Canada.ca/Coronavirus is one of the most visited pages on Canada.ca. Teams across government have been collaborating and updating this page regularly to reflect the evolving needs of the Canadian public. In last week’s blog post, we talked about how we organized Canada.ca/coronavirus based on top tasks.
This week, we’re looking at the labels we’ve chosen for categories and links on that page, and how they improve the ‘findability’ of the top tasks. The public depends on us to choose the right words for the category and link labels to ensure that they can find answers quickly and easily on Canada.ca. That has become even more evident during this pandemic.
In the online top task study we did with the World Health Organization (WHO) and Gerry McGovern in May, over 6,000 Canadians ranked their top COVID-related tasks. The results mostly matched the top task links already on the Canada.ca/Coronavirus page. We also identified some new “recovery” tasks.
To get people to content for these emerging top tasks, we had to create some new categories and links. The labels for these had to accurately reflect how people thought about the new tasks. Since we used evidence to identify the new tasks, we used evidence to find the best labels.
The labelling study
In June 2020, the Digital Transformation Office (DTO) and Health Canada launched a follow-up labelling study in both English and French. On Canada.ca, we randomly invited people to participate in the study from June 8 to 10, 2020.
- 3,053 people participated
- 85% did the study in English
- 15% did the study in French
- More than half completed the entire study of 10 task questions (58%)
Participants responded to the task questions by clicking on one of the potential label options shown with the question. The survey asked them to choose as if they were attempting the task on the website. Each question showed different sets of label options for both the links and the categories. This let us explore how different options fit with specific task scenarios.
Taking action on results
Together with Health Canada we used the results to support updates on the COVID-19 landing page. The study confirmed that some labels were working well, so we kept those in place.
Then we looked at what new content was ready and the approvals needed for some of the proposed changes. Based on this, we added a couple of new labels right away to reflect the results of the study.
- Added a new category labelled “Limiting the spread” to group links related to reopening that had performed well in the study
- Added a new link for the top task “Vaccines and drugs”
- Kept the “Latest announcements” label
- Kept the “Prevention and risks” label
- Kept the “Take a self-assessment” label
Planning for the future
Today, the Coronavirus landing page reflects a lot of what we found from this research. As COVID-19 continues to evolve and needs change, we’ll continue to adjust the categories and links on this page.
For example, the “Protecting public health” label won strong majorities in English for vaccine and immunity tasks. “Protection de la santé publique” performed similarly well with French respondents. These tasks are related to personal medical health. Vaccines is our #5 top task (#1 at WHO) and immunity is #17 (#4 at WHO). As Health Canada develops content supporting vaccine tasks, this category label is tested and ready to use.
Use labels that work for people
One thing that stood out from the research findings was that the terminology that policy teams preferred didn’t always resonate with users. This showed once again that to help users find what they need, we need to use words that work for them. Internal language doesn’t always fit the bill.
As a designer, you need to think of your users and design with them in mind. Go look at your labels and make sure that people understand them the way you think they do. Be sure they aren’t being misled. Then go back and check again later. Teams need to keep evolving categories and labels as top task content evolves.
Web is a service and it’s a shared responsibility. What the Government of Canada wishes to communicate is not always the same as what the audience has come to learn or accomplish. Public servants may use terms that seem obvious to them, but when those terms don’t resonate with the general public, communication breaks down.
Audiences behave and interact differently in the digital space compared to how they behave and interact with traditional communication channels.
- Web is a “doing” place for most — focus on tasks
- People don’t read, they scan — use short meaningful section headers
- People look for easy to follow directions or steps, otherwise they give up, call or email
- Small screens need less content — mobile traffic is greater than 50%
- Don’t duplicate content — GC web space is integrated, so collaborate with others or link to existing content
- Follow GC standards for web design at design.canada.ca