One link on GOV.UK – 350,000 more organ donors

Last autumn we shared early results of testing various versions of the GOV.UK ‘Thank You’ page. First introduced a year ago, people see this page once they’ve bought their tax disc via GOV.UK. People are generally more open to trying out new stuff after completing a successful transaction, so we’ve been using this page to encourage as many  as possible join the NHS organ donation register.

 Over 350,000 people have now registered for organ donation via this one link on GOV.UK [since Jan 2013]

Via a comment on that earlier blog post, Claire reminded me recently that we’d not shared the final results of the experiment, notably which type of message was most effective at persuading people to register.

What we tested

Working with the Cabinet Office Behavioural Insights team, DVLA and NHS Organ Register team, we tested eight different calls to action with a total of over 1,000,000 visitors to the tax disc ‘Thank You’ page.

The eight variants below appeared at random, and we worked closely with the NHS Organ Donation team to see which one generated the most completed registrations. This is known as A/B testing.

Variants of Done page for organ donation 1 to 4Variants of Done page for organ donation 5 to 8

What we found

Here are the results, showing which variant was most effective at getting people to actually register for organ donation. The percentages are not just for click-throughs; they’re actual organ donor registrations.

Bar chart showing which variant was most effective at driving organ donation registrations

The most successful variant introduced concepts of reciprocity and fairness by asking people: “If you needed an organ transplant, would you have one? If so please help others.

I don’t feel qualified to speculate as to the reasons why this particular message performs best – data trumps intuition. But, feel free to add your thoughts via the comments below.

We ended the experiment in the autumn, and have left this “reciprocity”  message in place. Meanwhile, the new digital team at DVLA has got on with updating the tax disc service.

Since the DVLA tax disc online service is used by around 2m people every month, the impact of such optimisation is significant.

Extrapolated over 12 months, some 96,000 more people will register compared with the original call to action. (“Please join the NHS Organ Donor Register“). In December the former Cabinet Office Behavioural Insights team published a paper with more statistical detail on the experiment.

In total over 350,000 people have registered for organ donation via this one link on GOV.UK since we added the original call to action just over a year ago.

Stuff worth doing.

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via Government Digital Service » Tom Loosemore

Report a misleading website to search engines

Government services have been getting a growing number of complaints from people who feel misled by websites which charge for access to public services that are either free or much cheaper when accessed via the official GOV.UK website.

Examples include people trying to renew their passport or driving licence, book a driving test or apply for a European Health Insurance Card via the NHS.

Example of google search  result and advert

Example of a legitimate advert above Google’s search results. If you feel misled by an advert, Google has a simple form to let you report your concerns.

Many people complain that they felt these third-party websites did not provide of any value over and above the service already available on the official service, accessed via GOV.UK. Some of those complaining felt misled into thinking such 3rd party websites were actually the official, government-run service.

The vast majority of people end up on such websites after clicking on an advert appearing above the normal search results on Google, Bing or Yahoo.

If you feel misled by such an advert, Google now has a simple form to let you report your concerns.

We have been working with Google, by far the largest search engine in the UK, to tackle this aspect of the problem. Over the past few days, Google has  stopped selling adverts to some of the websites which have been the cause of many complaints.

But Google remains very keen to hear from people who feel misled after clicking on such adverts appearing above their search results.  This will help them remove such adverts as quickly as possible.

If you feel misled by such an advert, Google now has a simple form to let you report your concerns.

Google now offers a simple form to let you complain about misleading adverts

Google now offers a simple form to let you complain about misleading adverts

We would encourage people to complain to Google if they feel aggrieved, since this may prove the swiftest and most effective way to fix this problem.

You can also report concerns about potentially misleading adverts appearing above Bing and Yahoo! search results.

On a related note, if you’re concerned about phishing emails, or other Internet scams, visit this page on GOV.UK.

via Government Digital Service » Tom Loosemore

DVLA, we salute you

My first visit to meet DVLA in Swansea back in the summer of 2012 filled me with hope.

