People come to our digital channels to accomplish a very wide range of tasks. We say they are looking for “information” or “services”. They don’t make these distinctions - people come to Canada.ca with a goal in mind and a task that they want to accomplish. If they are able to accomplish their task, their need has been met. If not, we have work to do.
There are thousands of Government of Canada (GC) tasks out there, some small, and some complex. So how do we prioritize? By identifying the most important and most used tasks. We call these the “top tasks”. We are focusing on the 100 top tasks for the Government of Canada. We have begun to improve the content related to these top tasks so that people can more successfully accomplish them.
Top tasks form the basis of the Canada.ca design
Top task management isn’t new to the Government of Canada. In 2013, we compiled the first government-wide top task list to help design Canada.ca. And even earlier, several departments were experimenting with top task management for their own sites.
Since then, we’ve gone through 3 major iterations of the top task list. Each time we do it, we improve how we gather comparable data and tasks.
How we compiled the list
A 3-phase approach is used to create the top task list for Canada.ca.
1. Collecting the top task data
We start with institutions which have the most popular content on Canada.ca. Some of the sources include:
- Web analytics and search logs
- Departmental plans
- Mandate letters (from the Prime Minister to cabinet ministers)
- Feedback or call centre reports
- Input from people who manage programs
- Input from the staff working with the public
- Past research or surveys
Challenges when collecting data from different sources
There are some challenges in trying to collect data from so many different sources, such as:
- Analytics comparability:
- many tools are in use, some more effective than others
- some free analytics software only samples data across visits instead of recording everything
- some track effectively, but are very inefficient at generating reports
- Visits versus page views:
- visits represent a real person completing a task better than page views
- page view numbers can inflate when a task involves multiple pages
- Start pages versus all pages:
- some tasks require several different pages, while others only one page
- combined traffic for many pages reduces comparability
- so it’s important to identify and track one start page per task
2. Analyzing and ranking the tasks across GC departments
At the government-wide level, we separate core tasks from their supporting sub-tasks.
For instance, “Get a passport” is a popular task. But for someone to actually accomplish the goal of getting a passport, they must accomplish a number of steps. We call these smaller steps “sub-tasks” like:
- see if you’re eligible to get a passport
- check passport photo requirements
- download the passport request form
If you were a content designer working on passports at a department or agency, then you’d need to keep track of all of these sub-tasks. But for our purposes, “Get a passport” provided enough detail to help us manage the task at the government-wide level.
We could have named the task “Canadian passports”, but we wanted to keep the tasks as answers to the question, “why are people coming to the site?” We write each task as a verb to make clearer what people are trying to do.
Once the core tasks are identified, we rank them based on visits to the start pages. This gives us a sense of how often each task is actually used. It continues to help us tell where improving tasks could have the greatest impact.
3. Validating the top tasks with website visitors
Once tasks are identified, analyzed, and ranked, we validate them with website visitors. This will include asking people why they came to the site. They can choose from the tasks we identified or add their own reason for coming to Canada.ca. This way we can fill in any gaps, which will give us greater confidence that the tasks we’ve identified are actually what people come to do.
Over the next year, we’re planning to work with departments and agencies on these top task surveys and further mature our approach to top tasks.
A focus on top tasks can contribute to improved service delivery
Many people come to Canada.ca to accomplish tasks that we can support by ensuring that our content is organized, presented, and written well for digital channels. Sounds easy, but there is a lot to consider. Check out the Style Guide and Content and IA Specification for Canada.ca for more details.
In some cases however, supporting tasks online is much more complex, involving technology enablers and updated legislation. Regardless what is involved, the process of identifying your top tasks, and then measuring whether people can accomplish them, is an effective approach to improving your ability to meet the needs of Canadians on Canada.ca.
We want to hear from you
Learn more about top tasks
- The top 100 tasks list for the Government of Canada
- What Really Matters: Focusing on Top Tasks by Gerry McGovern, describes the value of top tasks and the survey voting method to validate them
- How to conduct a top task analysis by Jeff Sauro, gets into some of the statistical details around analysing top task data from surveys