Our forms system has been delivering over two years of high-quality reports with some amazing feedback from the public and a satisfaction rate of 96%. It is now time for the rest of the website to get an upgrade.

As a force, we have nationally, and even internationally, been recognised as leaders with our citizen-facing digital service. This is thanks to the collaborative support we get from teams across the force, a focus on understanding and solving localised citizen’s needs, whilst remaining flexible in our approach to continuous delivery of value.

This month we pushed the bar even further, not with super fancy features (although there are many behind the scenes), but with simplicity for our citizens. This simplicity ensures there is minimal friction for our public in their time of need when interacting with us online.

So, what have we done?

We have:

  • A new homepage which is task-focused, enabling the public to identify where they need to go quickly
  • Reviewed our online content to help the public view and complete tasks in a simple and user-friendly manner
  • Created a suite of new design elements to help the public scan pages and identify priority messaging (these can also be used by Corporate Communications in their News stories)
  • Researched the keywords and phrases used by the public when searching for police-related content, which will, in turn, improve our performance in search engines such as Google
  • Improved our page load times, making the website quicker to load on all devices
  • Enhanced our site search function
  • Improved our accessibility for disabled users
  • Improved the content management system for the team – allowing us to maintain the site more easily
  • Moved the site into cloud hosting (like our Forms system) for resilience and speed

In more detail…

New homepage and navigation

The homepage is the least important page on many websites believe it or not! Most people access websites through a Google search, taking them straight to the page they are looking for (more on that later!). Only 6% of citizens visit the homepage of our website out of 1.5 million users each year.

You’ll see the new homepage does away with the top navigation menu and has become the main site navigation. You’ll have seen a similar thing with gov.uk .

The boxes on the homepage are task-focused, clearer and simple. Our user testing with members of the public highlighted that they found the old ‘Advice’ and ‘Services’ categories a bit confusing (for example, ‘debris on the road’ was listed under ‘advice’). This feedback presented us with the opportunity to improve our content categorisation, making it more intuitive and in-line with user’s natural behaviour of wanting to report, request or apply for information from us.

Below shows the new homepage:

Screenshot of our new homepage

Page design

Most people scan web pages. They are looking for keywords and don’t have time and patience to read through lots of text. If you don’t get them to their goal quickly they lose patience and will leave. Our old site already had pages that were quite clear. However, we have improved this even further with the new design as well as reviewing existing content to make even more improvements.

The result will be improved citizen confidence and ability to get answers to their tasks really easily. We saw this first hand in our user testing sessions, with one member of the public commenting that the information given, and presentation of this content, would “assure me and make me feel safer”.

Below shows the old burglary page:

Screenshot of the old burglary page

Compared to the new burglary page:

Screenshot of the new burglary page

Using the same language as the public

As part of our content review, we used internal and external data to explore which keywords and queries were used in search engines, such as Google, to find police-related content.

Identifying the language that members of the public use means we can improve the likelihood that our website will rank for these phrases by including them in our on-page content, URLs and within the technical set up of individual pages.

Page speed

Why is page speed important?

People’s patience online these days is measured in seconds, in some cases milliseconds. If a website doesn’t load quickly, especially on a mobile device, they will become frustrated and in the best case just be annoyed, worst case, just leave and ring us on 101.

Below shows a comparison of a site speed test between our new site and the Met’s:

Screenshot of site speed test showing a score of 99 for Avon and Somerset Police site
Screenshot of site speed test showing a score of 27 for the Met Police

Better search

Only around 3% of people search the website itself, as most use Google to get to it. However the old website search wasn’t particularly great. The new search feature is significantly better.

(Although until we move the rest of the old site across, the new search only covers the new site for now.)

Screenshot of search box

Dark mode

The website has a dark mode option which will automatically detect people’s device or browser settings if they have dark mode enabled:

Screenshot of dark mode

In the coming months we will be moving over the remaining areas into the new site such as the your area pages, Freedom of Information and more.

We are also about to pilot a brand new service we believe will give the public another innovative and convenient way to interact with us online about an existing crime report. More on that in a future blog…