I met Carolyn Williams MBE, who runs DVLA’s tax disc service. She showed me a wonderfully well-categorised list of feedback sent in by users of her very popular online service; tens of thousands of comments each year.

Here was a service manager who was listening to her users. She knew precisely which aspects of her service could be improved.

Her problem was how to deliver dozens of relatively small improvements, without breaking the bank or disrupting other priorities.

So I’m delighted that DVLA, under the new leadership of Oliver Morley, has found a way to help Carolyn and her users. Just before Christmas a new multi-disciplinary delivery team started work in Swansea, using Government Service Design Manual as a guide. When I popped in to see them in late January their story backlog was looking healthy.

Yesterday DVLA announced that they had put the beta release of the online tax disc service live. See the invitation to try the beta at the bottom of the screen grab below.

Screen Grab of new tax disc start page with beta link

The renew your tax disc page on GOV.UK, showing the invitation to try the new beta

Given the user research already done, the DVLA team are confident that the beta will be simpler, clearer and faster for users.

For example, the design now responds elegantly to different screen sizes, meaning the near-40% of visitors to GOV.UK who are using a mobile or tablet will get a vastly improved experience. That’s got to help encourage even more people to join the tens of millions who already buy their tax disc online every year.

The new beta now works properly on small screens

New vs old: The new beta now works properly on small screens

So if you’re due to renew your tax disc, visit the tax disc page on GOV.UK you’ll see an invitation to try the new beta version. The team is as keen as ever to improve the service in response to feedback from users.

What’s new is that DVLA can now iterate their service in a fraction of the time, and at a fraction of the cost.

So, in no particular order, congratulations to the DVLA team responsible: Matthew James, Craig James, Emma Kapias, Dianne Williams, Simon Taylor, Bethan Jewell, Michelle Phillips, Nic Walters, Ian Davies, Rhian Williams, Jim Frewin & Mark Jones.

We at GDS salute you. 

PS GDS has had almost no involvement in this project, other than applauding from the sidelines. This isn’t one of the 25 exemplar services we’re helping departments and agencies transform. As with the new DCMS intranet, this is simply DVLA demonstrating the new normal.

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via Government Digital Service » Tom Loosemore

Browser, operating system and screen resolution data for GOV.UK

Browser, operating system and screen resolution data for GOV.UK

(Image courtesy of  Guy Moorhouse)

Earlier this month I dug into the analytics data to better understand what devices people are using when visiting GOV.UK.  I thought I’d also quickly share headline data on what browsers, operating systems and screen resolutions we’ve seen over the past month across the whole site. I hope it’s useful.

Rank Browser Jan-14 Jan-13
1 Internet Explorer 29.2% 38.7%
2 Chrome 27.5% 21.8%
3 Safari 25.0% 20.4%
4 Firefox 8.5% 10.7%
5 Android Browser 7.0% 5.8%
6 Safari (in-app) 0.8% 1.4%
7 BlackBerry 0.7% 0.4%
8 Amazon Silk 0.5% 0.0%
9 Opera 0.4% 0.5%
10 Opera Mini 0.2% 0.2%

We’ll publish more detailed browser version breakdown data soon, though I can’t resist sharing that Microsoft IE6 usage seems to have halved to 0.4% from 0.8% over the past 12 months. Note: this browser data combines both desktop and mobile versions.

Rank Operating System Jan-14 Jan-13
1 Windows 57.0% 67.9%
2 iOS 22.5% 16.3%
3 Android 12.0% 6.6%
4 Macintosh 5.8% 5.9%
5 Linux 1.1% 1.1%
6 BlackBerry 0.7% 1.0%
7 Windows Phone 0.7% 0.3%
8 Chrome OS 0.2% 0.1%
9 (not set) 0.1% 0.5%
10 Series40 0.0% 0.0%

No real surprises here, with Android and iOS mobile operating systems eating into Windows desktop share.

