Dates matter: Trust and older content on Canada.ca
By Patrick Lajeunesse, Digital Transformation Office
In a recent usability study, we saw people disregarding Canada.ca search results that seemed too old. They assumed that because the page had not been “modified” for some time that the information on that page could not be relied upon. However, the content was perfectly valid and had in fact just been reviewed.
How can we can help show that content is still relevant? By indicating when pages were last reviewed for accuracy.
You can see how old content is on Canada.ca
(You’ll see the date this post was published if you look near the bottom of this page.)
Since it’s in the same place on every Canada.ca web page, people can count on finding the date if they want to know how current the information is.
The second place people see the date is in search engine results. Both on Internet search engines:
…and on Canada.ca search:
Why content age matters
When trying to accomplish a task, people really notice the age of the content presented. The more recent your content looks, the more credible it seems to people. Without this piece of information they may not be successful finding what they are looking for.
That’s why the design guidance for Canada.ca requires you to implement the “Date modified” component.
But for it to be useful for people, the component needs to be managed well. And that can be the difficult part. Often, if there’s no reason to update the content, we don’t review it. Then the “Date modified” stays the same as the date published.
Content can start to look old even if it’s still accurate and relevant. This creates problems, especially with content that can appear out-of-date quickly.
Watch people disregarding old content
In this video, Canadians are trying to see if it’s safe for pregnant women to get the flu shot (it is and they should!). Here’s what happens when they see that content is from more than 2 years ago: