Top tasks and council websites

The new Liverpool city council website is one of the best examples of a top task focused website I have come across.

One of the hallmarks of a truly excellent website is that you can start doing the top task on the homepage. So, ten years ago you went to a hotel website and you saw a picture of a room on the homepage. Now, you can start booking the room.

If you go to a hotel website today and you can’t do that, what’s your impulse? Most people will want to hit the Back button. If you go to the Liverpool city council website homepage you can immediately start selecting a leisure facility. You can also very easily find a library, find out when your bins are being collected and report a fault.

In 2010 we did a top task analysis for Liverpool. Customers were asked to vote on 84 tasks. The top 6 tasks got as much of the vote as the bottom 49 tiny tasks. A great website makes its top tasks really easy to complete. To do this is makes sure they dominate the design and that they are continuously improved. It is possible to continuously improve 6 tasks, but it is impossible to continuously improve 84.

To make a top task easier to complete you will almost always have to make tiny tasks more difficult to complete. This is hard to do. The tiny tasks know they’re tiny and will fight hard to get more prominence on the website. All tiny tasks dream of growing up to be top tasks and taking their rightful place on the homepage.

Liverpool took a ‘facts not opinion’ approach to developing their website. Once the top tasks were established they were tested with real customers. To achieve excellence in web management you must make decisions based on what your customers actually do on your website. Not what you would like them do. Not even what they tell you they would like to do. What they actually do when given a task.

By embracing evidence-based decision making, Liverpool City has achieved a level of clarity and simplicity that is rare for a government website. Another council website that has also done an excellent job with top tasks is Lancashire. In Lancashire we found that the top 5 tasks got as much of the vote as the bottom 55 tiny tasks.

Despite the fact that Liverpool is a city, and Lancashire is more rural, there is a lot of similarity between their top tasks. Customers are interested in roads, bin collection, jobs. We have found that the same type of top tasks emerge again and again.

Government takes two things from us: our money and our time. By having a great website, Liverpool City gives back to its citizens services in double quick time. Governments should embrace the concept of citizen productivity. A mark of a great government website is that it allows us to complete top tasks really quickly.

Liverpool City Council

Lancashire Council

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