Keeping the lights on for the National Careers Service website
The main tasks during this project have been:
- managing the transition to more user-focused content design
- keeping the most popular tools and content available, such as job profiles
- learning from how our users interact with the whole service – on and offline
- carrying out user research including testing ideas and concepts in public places like schools, colleges, universities, job centres and listening in to contact centre calls
As a Product Owner for the Skills Funding Agency, I inherited the new look version of the National Careers Service website last November. The past few months have seen a transition from the National Careers Service website to more user-focussed content and design.
The current website is not the final version and we know it doesn't offer the complete service, but we had to drastically change the navigation, design and functionality of the site in order for users to be able to access popular content in the short term. One of our most used tools are the job profiles, which are still available, along with advice on job hunting, CV tips, interview advice, the skills health check and links to funding information and apprenticeships.
We’ve re-looked at the job profiles, making sure they are written in plain English. Many users found the old ones hard to consume and they were unhelpful for mobile phone users. Some users with literacy issues or disabilities often found the heavy text content intimidating and off-putting, and without assistance, labour market information was difficult for many users to interpret. We are still refining the new version of the profiles and have responded to the main points users wish to be informed about; for example, entry requirements, average salary and what different jobs might entail.
A more citizen-focused service means we can develop the brand new service proposition properly. We can learn from how our users interact with the whole service - both on and offline – and respond to what is missing from the user’s perspective. We hope this blog can set the context around where we are, how we got there, and how you, as a professional user, can help us get to where we need to be with the digital careers service in the longer term.
We want to be a digital careers service, not a website
User research with over 1,000 people has informed us that users don’t want vast amounts of information - they find too much detail overwhelming. Many used the old site but often gained no understanding of what to do next. If we succeed in getting the digital service offering right for our users, then the majority of citizens should be able to self-serve careers information, advice and guidance to a satisfactory point to enable them to take their next step. That doesn’t mean digital is the whole service. The vision is that this will also equip those users who still need a more bespoke, human service to prepare better for intensive careers advice from a professional, in our non-digital setting.
In order to do this properly we needed to start responding to the user needs we are discovering through testing prototypes and iterating these based on feedback. To date we have tested with current users and potential users of the digital service. We need to continue responding to what our audience is seeking, helping users understand how to improve their learning, skills and development to fulfil their life and career ambitions.
The Careers Service Digital team (which includes qualified careers subject matter experts) has spent the last 12 weeks working with users in iterating prototypes in response to fundamental needs discovered from a host of research, including:
- web analytics
- testing ideas and concepts in public spaces
- walking in the shoes of a user by conducting ethnographic studies and contextual enquiries in schools, colleges, universities and job centres
- listening in to our National Contact Centre calls and observing careers appointments in the face-to-face setting
We are also listening to your feedback through the National Careers Service website and hope to continue to engage with all users of the careers service. Many thanks to those who have participated and hosted our research so far - it is invaluable. The more you engage with us, the better we’ll be able to respond to your needs.
If you are a careers adviser that uses the National Careers Service and are interested in being involved in user research, please contact Helen.Cassidy@sfa.bis.gov.uk for more details.
Product Owner, Digital Careers Service