Rank Screen Resolution Jan-14 Jan-13
1 1366×768 17.9% 19.4%
2 768×1024 10.4% 7.7%
3 1280×800 6.9% 9.8%
4 1024×768 6.6% 9.8%
5 1280×1024 6.6% 7.0%
6 320×480 6.3% 7.3%
7 320×568 6.0% 1.0%
8 1920×1080 5.2% 4.2%
9 1440×900 4.3% 4.9%
10 1600×900 2.6% 2.5%

Again, the story here is the rapid rise of “portrait” smartphone screen resolutions such as 768×1024 at the expense of traditional “landscape” desktop resolutions. Further evidence of the rapid shift to a wider variety of screen sizes as mobile device use takes off.

(Data sourced from Google Analytics for all visits to GOV.UK for the month up until January 20th. Sample size Jan 2014: 36.4m visits. Jan 2013: 28.4m visits.)

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The mobile question: responsive design

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via Government Digital Service » Tom Loosemore

When will more people visit GOV.UK using a mobile or tablet than a PC?

Yesterday the BBC published data showing more people accessing iPlayer via tablet than via computer. This prompted me to update some of the data I gathered for the government’s agreed approach to mobile last this time last year.

The objective of the UK government’s digital strategy is to make sure our  digital services that are so straightforward and convenient that all those who can use them will choose to do so. But what our users consider to be ‘straightforward’ and ‘convenient’ is far from static. We need our services to be able to adapt quickly to potentially quite profound changes in people’s behaviours and expectations.

For example, here’s a graph showing how the devices people use to visit GOV.UK have changed since its launch. (To be precise, the data is for visits, rather than users.)

Percentages of visits to GOV.UK from computer, mobile and tablet
Percentages of visits to GOV.UK from computer, mobile and tablet

Since 1 January 2014,  63% of visits to GOV.UK have come from a computer, 23% from a mobile and 14% from a tablet. In January 2012 it was 77% computer, 15% mobile and 9% tablet. If you visit the GOV.UK performance dashboard you’ll see that the sample sizes are non-trivial.

Compared with the general UK population, the graph above may be skewed by a minority (around  2%) of GOV.UK users who visit the site more than 100 times a month, often to research government activity as part of their job, typically from a work computer.

I’ve tried to get more representative UK data by looking at the visit data for the two weeks following Christmas Day, when such power users are probably not quite so busy.  The device breakdown for this period last year was 74% computer, 16% mobile and 10% tablet. This year saw 61% using a computer, 24% mobile and 15% tablet.

On Christmas Day 2013, only 51% visited GOV.UK from a computer, compared with 66% on Christmas Day 2012. (Over 300k visits to GOV.UK this past Christmas Day; 34k were looking for a job; over 5k bought a tax disc.)

Such a shift in the devices people use to access the internet should come as no surprise, but the pace of change might. And I do not expect this switch away from PCs towards more personal, portable, touchscreen devices to slow down anytime soon.

The UK government e-petitions service has seen incredible changes in how, when and where it is used. Pete Herlihy has product managed this service since it went live in summer 2011. As he revealed recently, only two years ago over 75% of visits came via computers. Now a mere 27% do so, with 56% from mobile, and 17% from tablet.

Not every service will end up with such proportions, but e-petitions demonstrates just how rapidly and radically user behaviour can change. Here’s current data for some of the transactional services on GOV.UK:

Book your practical driving test:

Computer – 67.4% (was 71.3% in March 2013)
Mobile – 21.4% (was 17.7% in March 2013)
Tablet – 11.2% (was 11% in March 2013)

Change date of practical driving test booking:

Computer – 56.9% (was 61.3% in March 2013)
Mobile – 32.4% (was 30.3% in March 2013)
Tablet – 8.7% (was 8.4% in March 2013)

Apply for a Student Finance:

Computer – 64.6%
Mobile – 26.6%
Tablet – 8.8%

Make a Lasting Power of Attorney:

Computer – 84.3%
Mobile – 12.4%
Tablet – 3.3%

Apply for Carer’s Allowance:

Computer – 67.1%
Mobile – 17.7%
Tablet – 15.2%

I hope this helps explain why the digital by default service standard requires that, from April 2014 onwards, all new or redesigned central government digital services must be designed with an appropriate range of devices in mind. As we say in the GDS Design Principles, our services must understand the context in which people will use them. And for many people, for many services, that context is swiftly becoming more mobile, more personal and more touch-controlled.

