Camden Website Redesign

Camden Council (UK) Web team
This document outlines phase one of the Camden Council (UK) website redesign project published in May 2010


Follow Camden’s progress at

Camden Council (UK) Website Redesign Project – 1st Stage Overview
Table of content
Page Why do user research? Research methods Recruiting users Other ways of recruiting users Challenges in recruiting users for this project Questionnaire Design Usability Testings Why usability testing is important Our finding shows what’s currently happening This chart shows what should be happening Research Findings Our Research on eyetracking Vs. observational tracking Citizens ‘wish list’ and frustrations with local government websites Increasing transparency through local government web development blogs Local government website redesign project phases and business requirements for Camden Council UK Conclusion 3 3 4 5 5 5 7 7 8 9 9 12 12 16


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User Research
For the past few months on this project, we have been going through several user research sessions using different approaches. From focus groups to individual user testing’s in the users home. Why do user research? You should do some level of user research when the high level design of your of application is underway. • • Task analysis provides important clues to what the interface organization and conceptual design should be,” (Weinschenck, p. 26) Yes it costs money to do user research. It costs even more money to go even into litigation because nobody though about the user first.

According to Jakob Nielsen “Modern day user experience research methods can now answer a wide range of Modern questions. Knowing when to use each method can be understood by mapping them in 3 key dimensions and across typical product development phases. phases.” We felt the user research will • • • Be able to remove stumbling blocks from the user’s path through the website. Be able to get it right early, means moving on faster. Help to satisfy users achieve their goals through the interface

Research methods


Here are some of the research methods that can be used in website redesign projects like ours. We however chose to use focus groups, eyetracking, usability lab studies, A/B testing’s, user interviews and contextual enquiries. Recruiting users

Since Camden has its own consultative panel of nearly 2000 residents called “Camden Talks”, we decided it was the best way to recruit our users from this pool of residents. Emails were sent out to prospective users according to types and categories of users. They were given a week to respond and were also offered some incentive to participate. Other ways of recruiting users Steve Krug gives some great examples on ways to recruit users for website redesign: a. Throw money at the problem (outsourcing)– You can hire a recruiter if you don’t have the time or inclination to do recruiting. b. Look in places where the kinds of people you are looking for tend to congregate. For example, if you want to test senior citizens, consider senior centres, libraries and church groups. If you want people who use your website, put a link on your homepage or create a pop-up invitation that appears when they enter or leave. c. Testing with people who work for your own organization. d. Tack it up on bulletin boards. e. Post it on message boards.


f. Email it to your professional or personal network and ask them to pass it on to anyone they think might be interested. Challenges in recruiting users for this project There were a few challenges in obtaining users for this research. • • Doing the user research during working hours caused people to decline the invitation. In the beginning we didn’t offer cash gift incentive making it harder for users to commit to the research and cancelling at the last minute but this was promptly overcome by offering the cash gift incentive. Finding the right users for the right categories. It was difficult to match users to the exact profiling that was needed for the research. But we tried to match it as best and close as we could.

Questionnaire Design We conducted some user interviews and contextual enquiries for this project and you might be wondering what sort of questions we asked. In order to fully understand our users, we felt we needed to understand their background, skills and habits. Therefore the questions were divided into different categories which include:a. b. c. d. e. f. g. h. i. About You In this section, we wanted to learn more about the user such as • • • • • How long they’ve lived in Camden. Are they currently employed. What qualifications they have. How they travel for work or leisure. What their typical day is like About you Tech and gadgets Mobile Internet Contact and engagement with Camden Council Perceptions and reputation of Camden Council A typical scenario using Camden website Frequent tasks and improvements of Camden website The users wish list for Camden’s new website

Tech and gadgets In this section, we just wanted to understand their approach to technology in regards to when, where and how they buy new devices and gadgets. And also what technology devices they own. Mobile


We also wanted to understand their mobile usage and how it affects their internet usage by asking questions such as:• • • Do you have a PAYG or fixed contract? Do you use your mobile to access the internet? Have you ever paid for anything using your mobile?

