Content on Canada.ca needs to be continuously maintained to keep it relevant, accurate, and current. The “set it and forget it” days of publishing do not exist on the web.

Whose role is it then to improve and maintain the content?

In practice, web content is a shared responsibility with many players. Making decisions about web content can be challenging when people have differing views on the objectives of the content. It’s important to remember that the priority with any web content is to help the public successfully do what they came to the site to do.

One of the best ways for web teams to support decision-making around continuous improvement is to pay attention to data. When evidence from data informs your recommended approach to improvements, it’s easier to keep content updates focused on the needs of the users.

Sources of data include:

  • analytics
  • social media monitoring
  • usability research
  • task success surveys
  • sources of direct user feedback (call centres, general email boxes, etc.)

See our previous post about how to use the different types of data you may be collecting.

Using data to make better content

When you get insights into user behaviour or points of failure, make it a priority to take immediate action and improve content. This can be hard when you’re short on time and resources, but even small changes can make a big difference in helping people find answers on Canada.ca.

Ways to maintain and improve content throughout its lifecycle

Here are 4 common issues that can be detected through data and some actions you can take to improve your digital content.

1. People can’t find the answer

Increased calls, report a problem submissions, task success results, and other direct user feedback can indicate a findability issue.

This is often a navigation issue. Generally we encourage content designers to put answers where people look for them. If you know people are looking for a specific answer on a specific page, there is a good chance the answer should be there.

However, you should also always consider whether there is a false information scent (we also call these “dirty magnets”) bringing people to the wrong page. Don’t cram pages full of every possible answer. Instead, make sure page titles, headings and navigation properly divide up content to create clear paths. Then make sure people can find what they expect to find on each page.

Reconsider your information architecture and information scent. We often put a lot of effort into the information architecture when we launch new sections, but it’s just as important to review it regularly as the web content evolves. Look at link labels.

A case for descriptive link text (blog post)

2. People don’t seem to understand the answer

Comprehension is difficult to evaluate with web analytics alone. When content is hard to understand you may see this reflected in task success results, calls, emails, comments on social media, or other direct user feedback.

Take a hard look at your content. Could you simplify it? Are you missing an important piece that would make things clearer?

Look at doing a plain language edit. Find out what words people are using when talking about this topic, and make sure you’re using the same ones. Then test your proposed content before publishing.

Labelling study: which words work best

Web readability score - Experimental

3. The answer is there, but something just isn’t working

The web is an ecosystem. It’s not just about the words, or the structure, or any single element on a page. It’s about how everything works together.

If your page has the answers, but feedback, calls or analytics show people just aren’t getting what they need, look at how the page functions as whole.

Consider the layout. Is the sequencing logical? Is there enough white space? Are the subtitles accurate, and do they help people scan for what they’re looking for?

Consider the length of the page. Is your page too complicated? Could interactive elements be added or adjusted to help people navigate better through the content? Is the page cluttered with extra information (like unnecessary “related links”) that distracts people?

Look at what’s connected to the page. Is your page connected to related pages in a way that makes sense or is there a piece missing from the puzzle? Does your vocabulary match vocabulary being used elsewhere? Does a link from somewhere else point people to the wrong section on the page and create confusion?

Taking the time to consider the page as a whole can help you uncover issues with how people are interacting with the page.

Designing content for Canada.ca

4. Program or service doesn’t meet the need

Monitoring task success and feedback can highlight a bigger policy or program design issue. Share feedback with appropriate program/policy channels, and consider setting up a co-design session to address the issue (we’ll be discussing this in an upcoming post).

If you’re having a hard time convincing your policy or program colleagues to make some changes, revert to what you have if the changes don’t work. Being able to adjust things quickly is the beauty of the web.

Check back with them once any changes go live to see if there is a positive effect on the feedback that is coming in.

Final word

Small changes to our web content can greatly impact the lives of millions of people. By helping them find the answers they need on Canada.ca, you save them time and money, reduce their stress when dealing with the government and ensure that they are getting solid, reliable service.

On a regular basis, look at various sources of data to help guide efforts at iterating and regularly improving your web presence. Create multi-disciplinary spaces with web, strategic communications, policy and program experts. “Let the data flow” and work together on content improvement.

Monitoring content performance and continuously improving web content is an essential part of the publishing lifecycle. When you see an issue in the data, taking swift action to improve it makes an enormous difference!

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Learn more

Connect with the Digital Transformation Office at Treasury Board Secretariat