How we combined data and knowledge to make a category page work better for users.
A category page (sometimes called ‘section homepage’ or just ‘homepage’ here at the University) fulfils many functions on a website. It showcases the service, is usually the most visited page, and is the one page above all others that senior staff want a say in shaping.
The real purpose of this page is often lost in the ‘make it look dynamic!’ hype. As all good content designers know, websites exist to give our users what they need, and the number one place to do this is the service category page. And yet at the University we often find category pages are plagued with issues such as:
- the content our users want is hard to find or missing altogether.
- content loses focus because of ad hoc changes over time.
Here’s how we used evidence and expert knowledge to address some of these issues on one of our category pages.
The Students’ Health Service category page
Recently, we worked with our Students’ Health Service (the University GP/doctor) to see what we could change on the category page to make it easier for users to find what they’re looking for.
How we used data
We started with Google Analytics, to see what users had been looking at most across the whole Students’ Health Services section of the website. Pageviews from the previous year showed the popular pages were:
- The category (‘home’) page
- Make an appointment with a GP
- Contacts and opening hours
- Register for the GP service
Auditing the current category page content
We analysed content on the category page, and found several issues:
- The popular topics in Google Analytics didn’t feature on the category page.
- The content was wordy, repetitive and not user-focused.
- We were promoting several apps, but without clear explanations of which one to use for what.
What we did
Working with one of the Students’ Health Service GPs, we combined insights from the data with her expert knowledge, to rewrite the category page.
Simple, task-focused language
Normally, we’d rewrite content to be clear and accessible. For an international audience who may be unwell this is even more important. So we spent some time on the language, researching and debating which words users would be using, keeping to short sentences and plain English.
We focused on the tasks, often reducing text to one word such as ‘register’ instead of ‘how to register’. We stripped down content to simple instructions, and reduced duplication.
Prioritising content that users are looking for
We used the Google Analytics evidence to prioritise the top tasks, and organised content on the category page in this order, to make it easy for users to find them on this well-used category page.
Simplifying the layout
We changed the layout to a simple grid of boxes with plenty of white space, to make it easier to scan.
Explaining the apps
We added a contrasting grid of boxes to show information about apps. We added clear explanations for each app, to help users understand what the different apps can be used for.
Looking at heatmap data on the updated page the following day, we immediately saw evidence that visitors were using the new task-focused content to navigate the service.
In particular, we saw high usage of the new ‘Appointment’ and ‘Register’ links on the page, which is what we had expected from the analytics data.
On the old page, users had to find these links in the main navigation menu, which for mobile users (60% of users) is hidden in a ‘burger menu’. By adding the content to the main body of the page we’ve made these links much easier to find. It’s great to see users immediately adopting this new easier route.
What we learned
In this project, we pair-wrote the content with a GP and updated the page on the same day, without needing to wait for approval from others. We tracked take-up of the changes immediately using a heatmap, and used this evidence two days later in a second pair-writing session to review what we had done, and make further changes.
This second round of changes included adding short explanations for each task to add context for users, and allow us to include related terms to make search more effective. The instant proof from the heatmap that what we were doing was making a real difference for users was a powerful motivation to keep improving the page.
If you’d like to meet with a content designer to discuss small-scale changes to the category page of your section of the website, or find out more about your data and what it means, contact us (University of Bristol staff only).