Internet This section was important to understand how users use the internet in their everyday lives. The questions would ask: • • • • • • • • • • Where they would typically access the internet. What device they would use If they are comfortable and confident using the internet How frequently they use it If there is a breakdown between personal use and for their job or studying How they connect to the internet at home What is the display resolution What are the websites they like and frequently visit Do they ever contribute to any websites personally If they have ever used the Camden Council website

Contact and engagement with Camden Council In order to understand how users and currently engaging with the council, it was important to ask how they typically contact the council and which services they most use and benefit from. Perceptions and reputation of Camden Council We felt users perceptions and Camden’s reputation may have an effect on their willingness to use the council’s website, therefore we asked the following questions to gain insight on this matter. • • • In your view is there anything that Camden council do particularly well? What do they do badly? Would you say you are broadly happy or unhappy with Camden council?

A typical scenario using Camden website This section tested users experience using the website by asking what and why they were trying to do on the website as well as what happened at each stage of the process. We also asked whether the problem or task managed to get resolved or completed in the end. This is so we could better understand any frustrations that a user might have while undertaking a typical task on our website. Frequent tasks and improvements for Camden website This section covers the basics of our website such as:• What are your first impressions of the website?


• • • •

How easy do you find it to get around the site generally? How easy do you find it to locate the content you want? How good is the quality of the information you want? What improvement would you like to see Camden make?

The users wish list for Camden’s new website This section explores further improvements that the user would like to add to make their user experience more usable and accessible.

Usability Testings
It was important for this project to carry out usability testing’s that accurately explored the problems and barriers users face when using our website. So the usability testings were conducted in the users home where they would use the machine and be in their normal surroundings. This helped to understand the constraints and challenges users face in their own environment.

The image above shows how the usability testing was conducted and the typical desktop environment that is found in a users home. Why usability testing is important In most situations or other types of websites, it’s quite easy to understand why usability testing is important. For instance, an e-commerce website will see users leaving a website before they finish a transaction as a loss of income but for a government website, the impact of bad website usability goes much further. Users use government website such as Camden Council’s website need to find essential information or carry out transactions that effects their lives. Failure to do these tasks can lead to users failure to benefit from council services that could help make their lives easier and more manageable.


Therefore, usability testing in this project is vitally important to ensure residents get the services they need in a timely and efficient manner to avoid frustrations and delays. According to Jakob Nielsen usability is a quality attribute that assesses how easy user interfaces are to use. The word "usability" also refers to methods for improving ease-of-use during the design process. Usability is defined by five quality components: • • • • • Learnability: How easy is it for users to accomplish basic tasks the first time they encounter the design? Efficiency: Once users have learned the design, how quickly can they perform tasks? Memorability: When users return to the design after a period of not using it, how easily can they reestablish proficiency? Errors: How many errors do users make, how severe are these errors, and how easily can they recover from the errors? Satisfaction: How pleasant is it to use the design?

Our finding shows what’s currently happening


This chart shows what should be happening

These charts clearly shows that there is a disconnect between what should be happening and what is currently happening. We are hoping with the new website redesign, we will be able to address the disconnection and reduce users contact with the council through more costly channels such as the phone, letter and in person. Research Findings We did discover a couple of things while conducting our usability testing on the current website.


Search box overlooked


The main sections are not as explicit as the popular links


Our Research on eyetracking Vs. observational tracking We also conducted our own research on eyetracking testing Vs. mouse tracking/observational testing’s. You can find the research here. Over the past few months, I’ve been getting myself acquainted with my new Job at Camden Council and learning the ropes. I’ve been brought in to work on Camden’s new website redesign project. For the past few months, I’ve not only learnt a lot about why and how the website works but also understand the mechanics and workforce that work behind it. Being a researcher, I’ve always valued how much data can help improve customer service. And all of the research conducted on this project so far has proved to be a very valuable process to the project. It has delivered some insightful data on how we should design the website. Design Vs. Usability As I mentioned in an earlier blog post, redesigning a council website does not have the same impact as redesigning an e-commerce website. Its impact has further implications to citizens lives and is not just about fulfilling a desire to get a new pair of shoes or even a brand new car. They just want to find the information they need and complete transactions without any fuss. And this leads to the argument of what is more important, design or the website’s usability? Or can we find a balance between the both? If yes, how do we do this?

