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.
Organisation charts presented in PDF format are one of the worst offenders when it comes to accessibility. Rob, from our Content Design team, explains how he turned one such chart into accessible HTML content.
When the bristol.ac.uk site was audited by Government Digital Services last year, one of the main issues that we had to fix was inaccessible PDFs.
PDFs pose particular problems for anyone with accessibility needs. It is possible to painstakingly add all of the structural tags for titles and headings so that the PDF passes accessibility criteria, but it’s unlikely that the effort will pay off; if someone finds 99% of PDFs that they encounter inaccessible, they’re not going to take the risk of opening another.
UX manager Miles Taylor on the benefits UX writing can bring to the usability of forms, instructions and error messages.
Major upgrades are afoot to a raft of University systems that support student recruitment and the students themselves once they arrive here.
At the coal (inter)face of each are forms that facilitate tasks and activities students need to complete. Things like booking on an open day, uploading documents to support their application, providing their accommodation preferences or accessing support.
Improving our forms’ usability
Typically, the Digital Communications team has been brought in right at the end of the development process to ‘sign-off’ on accessibility. But we’ve noticed so many more issues with the way we display form than just poor accessibility. (More about our accessibility testing in another post.)
While internal stakeholders have been consulted, users haven’t always had much of a look-in. Research hasn’t always been conducted or designs tested, beyond the purely aesthetic. As a result, several of these forms have been overly long, complex and confusing to complete.
We’ve been working with project teams on each of these systems to offer advice and guidance on form design best practice to improve layout and flow.
And we’ve introduced them to the importance of UX writing to improve the clarity, consistency and usefulness of their forms’ instructions, labels, buttons and error messages.