Designing for small screens can be a real challenge. Which is why for many of the 25 exemplar services we’re now designing the mobile version first, despite visits from computers still being in the majority. Why? Simply, it’s often easier to make a service also work for a computer monitor and keyboard if you’ve already made it work really well on a small touchscreen than it is to go the other way.

Moreover, as Andy Washington, MD of Expedia UK & Ireland, explained at a recent panel, designing within the constraints of a small touchscreen helps keep your underlying service as clear and as simple as it needs to be to serve all your users, including those who may be new to the internet, or find it a struggle.

Finally, to answer the question posed in the title to this post: When will more people visit GOV.UK using a mobile or tablet than a PC? On Christmas Day 2014, if not before.

NB I’ve seen no data over the past year to suggest the government’s approach to downloadable apps should change. We’re still not ‘appy about them, and central government departments and agencies must seek an exemption before they start developing any.

Filed under: GDS, GOV.UK, Service Manual

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Organ donation and A/B testing

Some user needs are easier to meet than others. It doesn’t take much research to confirm that most people searching for ‘bank holiday‘ care most about when they can next enjoy a long weekend.

But what if a user needed an organ transplant? Amongst many other priorities, they’d want as many people as possible to register with the NHS Organ Donor Register. How might GOV.UK help meet this highly-sensitive user need?

Since Christmas GDS has been working with colleagues from the NHS, Department for Transport, Department for Health and the Cabinet Office’s own Behaviour Insights team to run experiments to learn how GOV.UK might increase the numbers of people choosing to register as organ donors.

Testing different prompts

We started by adding a very basic text link to the organ register from the final ‘You’re done!’ page at the end of all successful motoring transactions on GOV.UK (e.g. renewing your tax disc).

The GOV.UK publishing team then took the opportunity to develop a basic A/B testing capability. This allows us to trial several different messages simultaneously to see which is most effective.

Donation prompt 1

Donation prompt 2

We’re conducting this as a formal experiment with colleagues from other departments, and so I won’t give away too much detail. But suffice it to say initial indications are exciting.

One small change to this one page on GOV.UK has lead to around 10,000 additional people joining the organ donor register each month. This one page is now the third biggest source of new registrations, behind doctors surgeries and the DVLA.

Given each additional donor might save or transform up to 9 lives, it’s an experiment we’re keen to continue, and I must thank my colleagues from across government and the NHS for the opportunity to participate.

Filed under: GDS

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The story of GOV.UK so far, in pictures

Earlier this week the the final ministerial department joined GOV.UK. This isn’t the end of the GOV.UK story; in fact it’s barely the end of the beginning. But today is still a big moment, the result of commitment and collaboration from  hundreds of civil servants all across government.

So to mark the occasion I thought I’d gather up and share some historical artifacts; some sketches, diagrams, lists, photos,and screengrabs that chart the evolution of GOV.UK from a crisp recommendation for a ‘single domain for government’ in Martha Lane Fox’s November 2010 report, through to today’s award-winning reality.

