Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the Prime Minister and his ministers have been advising Canadians to visit Canada.ca. With the increase in phishing campaigns and scams related to COVID-19 on government sites, it is more important than ever to provide a consistent and trustworthy user experience.

Building trust through design

In January 2020, the Digital Transformation Office (DTO) undertook a wayfinding project to examine how people navigate across the Government of Canada (GC) web presence. As part of the project, we looked at changing the label in the breadcrumb at the top of every page from “Home” to “Canada.ca”.

We ran an online study with over 600 Canada.ca users. We compared the two breadcrumb designs. “Canada.ca” performed as effectively as “Home,” while supporting improved brand identity and usability.

Low awareness of Canada.ca

We found the awareness of Canada.ca as a site is not as high as awareness of “.gc.ca” in the URL.

Participant 1: “I know most of the government URLs — they’re usually gc.ca.”

Most visitors to Canada.ca pages arrive at pages via Google. In the study, they didn’t see anything on the page that said “Canada.ca”. Even the URL may not have included Canada.ca as some departments haven’t moved their sites to that domain. Most participants in our study couldn’t name the site they were on:

Participant 4: “Which site am I on? It’s Government of Canada — says it right at the top.” [points to GC signature]

Small changes make a big difference

Changing “Home” to “Canada.ca” in the breadcrumb, ensures that every page displays Canada.ca. It’s a simple yet highly visible change that improves trust and awareness.

This change also helps people get to Canada.ca even if the URL of the site they’re on is different, such as those using the gc.ca domain.

Changing breadcrumb to "Canada.ca" from "Home" maintains success rates in first-click task study with 602 Canada.ca visitors
  A) Home B) Canada.ca
Within theme task 56% 54%
Outside theme task 56% 59%

Implementation

We worked with the Principal Publisher at Service Canada to change the breadcrumb in the Canada.ca design.

Within one week, they updated all pages on the Canada.ca domain. The pages with the new breadcrumb went live on April 16, 2020. Many sites which use the Canada.ca design but have not yet adopted the Canada.ca domain have changed their breadcrumb as well.

Final word

Trust and consistency are essential. We created the Canada.ca Design System to provide a more usable, consistent and trustworthy online experience for people who access Government of Canada digital services. By adopting the Canada.ca design, GC site owners can help their users to easily identify Government of Canada web pages as part of Canada.ca. This means users can immediately see that what they are looking at comes from a trusted source.

Learn more

Connect with the Digital Transformation Office at Treasury Board Secretariat