Background to the Ministry of Justice website part 1

I promised to give you some detail about our new website, so here it is, part 1.
None of the team working on the Department of Constitutional Affairs website were involved in its initial development or design. While it was a big improvement on it’s predecessor its architecture was a problem for those of us who inherited it – the navigation pretty much mirrored the organisational structure at the time and as this changed over time due to machinery of government changes, the technical construction of the site made it difficult for us to reflect this in the navigation.

We had a pretty good idea who our primary audience is from user research and feedback – practitioners in the sectors we serve (especially legal professionals), but the media and researchers are also important groups for us.

We also knew from analysis of user stats what the most used parts of the site were: guidance for those practitioners (especially procedure rules for court users), news releases, consultations, and information on how to contact us.

On top of all that it mustn’t be forgotten that there are various parliamentary commitments to make information available online, and reviews of government web activity effectively create benchmarks for the type, and presentation, of information available on our websites.

Distilling all of that, allied to user research that I conducted, resulted in me creating a site proposition based on user need – making it easy for site visitors to find news, corporate publications (of which consultations are an important part), and the sets of guidance that we make available online for practitioners.

This proposition was tested, and various visual designs created , to establish how the information architecture of the site would work and what the navigation would feel like.

All of this work was done before the we were aware that a ministry of justice was being planned. Consequently we were doing all of this work on top of our day to day activity maintaining the corporate website and intranet. But we all knew that the work needed to be done anyway and we were effectively hoping that something would happen to give us a business imperative to implement it all.

The site is designed around five major sections:

Who we are – this is the ‘corporate information’ section, detailing our ministers, priorities key staff, sponsored organisations etc. Information we are required to have and which users expect to find on any organisation’s site.

What we do – this is a simple list of our policy responsibilities. Designed to be an introduction to our work together with signposts to other repositaries of information about each theme, whether that is provided elsewhere on our site (practitioner guidance) or, for example, citizen information (on Directgov).

News – all our departmental press releases, ministerial speeches and announcements.

Publications – consultations, reports, documents relating to legislation changes, statistics and research etc.

Guidance – resources to support practioners working in the sectors we support.

The idea is that the news and publications will be able to be cross-referred to the relevant corporate or policy information pages in the first two sections. In other words, if you were looking at the policy page on domestic violence, you should be able to see relevant press releases, speeches, consultations, statistical releases, guidance etc linked to on that page. We haven’t quite fixed that yet, but that is our aim.

So, that’s the background to the site philosophy, next time – how we built it. Any questions?

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  1. Looks like Dizzy does, but that may relate to your next post.

    For myself as someone who uses quite a few government websites (though not your so far) its often difficult to find the information I’m looking for (perhaps not surprising as government has so much). So having a clear idea of how you’ve organised the site is helpful.

  2. Be interesting to get some feedback from you Andrew (and Dizzy or anyone else) on your experiences with the site. As its a new department, there isn’t a lot of content but as announcements, news stories, publications etc build up the site should populate quickly.
    The test will be the ease of navigation in six months time.

  3. At the moment things seem pretty clear. Very much like the way you’ve organised the publications section which seems intuitively right, but then I’m not looking for anything in particular.

    I do wonder whether you could persuade your Ministers to tell us what they’re responsible for, in terms of policy policy, on top of their biographies.

  4. Thanks Andrew, yes you’re right – ministerial portfolios should be there. When the department launched that hadn’t been settled but it has now and we need to update the pages. Will get onto it.

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