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Have you had a good or bad experience using a website recently?  Whether it be not finding what you wanted on a site or if you had difficulty working out how to complete a task such as purchasing something. A bad experience using a website can put you off coming back or completing the task you set out to achieve.  A good experience might make you want to come back more readily and spend more time on the site.

As part of the redesign we will be testing the site both in terms of usability and accessibility throughout the process.  Having a good user experience while using our site is a very important factor for us.

I wanted to find out which sites you like to use, ones which keep you coming back and ones which you have had bad experiences with.  Why did the site make you want to go back or stay far away?

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Off to Edinburgh first thing to discuss all things web with other like-minded individuals at the Scottish Webteams Forum. I’ve managed to get roped into doing a quick session on blog tools so this very site should get a mention. Will be interesting to hear what others think of the approach we’re taking.

Being from that neck of the woods myself, and a geographer to boot,  I shouldn’t get lost on the way to the City Chambers. However on websites poorly designed navigation often leads to lost and frustrated users. As such this is an area which deserves plenty of attention when it comes to our testing.

Working on the “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” principle we intend to keep most of the content structure pretty much the same. But we are thinking of changing the way the navigation works as well as how it looks. Here’s a screenshot of an example of the local navigation options in the Schools section:

Interested to get feedback on whether this is an improvement on our current design. In particular the arguably more subtle use of colour and showing main section links on every page – we remove these at lower levels on the current site.

Firstly, thanks for all your feedback so far. It’s great to hear from some users and what they think of the new design. Because the web team here look at the website almost all the time it is often difficult for us to see the wood for the trees when it comes to what works and what doesn’t!

At the moment the team is busy building site templates which will allow us to carry out direct user testing. We’ll then be able to check some of the points which some of you have made about the clarity of text and the use of colour. We should have lots more screenshots for you to take a look at early next week so watch this space.

In the meantime, I’d like to pick up on a point made by R Wilson about the possibility of adding a forum to the site. This is something which the web team and the Council’s website management group have discussed a number of times over the last few years. We’re keen to drive traffic to the site and create a sense of community which a forum could obviously help to do. But there’s always been a worry about the time needed to moderate the discussions and the potential for abuse.

For every successful Council website forum there appear to countless others which fail, either through lack of any interest or through inappropriate use and/or lack of adequate management. I suspect that a key factor if these are to be succesful is the active and positive participation of Council staff. I’d be interested to hear from our own staff if they think this would be a useful addition to the website?

If there’s a general feeling from our site users that this is something which would be useful then we can think about how it might be taken forward in the future. Is this a good idea and, if so, how should it be managed?

First impressions

Aberdeenshire Council’s current website design is now four years old, give or take a few months here and there. As local government website designs go it still scrubs up pretty well I guess, we did win an award after all, but it feels like now is the right time for a refresh.

What we’re looking for is something that’s fresh and contemporary but that can stand the test of time. At the same time as updating the look and feel there’s an opportunity to improve other aspects of the user experience along the way.

Reading Room were commisioned to develop a design concept for the site. Here’s a first look at the proposed design applied to the home page – what are your first impressions?