Citizens ‘wish list’ and frustrations with local government websites
Based on the user research that we did on Camden residents, we found that people’s expectations on a council website are not that difficult or unreasonable. They just want things to work. Sometimes just an email or letter notifying the process of the query is enough to put their minds at ease. But the truth is, a lot of council website are failing in doing just this based on my own personal research into local council websites. Among the most obvious challenges for citizens when using local council websites and specifically for Camden residents are as follows:• •

Better e-forms – E-forms are not clear, confusing and sometimes just doesn’t work. Need bigger headers and better filters – Some users complained that the headers were too small and the need for better filters of the information. Need acknowledgement of service, not referring to automated reply – Need notification or acknowledgement of current processing stage of query or transaction. The site is confusing, there is too much information – The site is very heavy text and a bit too overwhelming for users who don’t come to use the site regularly or are novice internet users. Wanting to pay online for recycling – Users don’t mind paying for council services online, even the novice users. They feel secure enough to make even the smallest transactions online like for their recycling.


• •

• •

Better and clearer way to sign up for leisure centre and library online – The sign up process can be unclear and confusing. Website should have distinguishing categories like the BT website – Users agreed that there should be a clear distinction between corporate and resident users versions of the website like the BT website where business and home users are clearly defined. Prefer information such as news, events and general information on updates or emergencies to come to them through social networking channels – A regular social network user who subscribes to Love Camden, Camdentalking and our uservoice Facebook page described our social network channels to be useful to her because she likes information to come to her instead of coming to the website. Ability to give feedback – Users also expressed the want and need to give feedback on service, not necessarily on the website but through online channels. Have a “What is your diagnose” type facility – A lot of users seem to like using the NHS website because it has the “What is your diagnose” facility and wondered whether that could be incorporated into the council website Wanted to order lid for bin online but there wasn’t any for lids – User’s bin lid was stolen during the snow, possibly due to people stealing the lids to slide through the snow. Wanted to order the lid online but it was not possible. Therefore had to call to explain that she didn’t want to order the whole bin, but only the lid. Felt the website was information heavy for families but for childless couples or single individuals, it was limited – Interesting insight to how single or childless couples or individuals felt that the website wasn’t particularly relevant to their needs on the website because they did not need the schools, children and etc information. Maybe we should consider a section where this particular group of residents services to be highlighted. Desire to be digitally engaged with council – It seemed that particular segments of users want to be digitally engage with their council but not been clearly guided on how to do that on the website. This might mean that the council and democracy section does appeal to them or give the necessary tools to get involved. Desire to volunteer within their local area – There is also a limited or unclear online resource to look for volunteering opportunities, which also shows they are interested to be involved but yet again, the website does not engage with the activities that they may be interested in. Online licence application – For license application (letter to oppose & licensing list), you must make application by paper and can’t do it online. Unable to find information online – Customers mostly found they would resort to calling after having an unpleasant experience with the website. This mostly happens when they can’t find the information they are looking for. Unrelated headings – Headings and subheadings for categories on website is confusing and somewhat unrelated to the information being searched for.


Services with most problems online – Most when asked about their general experience with the website, they refer to services such as

1. Licensing issues 2. Planning permissions – Some of the residents mentioned they couldn’t find the planning application on the website. 3. Housing repairs and 4. Recycling – Some of the residents mentioned that they would use the website for finding out when to put out the recycling and not for news.

• •

Preference of using the search box – Users found that they couldn’t find a particular service such as building control and rather have a search box to go directly to the information needed. This is mostly down to the unrelated categories in their minds. They also sometimes find the A-Z not useful either. Emergency services (24/7 contact details) – There was also a complaint regarding certain services which needed 24/7 attention such as complains about noise. We tried to search for the number and the number supplied was only for office times only. No 24-hour number was supplied via the website. The user had to refer to Camden magazine to get the 24-hour contact number. This causes a lot of frustration for users when using the website when they need it. It lessens their level of confidence to use the website again in case of emergencies. Limited use of council services – Someusers indicated that if you don’t use the housing or education services, their usage of the council website and services is limited. For somebody who doesn’t use many of the council services, some users found the whole process of calling, polite and preferable but still didn’t get an answer. Therefore they feel that if a person can’t help them, how could a website help them. Wanting more interaction with officers online – They want the ability to make objections online and questions to officer about general interest. Events request – They also wanted to know more about events happening on the website.

