CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION
1.1 This report presents the outcomes of a review of the Transport Scotland website, commissioned on behalf of Transport Scotland by Scottish Government Social Research. The review comprised an online survey of visitors to the Transport Scotland website, usability testing with users and non-users of the site as well as disabled users, depth interviews with key stakeholders and an accessibility audit of a sample of pages from the website. This chapter sets out the background to the review and its aims and objectives.
1.2 Transport Scotland is the national transport agency for Scotland. The agency was launched in January 2006. Its purpose is to help deliver the Scottish Government’s vision for transport and its £3 billion capital investment programme over the next decade. Transport Scotland is responsible for overseeing the running of Scotland’s trunk roads and rail networks, and running the national scheme for concessionary travel. It also helps to deliver a number of major infrastructure projects. Other parts of Scottish transport policy and delivery fall under the remit of the Scottish Government, local authorities or the UK Government.
1.3 Transport Scotland works in partnership with private sector transport operators, local authorities and the Scottish Government. It also works closely with the seven Regional Transport Partnerships (RTPs), which take a strategic view of the transport needs of people and businesses in each region.
1.4 The Transport Scotland website (www.transportscotland.gov.uk) was launched when the agency was created in 2006. From the outset, the website has played a vital role as a key communication medium to explain the purpose and function of the agency, as well as offering information about the work it does. Prior to setting up the website, Transport Scotland identified the following aims for it:
- To inform key stakeholders and the general public about the role and responsibilities of Transport Scotland and its context within Government
- To provide details of road projects and schemes
- To provide links to, and details of, rail projects that the agency is involved in
- To provide information about the national concessionary travel scheme
1.5 After two and a half years following the agency’s launch, it was considered appropriate to reflect upon whether the role of the website had changed and whether the emphasis of the website should move towards providing information about the work and projects that Transport Scotland is responsible for and what the agency delivers, rather than informing people about the organisation. In addition, it was recognised that information on particular projects or reports may be difficult for users to locate and that some recent content does not fit easily in the current navigation structure.
1.6 It is against this background that the review of the website was commissioned, with a view to using the information gathered to inform the future development of the website. Transport Scotland would like the redeveloped website to provide users with content that is easily accessible, well written, accurate and current. In fulfilling these aims, Transport Scotland has identified that the website should:
- Offer high quality, up-to-date content
- Meet the needs of internal stakeholders and Ministers, and also those of external users
- Be accessible and usable and comply with Government standards
- Be at least as good a standard as its peers, such as:
- Have a modern look
1.7 The overall aims of the research were to review the existing Transport Scotland website and to provide suggestions for improvement, based on the research findings, which will inform the next stages of the website development.
1.8 More specifically, the objectives of this research were to:
- Explore users’ and key stakeholders’ use of the website and views on it (in relation to the content, design and usability) and find out if it meets their needs and expectations
- Review the content of the site to assess if the information is useful, up-to-date and understandable
- Review the homepage. What should be on the homepage, given that Transport Scotland is no longer a ‘new’ Government Agency and its content caters for a broad range of stakeholders such as:
- Concessionary travel information for older/younger persons
- Information about large transport projects (e.g. the Forth Replacement Crossing) for those affected by these projects
- Scottish Transport Appraisal Guidance for transport specialists
- Review the ‘Projects’ page. Is the structure of the ‘Projects’ page clear to enable users to find a specific project that interests them and is the information given about the project useful?
- Review the navigation and information architecture of the site and undertake usability tests to assess whether key content can be found quickly
- Consider the navigation and design of the site with respect to the variety of stakeholders who will use the site and the responsibilities that Transport Scotland covers
- Undertake accessibility tests, to ensure it meets Web Content Accessibility Guidelines AA accessibility standards1 and identify specific problems that users (including users with special needs) have encountered whilst using the site
- Review the design of the site
- Identify whether users and stakeholders would like information presented in other formats (e.g. e-newsletter; podcasts; video)
- Identify the strengths and weaknesses of different aspects of the site, and provide recommendations on how the website could be improved