On Thursday 15 May, web assistants from Parliament’s web and intranet service had the pleasure of attending a Bunnyfoot training course, “Designing for the Human mind/brain”.
The day was centred on exploiting psychological theories and neuroscience in order to deliver exceptional interactive design.
The day was fascinating and we learned a lot so we thought we would share a few ideas that we picked up and think we might be able to apply in our day to work in Parliament.
Selective Attention and Filtering:
As users in 2014, we expect great design for websites and apps that we use. It is no longer a plus point, but it has become something that can be achieved relatively easily using a whole variety of free and open source software.
This being said, we as users have moved on from being in awe of great design to now filtering out ‘the styling’ to hone in on the information that we came to find.
So the question I ask; ‘what level of importance do we place on styling like different fonts and colours? If in the end, the user filters it out?’
Parliament.uk is a heavy content provider. This is what we do best and this is why people come to our site and treat it as the definitive source. Naturally we have to make the site easy to find and intuitively designed, but why spend more time than needed worrying about what the font should be? Or what the colour of the right-hand module is? Users want to consume our content.
According to the Flesch-Kincaid Readability scale, Parliament.uk has a reading-ease of 50.2*. This is based on a 0-100 scaled (comics rate at 90). This is a pretty decent score but by doing the following and ensuring that content editors keep these points in mind we could get better.
- Avoid unnecessary jargon. Yes, those who work in Parliament will understand but millions who come to visit the website won’t. Which leads into…
- Don’t assume who will be reading your content. Make it as simple as possible so that everyone can read it.
- Add more context to stories. Provide links to related information that will help users understand the whole picture.
*Based on Parliament.uk. For a more accurate score, we should test a whole variety of different types of pages and then average.
Design - Visual Weighting, Contrast and Size:
- We need regular user-testing to subvert preconceived ideas and bias and to avoid the notion of ‘designing for yourself’ when creating new pages. We also need to create an environment where designs can be challenged so we have to move away from the senior/highest paid opinion always being right.
- Simply creating a content hierarchy of importance. What do users want the most when they come to your page? This is the question all content editors should ask themselves when creating their page.
- The new committee inquiry pages are being designed with this in mind and with regular user testing to find out exactly what we should place towards the top of the page, these pages will look great.
- We should re-assess the importance of right-hand modules when adding them to our pages. Could that content be added to the main body? Does it distract the user from what they are looking for or does it in fact give them another avenue which is related?
As digital channels become increasingly important to Parliament and the trend across the globe is that governments are becoming more transparent, we need to re-evaluate who are users are especially when we creating our content. Here at the Web and Intranet Service, we are looking at how we can improve our site, both with testing and with more focus on user needs.