Obviously in a project of this scale, we are trying our best to ensure that our user experience is a pleasant and satisfying one. And in order to do that we are calling out Camden residents through various channels to get involved in our usability testings and research. We even recently launched a development site which you can visit here.


Here are some snapshot of the newly launched development site front page.

1. Front page – The front page reflects on the content of the website with carousel rotating on the main content. 2. Camden Website Redesign Project Blog – This blog will talk about the projects progress, some lessons learnt, related topics in regards to the website redesign and the challenges we’ve faced throughout the project. We hope to get feedback from people to ensure we are on the right track. 3. Featured interviews with experts and camden staff involved in the project – We’re also featuring interviews with either experts or our own staff to talk about topics that matter to this project to further inform people on the project progress. 4. Camden’s Project Stages – This section was created as a one-stop-shop or summary where readers can find consolidated blog posts in the form of a PDF for easy reading. 5. We encourage Camden residents and university students to volunteer with our project – One of our main aims is to encourage more people to get involved in the project while we are building the website. Usability testings will ensure that the website satisfies every user experience. We also encourage students to get involved for their research projects.


6. The project website includes links to websites and articles that we feel can help educate people on website development – We wanted this website to not only be about this project itself but also a place where people can come and learn about website development.

Increasing transparency through local government web development blogs
Ever since we launched our web development blog, there has been an increased interest in local government web development blogs. Looking at some of the response below (tweets about Camden’s web development blog and some of our blog posts) that we’ve had over the past few weeks, I believe the number of local government web development blogs will increase and more lessons can be learnt within our growing community.


Popular blog post Our recent blog post about the citizens ‘wish list’ got syndicated onto the Governing People (a popular community for advocates of smarter government that is read and subscribed by many government staff and interested parties from around the world) and was retweeted 30 times and read 1821 times, making it the most read and most commented blog post of the month on Governing People.


See other comments orretweets. I also cross posted this blog post on my website at and also found a high number of retweets and views. This proved that there is still little knowledge of what citizens really want from local government websites and how its largely fascinating for most of us to find out what citizens really think of government websites. There was even an invite to post the blog post as a featured article on GovLoop’s website (a government community of 30,000 government innovators across the world). Background of Camden’s Website Redesign Project For those who are new to this blog/website, we are the webteam at Camden Council (UK) and this website is about our website redesign project. To find out the background of this project, I’ve interviewed the Head of Information Systems here at London Borough of Camden to give you an overview of the project and where we are at the moment in terms of the local government website evolution. Link to video

Background to Camden’s Website Redesign Project from Liz Azyan on Vimeo. What does this mean for local government website innovators? In line with what Alasdair mentioned in the video above, the need for web development blogs are part of the way people are using and consuming the web. I predict that we will see an increase in web development blogs as we saw the growth of local government using other social media outlets like Twitter, Facebook and etc last year. I remember displaying my research data on local councils using social 18

media last year which spurred on more useful and timely lists such as this one by Brent Council. Having started the list on a whim for my PhD research, it created a buzz in the government twitter and blogosphere, which later on brings us here. From little steps in social media (using Twitter, Facebook, Flickr and YouTube), we are moving forward and becoming more serious in taking positive steps towards better service delivery and engagement with citizens online. By blogging about Camden’s website redesign project, we will hopefully increase transparency and be able to share the lessons we learnt and engage with other government counterparts as well as citizens. List of other web development blogs from local governments in the UK Here are some web development blog of local governments in the UK that was kindly pointed out to me by @pluto9 from Brent Council, who runs the eGovernment Register. I’ve picked out my favouriteblog posts from these blogs to highlight how useful sharing this information can be for local government website innovators and citizens alike. 1. Aberdeenshire Council Blog post chosen: User-testing – The results Even though this particular blog post chosen is a bit old (published in October 2008), I feel the information shared is still relevant to us today. It talks about how they used the thinkaloud protocol in their user testing of their new library website. Thee thinkaloud protocol asked users to speak through what they were clicking on, and why. Specifics that they wanted to look at on the new design were
• • • • • • • •

First Impressions New Site vs. Old Navigation On page links External and Related Links Box Colours Page width A-Z on every page

2.Bracknell Forest Council Blog post chosen:Find local health services This blog post talks about Bracknell Forest Council being one of the first local authorities in the country to use data syndicated by the NHS.


