https://pds.blog.parliament.uk/2018/06/22/improving-parliaments-online-visitor-experience/

Improving Parliament's online visitor experience

Parliament is one of the most popular attractions in London. Every year, more than half a million people go on tours, attend debates and committee sessions, meet with their MP, visit exhibitions, and attend events.

As part of the work to build a new website for Parliament, the PDS collaboration team have been exploring how we can improve information for visitors coming to Parliament.

We’ve just finished the alpha phase where we did rapid prototyping and testing in eight weeks, so this is what we learned.

What users need

Parliament commissioned the research agency Bunnyfoot to find out what user needs were not being met by the current website. They identified that people didn’t know they could visit Parliament and that basic visiting information is hard to find.

What did we focus on?

During our discovery phase, we ran persona workshops with different people who deal with visitors to Parliament. From that, we identified eight personas of people who want to visit.

These were:

  • overseas tourist with family who want a tour
  • tourist with a child who uses a wheelchair
  • group leader arranging a group visit
  • politically engaged citizen attending a committee session
  • school teacher bringing their class on a tour
  • external event organiser arranging charity, corporate, or personal events
  • internal event organiser – MPs and their staff arranging events
  • event attendee coming along to an organised event

We realised that we couldn’t focus on all the personas during our alpha phase, so the team did a three day workshop to go through everything we had learned in discovery and come up with some goals for alpha.

From that, the team decided that the best thing to focus on would be tourists coming from the UK and overseas. This meant primarily looking at guided and audio tours of Parliament.

Mobile-first

Screenshots of the prototypes on a mobile device
Screenshots of the prototypes on a mobile device

Alpha is all about creating design assumptions, rapid prototyping, and testing with users. In discovery, our performance analyst did research to find out how people were using the visiting pages.

She identified that people using mobile devices accounted for around 30% of the sessions to the visiting landing page, versus 23% of people using mobile devices to visit other pages on parliament.uk.

Also, the visit team said that one of their goals is to compare with other tourist attractions, where people are using mobile devices to find information and book tickets.

That meant that the team decided to take a mobile-first approach. This means exactly what it says on the tin – design for the smallest device and work your way up.

Working out where a user starts

There are a range of different factors that affect how and when people can go on a tour of Parliament.

There are lots of different tours on offer. This includes audio tours, guided tours, family guided tours, tactile tours for visually impaired people, and specialist tours, for example a Vote 100 tour.

We're also a bit different to other tourist attractions because going on a guided or audio tour needs to fit around the work of Parliament. So commercial tours can only run when the House is not sitting. This means that tour dates vary from month to month.

There’s more. Guided tours run in different languages on different days which is also a significant factor when booking.

These were all big considerations when prototyping and we needed to find out how users navigated these factors when booking.

Prototyping and testing

Using post-its to map out the user journey
Mapping out the user journey

We started off by sketching out the main user journey, which the team commented on with their different ideas.

We then created two different prototypes with three rounds of user testing using mobile devices.

Prototype testing with a user using a mobile device
Prototype testing with a user

Some of the findings over the three rounds of testing were that users:

  • may use the ‘book tickets’ call to action early in their journey
  • need more information about ‘add ons’ like afternoon tea
  • need to see and understand price details for tours
  • understood the calendar was showing dates they could visit
  • expect to get a summary of their purchase in a confirmation message
  • expect tickets and communications to be sent to mobile devices
  • found the calendar to be a natural starting point
  • may explore extensively to find different tour information
  • would like to be able to compare the different type of tours
  • said tour length is an important detail
  • found the contents of the confirmation email to be good and met expectations
  • who went directly to the 'book a tour' screen did not navigate to get further information
  • successfully completed the booking process overall

Building in beta

After the final round of testing and analysis, the team made some changes to the prototype and we’re now in a position to start fleshing out and building our designs in beta. There are still important considerations we need to think about like security, how to get here, and so on. We’re also starting to look at data modelling and how things like a content management system will work with the visiting content on the website.

Read more about the work we're doing to improve our website

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