Kent county council
Safer traders for Kent
Kent County Council were looking for a partner to give their Trading Standards Checked website a UX revamp from the ground up.
Not searching for traders
Kent County Council’s Trading Standards site was relatively new and had been building traction by gathering a list of registered traders. KCC had been working on social media campaigns to increase consumer traffic, however tracking showed that although users were clicking through to the site, they were not then searching for local traders.
Understanding KCC’s business needs
KCC approached us because they wanted to expand and improve their reach to their second type of users: consumers. They wanted a partner to support them with campaigns and to improve consumer journeys once on the website. Previous efforts with the site focused on creating trader profiles. Readjusting the focus and structure of the site was a delicate balancing act because the two audiences are interdependent in terms of site success.
Part of our task was to look at the overall IA, user experience and branding so that we could better engage consumers with the listed traders. This in turn makes it a more attractive proposition for traders to register. KCC (like us!) were keen that the decisions for consumers were based on data and real user need, so we undertook a discovery phase to define the direction of travel.
Digging deep into user behaviour patterns.
We reviewed analytics by each audience segment to understand how consumers and traders were currently interacting with the site – and where the pain points, popular journeys and drop-offs were.
We then created a set of user stories for consumers that would act as an anchor point for future project decisions. Defining what users want to do – and why – was really key in understanding the various barriers and concerns consumers have when both selecting and trusting a registered trader. This insight fed into the site structure, taxonomies and key messaging throughout the user journeys. For example, we needed to plan for a range of users, they might be: planning ahead, in an urgent predicament, verifying a trader they’re already connected with or experiencing a challenge with a trader and therefore in need of support. Through the user stories we created a prioritised list of tasks, which provided a hierarchy for the layouts, call to actions and journeys to key content.
Visualising the structure
With consumers at different stages of the process of engaging with traders, we approached the structure chronologically: a preventative and educational section; a search area with a big focus on refining how users find a trader; and a help area for if things go wrong.
An important piece of our planning explored the search and filters. In particular to cater for a spectrum of consumers, depending on their level of clarity about the type of trader they actually need. It was crucial that we gave very fast direct access for those who felt clear whilst also providing hand-holding for those that needed it. We reviewed best practice examples across the sector to finalise the filter taxonomies to cater for user error or misunderstanding. Some users think in terms of the problem and some have keywords related to the solution in mind. For example, if there is water dripping down the kitchen wall – do we search for a roofer, a plumber, a builder – or perhaps a bucket?! The search needed to be powerful and super usable – as some users will also be in an emergency situation!
Mapping out the blueprint
To validate our initial research and planning, we create a rough structure to the site and admin panel, focusing on a seamless user journey through the content for users to reach their goals. We created a clickable prototype to test our ideas, helping us find issues early on without investing too much time into the visual details.
A website to suit two audiences
The website had two core audiences, traders and residents. We split the site into two core areas so they could focus on their specific goals. The residents’ area focused on finding traders information really easy and then getting in touch. The main way we did this was making the process as simple as possible. The traders’ area focused on selling the benefits of signing up and then logically placing calls to action in the right place.
Increasing the number of applications
To sign up to the platform, we needed to get a lot of information from the trader to help sell their service. We logically planned out all the information and grouped all related questions to help separate the form into manageable chunks. Each question was carefully thought out so nothing was misinterpreted. From this, we were able to match the question to the most efficient input method, automating the user’s input.
Ensuring data is easily managed
If the platform was hard to manage, they may not stick around as this would become an unessasary task. Therefore, it was vital that the admin area allowed the trader to easily view all their applications, see profile traction, update their profile and also upsell their account level. We tried to keep this as simple and as useful as possible, so the trader wasn’t overwhelmed yet could get the maximum out of it.
Creating the different variations
The forms were vital within this process, so we created a component library to help plan out all the different variations in the form. This ensured that there was consistency across the forms. Furthermore, it was vital to ensure we planned out all the validation and states to ensure users were educated and guided through the application form.
Validating our thinking
As soon as we had a robust prototype of all the screens, we ran first click user testing to validate our decisions. This is a valuable step before venturing into the build phase because it allows us to make quick and efficient iterations, based on real users’ feedback. We reviewed the taxonomies and were able to tweak some labels to further increase the distinction between sections of content. We also made some minor adjustments with some call to actions to minimise any chance of user frustration. It is always amazing to run user testing – with targeted questions we always get very useful results and it provides an excellent way to fine-tune.