The Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner (OPCC) for Avon and Somerset has launched a new website, in collaboration with the Police Digital Services (PDS) Team at Avon and Somerset Police. 

Over the last eight months, staff from the OPCC and PDS have been working together to create a website focussed on citizen needs and goals.  

Our objectives were to: 

  • Make the website easier to navigate by improving the Information Architecture (IA) 
  • Remove unnecessary pages  
  • Review all content to ensure it is factually correct, formatted for the web and with search engine optimisation (SEO) in mind 
  • Identify opportunities to use online forms to help citizens contact the OPCC and reduce demand on the OPCC team 
  • Create a distinctive digital brand for the OPCC which was loosely connected to the Avon and Somerset Police brand to ensure a visual relationship between the two   
  • Produce a digital style guide to be used by the OPCC team and to train OPCC staff on web best practices. 

In more detail…

Improving the Information Architecture  

Information Architecture (IA) is the name given to the structuring and labelling of website content to enable users to navigate the site and complete tasks as quickly and easily as possible. 

As 89% of visitors are new to the site, it is important that the IA is clear and easy to follow. We discussed the top goals with the OPCC team, and reviewed Google Analytics data to confirm the main user tasks. We then set to work thinking of names for the ‘primary menu’. 

A snapshot of before and after: 

A before and after view of the OPCC's primary menu

Removing unnecessary pages  

Looking at the existing sitemap, we found the site had grown organically over the years, resulting in unnecessary and similar pages.  

After honest discussions about whether these pages were adding value to the user, or were legally required to be on the site, we culled 95% of the pages. 

Most of the culled pages were historical news stories and so, to stop this happening again, we defined a retention period for news stories and set an automatic expiry date that will remove stories from the site.  

Content review 

We reviewed the content on the remaining pages to ensure it was factually correct and that it was written with citizens in mind, defining: 

  • What is this page about? 
  • How will the page help a user? 
  • What is the user’s next step?

As part of the content review, we took SEO considerations into account – defining Meta titles, Meta descriptions and using on-page elements to make the page clear for citizens and search engines.  

Using content to educate 

Analysing citizen feedback raised by the OPCC team, it was clear that citizens do not always understand the role of the PCC, and how this differs from the Police, or the role of the OPCC. Further to this the Office now has a Deputy PCC, a first for the organisation.  

To address these issues, we created a new ‘About’ section which defines the role of the PCC, the Deputy PCC and the OPCC. 

In addition to this, citizens were unsure when to contact the OPCC or when to contact Avon and Somerset Police. To reduce this confusion, we have revised the ‘Contact us’ section to outline what the OPCC deals with, and what Avon and Somerset Police deal with. We hope to see a reduction in the number of queries mistakenly sent to the OPCC.   

Using online forms to reduce demand  

OPCC general enquiry form on a mobile

When speaking with the OPCC team, it became clear a lot of the team’s time was spent dealing with emails from citizens where more information was needed. This was, in part, because the ‘contact page’ listed an email address who meant anyone could contact the OPCC team without clear guidance as to what information was needed to aid their enquiry.  

This was putting demand on the OPCC team who were having to reply to citizens asking for more detail and was resulting in context switching from one enquiry to another whilst waiting for further information.  

To reduce the demand on the OPCC and allow them to reply to citizen enquiries more efficiently, we have created online forms using Avon and Somerset Police’s in-house form system, Formation. The first two forms to go live, based on demand, are the General Enquiry form and the Complaints form. 

Both forms ask citizens questions relating to their enquiry, prompting the user to provide details or upload supporting evidence in order to collate the necessary information in one place.

The forms also clearly define what types of enquiries can be submitted and signpost users to other communication channels if necessary. Completed forms are securely submitted directly to the OPCC team.   

Creating a distinctive digital brand 

The OPCC website remains mostly static in design, regardless of who the serving PCC is.  

We wanted to ensure the longevity of the design, whilst creating a visual continuity between the OPCC website and the Force’s website so citizens know they are related to each other but are separate organisations. 

To achieve this, we re-utilised some of the core elements from the Force’s digital pattern library but chose a different colour palette consistent with the OPCC branding. 

Designing a homepage based on user needs 

We prototyped a few different homepage designs based on the top tasks identified by the OPCC and looking at the Google Analytics data.

The result is a homepage that is aligned to the user needs of the OPCC’s audiences and as such has a very different look and feel to it than the Force’s although they use similar elements.  

Defining a digital style guide and sharing best practices 

We identified early in the project that the OPCC did not have a digital style guide, so in order to keep consistency throughout the content review we developed a style guide.

This document forms the basis of any new content creation and will help to unify online and offline content.  

Furthermore, throughout the project we have shared web best practices with the OPCC team to ensure they have the tools in place to run the website once it was launched.   

Websites are ever evolving so we will continue to support the OPCC team going forward, monitoring user feedback and creating additional online forms.  

Visit the new OPCC website 

Take a look at the new OPCC website and let us know what you think.