3. Brent Council Blog post chosen – 2 blog posts were chosen

Brent going green project – This blog posts highlight how Brent Council is using the BRAIN community website, a Facebook site, Twitter feed and YouTube videos to run the campaign. The project, which is funded by the IDeA, aims to help Brent residents reduce their energy consumption and explore the ways in which online social media can increase awareness of climate change issues. NHS Choices Data – This blog post, similarly to Bracknell Forest blog post, talks about use of NHS Choices Data and how Brent is using it on the Brent Council website. Very interesting usage of maps, gadgets, widgets and property pages.

4. Eden District Council Blog post chosen: Inaccessibility of videos – is YouTube failing the public sector? This blog post highlights a very important issue in regards to accessibility of local council websites, especially when implementing social media applications. Eden District Council talks about how their embedded YouTube videos was almost certainly going to cause major access barriers for at least one group of people. 5. Lincolnshire County Council Blog post chosen: Schools to access vital information thanks to George! This blog post talks about how schools around the county will soon be able to access an array of information thanks to the implementation of George into schools. George – the County Council’s intranet system – is a vital communication tool which allows important information to be accessed quickly and easily by staff throughout the organisation. 6. St. Helens Council Blog post chosen: Council website redesign – Consultation now on! This is an interesting blog post by St. Helens Council inviting users to participate in their consultation for the council’s website redesign. Have a look at what people said on about their test website in the comments and what they have asked people to look at. 7. Warwickshire County Council Blog post chosen: There are so many interesting blog post on this website. I recommend you read them all but maybe these ones will be of most interest. 1. Data Visualisation 2. Making Visionary Strategy a Practical Reality: The Open Data project


3. Warwickshire Already Using the Cloud 4. Open Data: Building the tools to help you Hack Warwickshire. 5. How the Warwickshire iPhone App will lead to open data 8. City of Lincoln Council Blog post chosen:Bin Calendar Search, version 3 This blog post talks about how the web development team at Lincoln worked on their bin calendar search following some feedback on the service. 9. Stratford-on-Avon Council Labs Stratford-on-Avon Council has taken a slightly more innovative approach to their web development site. They’ve created a lab called SDC Labs that has been created to help share current and future website developments with the public. Once developments have been approved, completed and implemented they will become graduates of labs. Tips on setting up a local government web development blog/site 1. Decide who your audience is and what type of website do you want it to be. I found that some councils took the approach of news type blog posts, informing citizens on development of the site. Some councils like Camden, took the route of sharing strategies and research data that we’ve collated over the duration of our website redesign project. And then there are innovative sites like Stratford-on-Avon Council Labs who experiment and create tools. 2. Share your experiences – I find that the only way to truly tap into the benefits of local government web development blogs/sites is to actually share your experience. There are so many problems and issues with local government websites that we need to deal with and the burden can be reduced by sharing with others and learning from them too. 3. Find out what else is out there – Yes, its great to talk about your own development but sometimes it helps to keep a fresh mind by finding out what others are up to and acknowledging to those parties that you are listening. Write about how you’ve learnt from other councils and congratulate them on their efforts. Encouragement from our growing community can boost our motivation to increase the effectiveness and efficiencies of our own council websites.


