should at least bring satisfaction to people who are there to do one thing, and one thing only," says Thom Burn, Policy and Communications Manager at Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council. "We're extremely pleased with the new website; rather than confuse people, it quickly takes them exactly where they want to go".
Both teams also realised that the main website wouldn't always meet everyone's needs. That's why GOSS installed its microsite templates so that specific areas of the council - such as its leisure and museum offerings - could be easily accessed, without complicating other core services.
And because 50% of Welwyn Hatfield's website visitors come from a mobile device, GOSS ensured each page was fully optimised for use on a wide variety of screen sizes and devices.
"We're extremely pleased with the new website; rather than confuse people, it quickly takes them exactly where they want to go."
Thom Burn, Policy and Communications Manager, Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council
The results: an intuitive website that's seen a 5x increase in user traffic
Around 90% of council services can now be accessed from the homepage . And with the site's intuitive search function, customers can now quickly find whatever they're looking for without having to search through complex menus.
GOSS templates have enabled seamless integration with third-party websites - such as Modern.Gov - which allows customers to access external documents and reports without leaving the site.
The new website has also created a cultural shift within the digital team. Because the data the council gets from its analytics is so detailed, it now has a data-driven approach to decision-making - meaning any changes to the website need to be underpinned by evidence, rather than someone's opinion.
Since moving to the new website, Welwyn Hatfield has received extremely positive internal and external user feedback:
- "I found the new layout really easy to use."
- "The new website looks much better."
- "Amazing new website."
- "Comfortable to read and navigate."
- "New website looks great - we all really like the large search button."
"While it's early days, we've seen up to a five-fold increase in users to certain parts of the website", says Lucy Ellis, Website Development and Intranet Manager at Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council. "And the good news is spreading quickly. We now have a waiting list of microsites that colleagues want building based on what they've seen."
"Our relationship with GOSS is very collaborative, underpinned by regular communication. We're a relatively small team so we look for a strong support from our partners, something GOSS has really delivered. The team also completely got how to make lots of information easily assessible, without it being cluttered and confusing."
The two teams continue to work closely with each other as part of a continuous test and learn programme. "I can't overstate how important it is to have a direct line to developers in addition to a project manager," says Lewis White. "The experience I've had with GOSS is unlike any I've had with other vendors."
And because the new website was designed with digital services at the fore, the council is now looking to the next phase of its online development, where it intends to improve the range of self-service functionality available to its citizens and stakeholders.
"I can't overstate how important it is to have a direct line to developers in addition to a project manager. The experience I've had with GOSS is unlike any I've had with other vendors."
Lewis White, Digital Services Manager, Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council
Website Traffic Has Increased:
- +64% to local information search
- +20% to museum information
- +16% to jobs information
- +180% to nutrition courses information
- +445% to news and events information
You can now experience Welwyn Hatfield's newly redesigned website here.