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Our digital principles

1. User needs come first

Our residents come to the website to complete tasks and find information. We avoid publishing content about us and our services and structure. We focus on our customers' needs and what they are looking for. We will consider accessibility, user journey and user experience when creating content.

2. Continually design with data insight and analytics

We will shape the content and user journey around what users naturally choose to do. Rather than bending them to a system we’ve invented.

We will use data and web-user journeys, to continually improve and adapt the site to changing needs. We will use customer queries and feedback to identify what our customers are looking for and expect the council to provide.

Where we have little research or data we will rely on our previous insight, experience and customer personas (typical customer groups based on national and local research) and start with a prototype or minimal viable product for testing.

3. Keep content simple

We create concise, accessible content in Plain English, with a reading level of a 9 to 13 year old. If something needs too much explaining or cannot be simplified then the process may need changing.

Making something simple can be hard - especially when the underlying policies or systems are complex - but that's what we should be doing. "It's always been that way" is not the best starting point. Although it is harder work and involves more people and time internally to make things simple, it's the right thing to do.

4. Iterate. Then iterate again

The best way to build good content and services is to start small and iterate wildly. Release first-go content early, test with actual users, then iterate live content by adding features, deleting things that don't work and making refinements based on feedback.

Iteration reduces risk. It makes big failures unlikely and turns small failures into lessons. If something isn't working, don't be afraid to scrap it and start again.

5. Less is more

Adding new pages without understanding the impact on existing content can lead to a frustrated, confused, or partially informed user. We need to investigate and understand the user journey to avoid any repetition, content split over too many pages, or multiple versions of the truth.

We will explore linking to existing trusted sources or other content channels such as news, directories, forms events and booking systems.

6. Be consistent

Our teams, services and directorates often communicate differently, or use specific language. This can reduce confidence in the message, and make users stop and think rather than complete an action instinctively. We want to achieve a ‘ONE’ council approach to our communications as this is what our citizens expect.

This isn't a straitjacket or a rule book. Every circumstance is different. When we find patterns that work, we should share them, and talk about why we use them. But that shouldn't stop us from improving or changing them in the future when we find better ways of doing things or – more importantly - the needs of users change.

7. Task is first

Residents aren’t receptive to our messages when they’re trying to get things done. We will focus on the task first and where possible include instructions required in context throughout the user journey, such as form prompts, email receipts.

Our message should surround these tasks, rather than expecting the user to read and understand it all up front. We identify what customers are looking for, where they go, what they do, and shape the content around them.