Government has a content problem on GOV.UK

06 January 2017

Trisha Doyle, Head of Content Design for Government Digital Service (GDS) talks through their blog about the work they are doing on GOV.UK’s content operating model, following on from the completion of discovery – research looking at what it’s like for people in departments and agencies to publish on GOV.UK.

To follow is an excerpt from the blog. At the end of the blog Trisha Doyle asks for continued input from users, either by posting at the end of the blog (some interesting comments are already there) or by twitter or email so please do feed in your thoughts.

GDS Blog

Readers of this blog will know that one of the biggest problems faced by GOV.UK’s users is difficulty finding the things they need on the site. We’ve got a team - aptly named ‘Finding Things’ - which has been working on how to address this problem. Part of the answer is to build better search and navigation for GOV.UK - which the team is doing now.

But their research has revealed - conclusively and repeatedly - that the problem isn't just the site's ‘finding’ functionality, but also the sheer volume and low quality of all the things.

We could build the best search and navigation in the world but if there’s lots of content that’s poorly titled, duplicative and written in a way our users don’t understand, they will never find what they need to complete their task.

There’s a lot of content on GOV.UK. At our last count, GOV.UK has over 300,000 items of content and over 250,000 downloadable files on it - and it keeps going up.

Across all central government, we’re adding 2,500 items of content a week and 2,600 new files. Of course government has a legal duty to publish certain things, and we have a responsibility to be open and transparent, but we can do that better.

A reasonable question might be - “well, what’s the problem with lots of content if it’s being used?” The trouble is, it’s not.

73% of the content on GOV.UK is looked at by less than 10 people a month. That’s a problem because civil servants’ time is being wasted producing content hardly anyone is looking at and users’ time is being wasted sifting through hundreds of pages on the same topic.

And because content teams across government don’t have time to maintain their content - instead they’re being asked to produce and publish all that new content - it means content becomes inaccurate, and old content gets mistaken for current. And when users can’t find what they need to know, understand it or trust it, they make mistakes and hit the phones.

And we know the term ‘contact’ is searched for a lot on GOV.UK, more than passports. So there’s lots to be done to help our users. Our research revealed a lot and we’ve distilled it down into 7 themes which will help us decide what we do next.

Go to the GDS Blog to read about what work is going to be done next to improve ‘all that is GOV.UK’ and to feed in your views.