Everything starts with our users: Who are they? What are their needs? How do we deliver digital solutions to address those needs?

The digital landscape is ever-changing. As users continue to adapt to new technologies easily and readily, we have a responsibility to ensure their online interactions with us are as seamless and smooth as possible.

This means focusing on continuous improvement as well as ‘business as usual’. So, with this in mind, how do we approach continuous improvement?

It all starts with our users:

  • Who are they?
  • What are their digital needs?
  • How do we continue to design digital solutions that address these needs?

Who are our users?

Our users can be anyone and everyone.

Public users (those who are not employed by the police) can be split roughly into the following categories:

  1. Report: Those who want to report an incident, crime or accident
  2. Educate: Those who want to educate themselves about a police related topic (for example, how to become an interpreter)
  3. News: Those who want to read news articles
  4. Apply: Those who want to apply for jobs and volunteering roles
  5. Community: Those who want to find a local police station/officer or want to play an active role in their community (such as Community Speed Watch)

In most instances, our users need us when they are in a heightened emotional state, particularly if they want to report an incident. This is worth remembering as a clear thinking, happy person behaves and reacts differently to a person who is stressed or upset.

Understanding our audience’s needs

By looking at our audience groupings, we can start to understand what goals these groups would like to complete online:

Report

Content light, task driven pages (usually an online form). Task focused and likely to leave the site once this task is complete. Potential for the user to be in a heightened emotional state.
Example: Reporting an accident on the road.

Education

In-depth information with a focus on advice, potentially a related task as a secondary need. Users will stay on the site for longer, absorbing information.
Example: Finding out about our ‘Ride Along Scheme’ and registering your interest.

News

Engaging with news articles. Users will enter the site directly via a news article and may go on to read other news pieces before leaving the site.

Apply

Users looking for advice and guidance about jobs and the recruitment process. Repeat visits may take place until they see a role which interests them.
Example: Applying to be a PCSO.

Community

Task-driven activity, often results in a longer visit as a certain level of engagement is required.
Example: Finding out more about the Partners and Communities Together (PACT) process. 

Designing content to aid the user journey

How content is displayed is an important part of how a user interacts with our site and can make the difference between a positive or negative experience.

There are numerous ways we can help users:

Natural language and user voice

Content is easier to scan when it is written using natural language.

Technical jargon and use of internal labels can create a mental sticking point for the user. We always apply the ‘pub test’ when designing content: how would a member of the public explain what has happened to their mates down the pub?

Compare the following examples:

“I had a motor vehicle collision earlier”

“I had a road accident today”

While both examples are describing the same incident, the second example is more likely to be used by the general public. Therefore, rather than name our content page, or form, ‘report a motor vehicle collision’, we simply call it ‘report an accident’.

We conduct keyword research to ensure our pages rank high in Google for the types of phrases searched for by users. As part of our continuous improvement, we review keywords and phrases and focus on the user’s intent when searching for content via search engines or the on-site search.

We also engage with colleagues across the force to understand the language being used in their services. Colleagues who deal directly with the public have an in-depth knowledge of the words and phrases used when explaining incidents. We use these to improve our digital services.

User’s device of choice

According to Ofcom’s ‘A Year of Digital Dependency’ report (Aug 2018), “72% of adults say their smartphone is their most important device for accessing the internet”. With this mobile connectivity and ‘always on’ mentality, the public is increasingly turning to digital solutions to engage with their local police force. We have seen an 114% increase in the use of our online services over a 18 month period.

We know over half our users engage with our website via a mobile device. Smaller screens mean less content is visible when the page loads.

When applying this to our advice pages, which tend to be content heavy, we need to address both format and order:

  • Can the user scan the top level content easily?
  • Are questions with the highest search volume presented first?

How will we continue to deliver a better user experience?

As a team, we have a number of plans we would like to investigate, test and roll out. Over the coming months, we will be looking specifically at how we can improve our on-page elements to help users, on all devices, navigate our content easier and quicker. 

We will also conduct a content audit to identify where we can make improvements, and learn from existing pages that are successfully meeting our users’ needs. External and internal keyword research will strengthen this work.

Listening to the user voice

Our proposed improvements will be tested during independent user testing sessions, to validate our suggestions. This data will help us understand how users interact with the site and the journeys they take.

“Pay attention to what users do, not what they say.”

— Jakob Nielsen

More to come on user testing sessions in the near future.

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