https://pds.blog.parliament.uk/2018/05/09/how-were-engaging-users-with-the-beta-website/

How we're engaging users with the beta website

The beta website team have been busy creating a new website for UK Parliament. So far, we’ve built MPs' pages, Lords' pages, constituency pages, and others, but a big question remained unanswered. Are we reaching out and engaging with Parliament’s audience?

Taking action

The team decided to take action. Our goal was to install a short term solution to help search engines and users of parliament.uk find our new beta pages.

We worked through many possibilities before coming up with our solution. We decided to create a direct link from the current website to our MPs' pages and Lords' pages. This would give current users the option to view the new pages and could also help us get feedback to iterate and improve them.

Barriers and obstacles

Once we'd agreed on the solution, our team worked together to create a banner alerting users to the new beta pages and provide a link to take them there. We also included a similar banner on beta to help users navigate back to the current site.

It seemed like a straightforward solution to a simple problem. What could go wrong?

Unfortunately, we discovered restrictions on the current Parliament website that stopped us from doing what we originally intended. After a few meetings, and an inspired intervention by our enterprising back-end developer, we settled on a new plan.

The solution

The team decided to harness the power of Google Tag Manager to add inline HTML to create the link from parliament.uk to beta.parliament.uk.

A screenshot of the new banner on the current website

For the link from parliament.uk to beta.parliament.uk, we employed our beta.parliament.uk lookup functionality. The lookup functionality maps IDs from other systems to the IDs we use on beta. Using the ID from an MPs' page or Lords' page URL on the current website, we were able to generate a link that would redirect users to the equivalent page on beta.

A screenshot of the new banner on the beta website

The link back, from beta to the current website, was trickier as the URLs on parliament.uk aren’t consistent in their structure. So we had to write additional logic to make sure users end up at the correct destination.

Now that we had our solution in place, we created a dynamic dashboard to track its effectiveness. Would adding these links help us achieve our goal of search engines and users of parliament.uk finding our new beta pages?

The outcome

So far, so good. The outcome has been very positive.

The main headlines:

  • performance is better than we expected it to be at this early stage
  • there have been significantly more users and pageviews to the new beta pages for MPs and Lords compared to the previous thirty days
  • there’s been an increase of over 2000% of users leaving feedback
  • the team have received a significant increase in the amount of feedback through other mediums (the feedback email account for example)

These headlines make for great reading and show that we’re getting more people to visit the beta pages and leave feedback. The comments received are added to our backlog and will help shape future iterations of the MPs' pages and Lords' pages on the beta website.

Achieving what we set out to do

As we collect more data, the team will develop our understanding of the impact of the banners. The areas we’re particularly interested in at the moment are:

  • understanding how users clicking the beta page banners interact with the pages (for example, do they go back to the current site and, if so, why?)
  • the behaviour of internal users compared with external users
  • investigating how the position of the banner on the new beta pages affects user interaction
  • gathering feedback on beta.parliament.uk to confirm our user assumptions and build a better service

In summary, we’re achieving what we set out to do as we have data to show that users of parliament.uk are engaging with our new beta pages and providing feedback.

Read more about the work we're doing to improve parliament.uk

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