Local government website redesign project phases and business requirements for Camden Council UK
We are now still in the first phase of Camden Council’s website redesign. There are 3 core phases in this project, that Alasdair explains in detail in the video below. It is important for us to communicate that once the website is launched, this project does not end there. There will be another 2 phases until the cycle is complete. Link to video

Phases of Camden Website Redesign Project from Liz Azyan on Vimeo. The 3 phases of Camden Council’s (UK) website redesign project 1. Phase 1 (User research) – Getting user data, conducting usability research and qualititative data on how people are using the site informing the new designs going live in July. 2. Phase2 (Usability) – Usability of transactions that sit behind the designs, particularly our navigation structure which is very much based on the Local Government Category List (LGCL) and our e-forms. 3. Phase 3 (Innovation) - Developing widgets, iPhone apps, breaking down information on the site into usable things that people can use and any other types of innovations that might come about in the next 12 – 18 months.


How do we know the improvements we’ve made after the website redesign? Link to video

Talking about improvements after Camden Council’s website redesign from Liz Azyan on Vimeo. There’s a disconnect between the objectives of the website and the objectives of the business ~ Alasdair Mangham, Head of Information Systems, London Borough of Camden According to Alasdair, the objectives of the website are largely driven by the local government type targets (i.e. the number of unique visitors to your site and calculation of the population that visits your site). This however does not determine the success or improvement of the new website. How we need to measure improvements in local government website redesign projects As Alasdair mentioned in the video above, we need to ask ourselves what the business objectives are for the website in delivering its services online. We have a huge amount of information sitting there on the website that does not really get consumed by that many users. For instance 80% of our information gets consumed by only 20% of our users, creating a vast long tail of information. Therefore not satisfying the objective of the local authority or business objectives of a particular online service/transactional focused website.


Key objectives of delivering services online for Camden Council Link to video

Key objectives of Camden Website Redesign Project from Liz Azyan on Vimeo. So its clear now that this project needs to fulfill the business objectives in order to make it success. We need to identify what are the business objectives for delivering services online. And once we’ve done that, only then we can start making measurements on the websites’ improvements. Digital Strategy – Camden Council’s Business Requirements It is also important to identify what the business requirements are in this project to ensure they are in sync with the web development of the redesign. Our business requirements are divided into 10 categories. Those categories and business requirements are listed below: •

Strategy and policy – Defining council-wide policies and clear management responsibilities, establishing SLA’s, ensuring web training is documented, resources are secured and roadmap for future developments. Roles, responsiblities and workflows o Assigning ownership of content o Service areas take greater responsibility for site o Facility to allow manager to send content to officer for instant update or vice versa. Brand – Increased promotion of website, all pages conform to a style guide and focus on local area, not just the organisation (i.e. Love Camden content). Technology 24

• •

• •

Integration with service systems E-Form integration with customer services and other systems Single application / engine for all mapping services Platform independent – conformance with EGIF Top content dashboard presented to backend administrators / content editors o Futureproof, scalable and adaptable. Access, channels and engagement o Incentivise online interactions o Ongoing involvement and feedback from residents in understanding their website needs o Enhance digital engagement with users without internet access o Incentivise return visits o Get people to regularly use the site who at the moment rarely visit o Consultation & Engagement Portal o Portals defined by Audience type o Distinctive site focused exclusively for young people o Content, look & feel targeted to youth audience o Ask users for opt-in to SMS when contacting customer services via phone o Satellite sites run by services o Partner extranet o Replacing paper consultations with social media or other online engagement Content o Engage users to pro-actively assist in content curation o Increased synergy between offline and online content o Play to the strengths of digital, and avoid simply copy/pasting content from offline o Democracy section needs improved audit trail facility to observe & track governmental decision making Services and transactions – All services available online Contact, notification and feedback o Increase use of email notification within services o Services and contact should be responsive & provide continuous user feedback o Increase use of SMS notifcation within services o E-newsletters to residents & stakeholders o Ability to update web and call centre instantly o Ensure web and call centre advice is consistent o Ability for users to request online contact ONLY o Integration of FAQs with call centre logs o Improved collection and management of customer data Stats and analysis – User journey data available for analysis by council Social media and user generated content (UGC) o Utilise social media tools for engagement, consultation & communication o Council Home Swap – residents upload photos of flat, search for other properties
o o o o o



Compliment, rather than duplicate, existing websites that support the voice of Camden

Conclusion Hopefully this has given readers a clearer idea of what this project aims to do and what they can expect from Camden Council’s website in the future. Please leave comments if you wish to know more or to tell us what you think of our project. Please don’t forget to check our other blog posts too.


