5 Ways to Improve Your Website User Experience

Help your citizens find what they are looking for

"I have run, I have crawled, I have scaled these city walls…
But I still haven't found what I'm looking for
But I still haven't found what I'm looking for
" – U2

Classic song or earworm? I guess that depends on whether it is blasting during spinning class or running through the head of a frustrated visitor as they browse your municipal website. According to a recent Accenture survey, 41% of respondents cited "poorly organized information that doesn't provide clear answers to my questions" as a top obstacle when using local government websites. Sure, your site is beautiful, visually engaging, and showcases your community brand, but if site visitors can’t get their problem solved (I need to register my dog!), get a question answered (How do I submit a service request?), or complete a common task (I need to pay my utility bill!), the site is failing one of its primary purposes.

Therefore, it is vital that the information on your site is easily "findable" and that there is a clear road map to the critical content each site visitor needs. This road map is called information architecture which Mozilla Development Network defines as, “…the practice of organizing the information, content and functionality of a website so that it presents the best user experience it can, with information and services being easily usable and findable.” And it all begins with intuitive, streamlined navigation menus and well organized homepage content.

Ashland County's website is very user friendly.
Maybe you have had your site a long time and your navigation is a bit unruly (aka, too long?) and/or your homepage content is a bit cluttered. Or maybe you have received complaints from citizens. No matter the situation, now is a good a time to evaluate these critical pieces of your website information architecture. Fortunately, most immediate issues can be corrected by you. Read the following 5 steps, use what you need, and you will be on your way to building (or rebuilding!) a user friendly website to that will leave your citizens singing a happy song.

Limit your primary (top level) navigation menu items to 10 vertical and 7 horizontal
This is a great place to start. By imposing such limits, it forces you to prioritize what items are essential and immediately focuses the info for website visitors. The common standard is to organize your primary navigation items by department or topic. Follow this tutorial on how to move sections.

Check the depth of your navigation menu structure
Once you have your top level navigation established, make sure your subsections, aka interior pages, are "nested" no more than three levels deep. In come cases, that might even be pushing things. If you find this occurring on your site, that is the time to evaluate the content on each page. Not every piece of content warrants a new subsection. Often times you can consolidate many pages using Items, into one single page of related information. Follow this tutorial on how to Add Items.

Add short descriptive navigation labels
Remember, we are talking about your site visitors being able to find the information they need without having to think too much. Short, descriptive labels should be able point visitors in the right direction, clearly indicating what they will find once a navigation button is clicked. "Resources" is vague, "Event Calendar" is pretty clear.

Don't guess what your site visitors need, ask them
Create, post and promote a survey to find out what is working and what isn't on your website. Citizens, the people actually using your city website, can provide the most direct and invaluable insights. In fact, negative responses can be in the most valuable! It is easy to generate a simple survey using our Quick Forms module.

Use Google Analytics to gain insight on user traffic
Although slightly more technical, Google Analytics - a free service - tracks visitors to your site, and summarizes those visits into a wide variety of reports. Which pages are most popular? How are users locating specific content? What time of day is your site most visited? These details, and many more, can help you prioritize your top level navigation items and homepage content. Follow this tutorial on how to incorporate Google Analytics on your municipal website.

Need additional help? Chat with our team today!