What are users saying about the symbols?

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  • Updated 4 years ago
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I wondered what kind of feedback you're getting from users about the symbols.

They obviously mean a lot to GDS because a piece of info needs to be either a quick answer, guide, transaction etc. But I wonder what they mean to people who're looking at them for the first time. For me, they're a little unnecessary.

A guide seems very similar to a quick answer, except its longer and is split into sections.

A benefit and scheme seems to be a very similar format too, perhaps with a few more downloads. Are they flagged because it's money available from the Govt? Would changing the title to "Claim for..." accomplish the same thing and be more clear?

Transactions are obviously different, but as Digital by Default becomes the norm the need to flag them up becomes less.

I'm wondering if you can drop the symbols altogether. Or at least rework them so they're more obvious.
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Will

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Posted 4 years ago

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Ben Terrett, Employee

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Hi Will,

The symbols are new and so it's fair to say they won't be obvious to everyone straight away. We've worked hard to make them indicate the section they represent. But icons are difficult to create because often they are for fairly intangible things, for example what one symbol clearly communicates 'benefit' instantly?

They are important as another sign post to information, and they also add some depth and colour to a site which could end up being just text.

We hope as they become more familiar they will be come even more useful.

Ben
Head of Design, GDS
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Will

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Hi Ben,

Thanks for your quick reply. I completely accept your points on intangibility, the need to signpost and to liven up pages of text.

I guess I'm playing devil's advocate as I really like the design of the site, but I wonder if users will care whether something is a guide or a quick answer. They just want info and want it now :)

Benefits and transactions aren't the same as pure editorial, granted, so maybe they need to be flagged.

Thinking aloud here...
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Alan Rider

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I agree with Will that what the symbols represent aren't immediately obvious or consistent in all cases. For example, under Money and Tax the tax calculator is tagged to a transaction symbol, whereas it feels more like a quick answer or a guide as it is for information and not a tax transaction as such. Would some sort of key to the symbols on the home page help? Appreciate what you are trying to do though and simplifying the language and content of something as complex as Government was never going to be easy.
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Ben Terrett, Employee

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Ahhh, will users care "whether something is a guide or a quick answer" is a bigger matter than just icons :)

We're hoping the icons start to build a language, that in time, will make it easier for users to see what type of information they're getting. We'll be testing everything, a lot, so watch this space.
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graham.craig

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I've made these points under a post from Will elsewhere on getsatisfaction but here you go:

How about putting on the home page a 'key' of the icons? (realising that once live most people won't arrive through the home page...)

I like the idea of matching icons to sections but I find the question mark particularly problematic as it could easily represent any of the sections (guide, benefits, etc). I'm on gov.uk because I don't know the answer to something...a question mark is exactly how I'm feeling, regardless of whether I'm looking for information about taking my cat abroad, paying my car tax, my local school...
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Tim Paul

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Icons are always a tricky one, particularly when the concepts are quite nebulous like these ones. The way they're being used here seems to be more for support though (I've not seen anywhere on the site where they're relied upon).

They do provide an opportunity to add colour to the page (though one user's 'decoration' is another's 'noise'). It might turn out that as the icons aren't critical, colour alone could be used to reinforce the categories. That would sidestep any potential confusion over ambiguous symbols.

Another approach (which seems to have been adopted in part) would be to use consistent language. So, the 'Service' items always start with a verb, the 'Quick Answer' items are always formed as questions etc.

Anyway, so long as the GDS team continue to gather and respond to feedback and other evidence, as they have been doing, things will only improve.
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Jeff Dawson

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I like the use of icons/ symbols as a concept - I've quickly picked up that the book/leaflet symbol means that this is where I need to go if I want more in-depth information, and the double headed arrow is where to go to make a transaction. There are however a couple of areas where this falls down for me:

1. Benefits and schemes. I don't see the logic of separating these out from the Services/ Answers/ Guides structure. If I wanted to apply for a benefit, I wouldn't view this any differently from applying for a tax disc, so logically, I'd look for this under the 'Services' symbol. I don't think 'scheme' is a term widely used, so I'm not sure how clear this will be for users. If for some reason there is a need to have a separate 'money from/ to the government' section, I'd look for something along the lines of 'tax, pensions and benefits', with a £ symbol.

2. The variable colouring of the symbols is inconsistent and confusing. I just don't like the multi-coloured large symbols. Personally, I'd prefer larger versions of the block colour symbols used elsewhere.

What do others think?

PS. I don't want to appear too negative. The site content and structure is generally excellent (light years ahead of Direct.gov), I think it just needs 'polishing' here and there.
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Alan Rider

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I previously aired a few doubts about how obvious the meaning of the symbols really were. It is a small point of detail as many users will be searching on a term so won't pay too much attention to the pictures, but there is scope for ambiguity here. Agree with Jeff that it's hard to argue the real difference between a benefit and a transaction where both will involve some form of on line application, presenting of evidence/identity or a payment.
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Darren Taylor

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Personally I dislike the icons. Icons are useful where they are obvious and limited to a small number but on gov.uk there are many. Their purpose isn't obvious and I think they add unnecessary noise to the page. It's a good idea just not appropriate for this site and therefore best shelved IMHO.