What’s the biggest challenge when running the online element of the Census? It’s probably the sheer diversity of the user base. 25m households had to complete the census over a three-day period in March 2011. The user experience of the website and the online help had to be perfect as there was no scope for a second chance.

Working with the Office of National Statistics and Lockheed Martin, Web Technology Group was responsible for the implementation of the self-help website for citizens completing the form. Following an iterative process that put user experience and testing at the heart of the process, the site was able to field questions and queries from users reducing the burden on the contact centres.

Powerful analytics underpinned the system so that Web Technology Group could glean valuable insights about the use of the system. By identifying the patterns of usage (search queries and page browsing), ‘problem’ content and common user issues were identified and addressed, ensuring that the help pages were as effective as possible over the short timeframe the Census was live.

The challenge

More than 25 million households were required to complete the 2011 Census form over a three day period. The Census website is a critical first point of contact for those completing the form online and those with questions or issues on how to complete the 20 page form.

The 2011 Census was the biggest data collection exercise ever undertaken in the UK. With the Census only occuring every ten years and needing to be completed within specific dates, there was no margin for error.

The solution

Web Technology Group was responsible for the design and information architecture, addressing the key challenges of usability, accesibility and in-context help. Usability trials were undertaken in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, ensuring the design was accessible and handled language correctly.

The key innovation in Web Technology Group’s approach was the use of the powerful search and analytics underpinning the website. This enabled users to find relevant information and provided crucial insight into what content they were looking at so that content could be amended and/or updated.

Technology partners

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Implementation partner

LM