The trials and tribulations of improving ‘About ONS’

Guest post from Sarah Brooks, Junior Business Analyst.

In our continued efforts to improve the ONS website, Digital Publishing Division, working with our colleagues in IT (though we call them IM around these parts!) carried out a project to improve the ‘About ONS’ tab, which provides our users with information about the organisation. It was felt that some of the content on the ‘About ONS’ section was dated, flat and lifeless. Improvements were needed to make content more accessible and easier to navigate.

At the start of the project, a user architect was employed to map the existing structure and to establish what content could be removed. This was mainly content that was out of date or irrelevant, or pages that did not receive any views. The user architect used web metrics to determine which pages were not viewed, which led to the removal of over 25% of pages. A new structure was proposed, removing duplicate content and using fewer layers. The intention was to make the new structure easier to navigate for our users.

An owner was needed for each of the 800 pages of content. Finding these owners was a daunting task that needed a lot of time and perseverance. Meetings were arranged with the owners to explain the aim of the project and to ask for content to be reviewed and refreshed. This posed various problems; some business areas didn’t have the resource to take on such a task, some didn’t want their pages to be removed and others weren’t happy to change their content in any way. We worked with each individual owner to improve the overall feel of ‘About ONS’. It was important that the quality of the content was improved, as well as the structure.

When all the refreshed content had been received, it was sent to the Publishing Policy and Standards team for editorial checks. The team made recommendations to the content owners in order to improve the content. At this stage we encountered a small problem. The business areas did not return their content in on time and when they did, it was unorganised and unclear. To ensure all content received was correct, the project date had to be pushed back by one month.

Some project facts and figures include:

30,000 – the number of individual transactions in our publishing queue
800 – the number pages to review and refresh.
27 – the number of confirmed content owners
23, – the number of meetings we had to set up, book rooms for and attend to discuss the content.
3 – the number of editors involved.

Overall, this was a challenging project, due to historical issues with ownership of the pagers; restructuring of the organisation; and the resources required to review and update the content.

To avoid the problem of content becoming out of date again, we have introduced a new editorial policy and ensured that business areas regularly review their pages. We also learned from past experiences and ensured redirects were in place so that any users who have book marked pages on About ONS are redirected to the new pages.

Eventually, we plan to restructure the ‘Guidance and Methodology’ tab, using the things we have learnt to find better ways of delivering the next project. We will be stricter with deadlines and perhaps stagger the date in which content has to be returned so that the Publishing Policy and Standards team can check the content over a longer period of time.