One of Martha Lane Fox's four recommendations was to 'Reinvent Government Online Publishing'. You can read her full report, happily ensconsed in its new home on GOV.UK
Just before Christmas 2010 a bunch of digital folk from across Whitehall gathered after work in a pub in Lambeth North to work out how you might implement Martha's vision in practice. Over the New Year, Will Callaghan and Neil Williams came up with a series of wireframes showing how you could simplify departmental websites into a coherent, simple, single proposition.
An outline brief written in February 2011 by the team asked to produce an 'alpha' (experimental prototype) of the proposed single domain.
Set of design rules created by the team responsible for producing the alpha of GOV.UK. Many moons later, variants of some of these rules turned up in the GDS Design Principles
This isn't a technical architecture, it's a mental map of the various bits making up the alpha of GOV.UK. Read this blog post for more detail  about how the alpha of GOV.UK was developed.
Richard Pope was product manager for the alpha and beta of GOV.UK. He used sketches such as this one to test and communicate ideas.
It's interesting that today's version of this page is even simpler, as repeated user testing lets us hone in on the irreducible core.
Again, it's instructive to see what's changed and what's remained the same by looking at the current version. As the alpha was being developed, we became aware of the scale of the content design challenge.
The public alpha of GOV.UK gathered feedback from May to July of 2011, and was turned off when the beta went live in January 2012. It was archived by the wonderful people at the National Archives.
This screengrab is from the alpha of GOV.UK - it's still available (albeit a bit broken) courtesy to National Archives.
The indefatigable Lisa Scott pretty much made all 24 department sections of the alpha single handed.
This is a slightly surreal mental map of the different bits we thought might make up beta of GOV.UK. We were toying with sections targeted at professions, and learning that business needs and citizen needs were closely aligned, the vast majority of businesses being sole traders.
As you can probably tell, around this time we were searching hard for the right 'map' to describe the whole of GOV.UK. No one liked the bus. There was also a rocket. Luckily no-one took a photo of that.
This is a photo of a more technical mind map, showing the chunks of stuff we thought we'd need to develop for the beta of GOV.UK.
This was Neil Williams' mental model for what became the Inside Government part of GOV.UK
When Neil Williams joined the beta team part time in Sept 2011, he came equipped with a series of well thought-through wireframes of how departments should be represented on GOV.UK. This wireframe probably maps onto this page on the current GOV.UK site
Once Francis Maude had given the go-ahead for the beta, we began to work out a swift but sane rollout plan. Etienne Pollard was brave enough to come up with this first draft in the Autumn of 2011.
Composite of 4 pictures of the beta team working on needs
A screenshot of the needotron
This is what GOV.UK looked like just before Christmas 2011 when we were awaiting the arrival of Ben Terrett, our Head of Design.
This shows a format we designed with colleagues from DWP specifically to make it easier for people to understand their eligibility for benefits. In testing it didn't perform as well as the same content placed in a  'guide' format, which is why it now looks like this.
A map of how the various layers of user need we thought might need to be covered by GOV.UK. At this point we are realising just how much overlap there is between the needs of citizens and the needs of businesses. We're also understanding with the sheer volume of specialist publishing undertaken by departments, targeted at professionals.
In the spring and summer of 2012, the new design team started work on earnest, in this case drawing inspiration from British Rail's iconic designs
The homepage of the public beta of GOV.UK on Jan 31st 2012.
Six departments joined the public beta of the Inside Government section of GOV.UK in March and April of 2012. Teams from these departments worked doubly hard to keep both the beta and their main site updated.
Russell Davies led a quick session in Feb 2012 working out how we'd talk about GOV.UK to users.
In the Spring of 2012 Russell Davies started to ask a thousand obvious questions, and had soon simplified things enormously. Hence this picture, which we use to explain GOV.UK to people inside and outside of Government.
Sarah Prag, the product manager for the mainstream launch of GOV.UK, leads the sorting of nearly 1000 user needs into appropriate categories. Safe to assume it was neither quick nor easy.
Over the summer of 2012, we constantly iterated the design of GOV.UK, most obviously by introducing a new homepage. In July we introduced the New Transport font.
Paul Downey (tech architect) drew these four pictures to explain to everyone the four phases making up the 17 Oct 2012 launch of GOV.UK. By the time it got to 17 Oct, there was very little to do but flick a switch, and very little to test that hadn't already been tested.
The whole team signed these roadsigns en route to the 17 Oct 2012 launch of GOV.UK. There was also cake.
Says it all, really.

PS If anyone’s got any interesting stuff we’ve missed lying about on their hard drive, please send it my way and I’ll add it to the gallery.

Filed under: Single government domain

via Government Digital Service