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The Government Information Services (GIS) group in the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) has just completed a round of training to help government digital teams use data to improve agency websites. It’s based on sessions I designed for GOV.UK to help define user needs with analytics.

Sharing knowledge

In the last couple of months I’ve trained over 50 people from around 15 agencies in seven sessions. Of these, 38 completed surveys, which gives us great user insight for our user insight training. The training is designed to:

  1. show the value of user data with real examples of website improvements
  2. provide simple techniques to find what people need from government websites so improvements can be based on these
  3. build a user-focussed analytics community within government to share experiences.

Survey results indicate that we achieved the first two points:

  • 97% of attendees now understand how user data from Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and Google Analytics can improve their website
  • on a 1–5 scale, people went up an average of 1.6 points in terms of feeling confident about the tools and techniques.

Keeping in mind the fact that we weren’t aiming to turn them into fully fledged analysts with one training session, this is a good result.

The proof will be in the content improvements

We encouraged people to bring logins for their agency's Google Analytics account so they could find user insights specific to their websites; 63% learned something new about their own users.

It’s great to feel confident and informed, but the value of the training will be realised when people use the techniques covered in the training. We’re hoping to have many more stories like the Inland Revenue page improvement, and spread awareness of the value and uses of analytics. After the training, 95% of people intend to try the techniques covered, ‘because they give such valuable information about whether your content is hitting the mark’. Other reasons include informing design, information architecture, structure and copywriting, as well as reporting to managers and arguing for the improved customer experience.

Constructive criticism

The feedback wasn’t all positive — 47% found elements of the training difficult or not useful. People had trouble keeping up with things, got confused, wanted comprehensive overviews and instructions. SEO and analytics are inherently complex, but these sessions are for everyone, so if we hold any more in future we’ll slow down and simplify. Some things we can’t improve, such as the fact that ‘Google has dumb names for things’, which was mentioned a couple of times.

How can we help further?

We asked how GIS could help with analytics: there were a wide range of requests, but the huge demand for more analytics support is clear. There were a lot of requests for ad hoc support, ‘how to’ guidance and follow-up sessions. As an early response to the demand received, we’ve already held a well-attended pub analytics meetup where Nathan Wall gave us an overview of Google Analytics goals, based on survey feedback. We look forward to future meetups, seeing old and new faces join us in our goal to make government websites user-centred.

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