The ONS website…the story so far.

The current version of the ONS website has been around for a while now and it was immediately clear at launch that it had considerable issues.

A programme of work to ‘fix’ the site has been ongoing virtually since day one of the site though many of these changes have been ‘behind the scenes’ and those that were improving the user experience were often not made obvious enough or highlighted to a wider audience.

Some of the major fixes that have been done include;

– Sorting out over 80,000 content errors (many of which were inherited but highlighted by the new system)
– Some initial efforts to improve the labelling of our statistical outputs so people could tell the difference between releases
– Some improvements to search – including about around 200 synonyms and some boosting of results according to content date. [It is safe to say that this still has a long way to go.]

Alongside these fixes there have also been efforts to respond to user feedback and improve the site rather than just fix errors. One major aspect of this has been to introduce ‘theme’ landing pages for different statistical areas within ONS. These pages use different content types, such as articles, video, and infographics, to make data accessible to a wider audience. You can visit Labour Market, Population and Crime and Justice to see some examples.

Other user focused changes that have been implemented include;

  • Ability to view and subscribe to a new  key figures page directly from the ONS homepage to get the latest economic and social figures
  • easily find important information through our ability to make frequently visited pages hold their content (make it sticky) and not be overwritten with updates
  • get  email alerts which notify them when data or publications in their chosen themes are released
  • select multiple regions for regional information
  • bookmark a single page that holds all editions of a particular release, enabling them to find earlier data in one place
  • access reference tables in statistical bulletin PDFs
  • navigate quickly to survey respondent information via a Taking part in a survey link
  • readily view interactive content within publications

Clearly despite this work the site still has significant flaws and over the next couple of weeks we’ll share information about upcoming priorities including changes to the information architecture, accessibility, making time series data easier to find and work with and probably most importantly our plans to improve the search.

One comment on “The ONS website…the story so far.”

  1. It’s a big task, but keep up with it! It’s such an important website to get right. I look forward to the forthcoming improvements!

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