Understanding what users need from us

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by @deirdrehodson

Spreadsheet displayed on wallThis month we are deep in user research. Part of our work to clean up the Commission’s websites has us doing a huge stocktaking exercise on the main reasons why people come to our sites.
As one of our colleagues put it: it’s about making our online publishing about demand and not just supply.

The first principle which guides us in our work is starting with user needs, and basing decisions on evidence, not assumptions.

Around 40 million people visit our sites every month, with 1 in 10 coming from outside the EU.
What we publish ranges from the general to the extremely specific. Our users vary enormously in their knowledge about the EU and the Commission.

We have many specialists and policy insiders, but also many small businesses, importers and exporters, civil servants or students who may not be that familiar with the work of our organisation.

Yet there are patterns of tasks and user needs that come back regardless of the area of Commission activity – whether it’s how to get in touch with the organisation, giving input on a policy initiative, or finding out about funding eligibility.

We are crunching through piles upon piles of user research and data coming from a range of different sources, such as:

  • calls and emails to our free helpline
  • user comments and feedback left on the EU and Commission sites
  • most searched-for terms from the major search engines
  • feedback from contact forms
  • tasks and topics on similar or peer websites.

We are also working hand-in-hand with the 40 Commission departments – getting data from them on their frequent enquiries as well as their main audiences.

All of this data is entered into spreadsheets. We come together in working sessions to go through the data, spotting overlaps and merging similar terms. We’ve had six of these workshops so far this month and have three more to go. We will continue this work with the departments in a series of workshops in February and March.

The next step will be to poll our users (in multiple languages) to make sure we know which of all these tasks are the most popular. We will then focus our efforts on making those tasks as easy to complete as possible.

All of this work and data is feeding into our design of a prototype for a better Commission website. More on the prototype soon.

 

 

 

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