From the user research and usability testings, these insights were discovered: • Digital channels can improve on the ability to resolve tasks Email is neglected as a preferred form of communication because delays are frequent and responses are untrustworthy or sometimes unforthcoming entirely. Response times must be more consistent, with all responses focused on resolution within that channel wherever appropriate. The website is used frequently as a conduit for the phone channel, rather than a source of the desired information itself. Information must be made easier to locate, read and action. For a small but significant minority, primary contact with the council is seen as a barrier to resolution, and prefer instead to pursue direct contact with councillors. This perception needs to be dispelled to ensure customer services are not consistently circumvented or undermined. • Email is the natural successor to the letter to maintain trust & improve immediacy Residents preference for written correspondence stems primarily from a lack of trust in actions being recorded and pursued accordingly via other channels. Email could easily provide this security in a dramatically more immediate manner than a letter, assuming tracking of queries is simple, feedback is ongoing and any correspondence is maintained via a single appropriate voice of authority on the issue. Overpopulation of ‘activists’ in the local government landscape could distract from sincere efforts to listen and respond to broader citizen concerns. Website personalisation would be best utilised to expose relevant local services and frequently used information Displaying frequently used and hyperlocal content are two approaches to ensure that unique journeys through the site, and the key functions to that individual, are suitably emphasised. Users can be easily overwhelmed with content, much of it irrelevant to their needs. Delivery of hyperlocal content would likely be most effective when handled passively, rather than via user-driven customisation, ideally through use of postcode information stored against an online resident account. • Engagement needs to be passive, proactive and ongoing to be most effective Current methods of engagement can seem disorganised or insincere. The belief is that excessive surveys and other quantitative techniques feel


robotic or forceful, whilst tracking of progress regarding raised issues of concern is difficult if not impossible. Likewise, ongoing or repeat involvement is perceived as not valuable or desirable to the council. Evidence suggests that qualitative engagement methods are more likely to make residents feel listened to, valued and understood. Residents feel most influential when they are passively informed of consultations they would otherwise be unaware of, then engaged meaningfully throughout the entire consultation process and explicitly informed of ongoing developments and outcomes. Passive sentiment tracking is possible through the use of social media monitoring tools, though for the foreseeable future it is likely to overemphasise the thoughts and feelings of a minority elite of residents. However, the ability for Camden to seemingly 'mind read' the concerns of it's residents is a powerful tool and likely to generate an immensely positive reaction. Key improvements in website usability & visual design will significantly assist user engagement & productivity o Evidence suggests a preference for short, spacious pages instead of lengthy, condensed, text-heavy pages o Explicit association between content hierarchy and quick links should assist navigation and orientation o Improved visibility and functionality of search will enhance findability of content o Form processes can be made easier to increase conversion of selfservicing transactions o Phone numbers should be highly visible wherever they are essential to reduce suspicion and frustration o Increased use of data visualisation, video and other multimedia is likely to enrich engagement with content and is preferred over numerical or tabular displays of information o Improved error messaging will help reduce confusion and site abandonment Significant demand for neutrality suggests a strictly informative, and moderately formal, tone would be the most effective form of communication on the website The use of prominent space on the home page to temporarily promote key events (such as adoption and fostering open evenings) can be divisive as it is open to interpretation of bias, favouritism or ‘preaching’. Any home page space used to promote key messages from the council needs to be carefully toned to be informative rather than pushy, and accommodate multiple messages across the broader spectrum of council activities. Residents use the website for a wide variety of purposes and neutrality of information is vital to ensure trust and prevent content from being obscured. Remember, ‘at your service’. Transparency of decision-making and conflict resolution improves understanding and positive sentiment Unaddressed or poorly maintained queries can cause a significant 28

negative impact on confidence and trust in the council. Residents feel empowered, considered and more understood when they are regularly and passively informed of ongoing concerns, even if these concerns are not resolved to their satisfaction. Email queries should be addressed within a reasonable timeframe, with an indication of progress whenever resolution is not instantly possible. All outcomes, however negative, should be explicit, and dealt with in an open and honest manner.

Follow Camden’s progress at


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