CHAPTER 8: INTEREST IN WEBSITE FEATURES
- Respondents to the online survey were presented with a list of different website functions and asked to indicate whether this is something they would like to do when using the Transport Scotland website. The most popular functions were downloading reports (49%), downloading or watching videos (36%) and subscribing to an email newsletter (30%).
- Stakeholders said that project videos containing background project information and updates on how the project was progressing would be most interesting.
- Among the stakeholders, many were unaware that the option to subscribe to an email newsletter already existed. Positioning the link more prominently on the website should publicise this more.
- The qualitative work also explored interest in an interactive mapping tool to enable users to search for projects. This was widely welcomed, allowing a regional search to be implemented more easily than at present.
- The qualitative research also looked at interest in personalising the content of the Transport Scotland homepage. Views were mixed, with some saying they would take the time to do so, to filter out information outside the region or mode of transport they were interested in.
8.1 Websites can be enhanced by providing content in alternative formats to text on a webpage and by adding interactive features onto the website. Currently the Transport Scotland website allows users to download reports as well as subscribe to a number of e-mail newsletters. Such enhancements are only of value if there is an interest for these among website users. This study looked at the level of interest in these existing features, as well as interest in new enhancements, namely: video content, audio content, an interactive map of projects and the ability to personalise the homepage.
8.2 Respondents to the online survey were presented with a list of different enhancements and asked to indicate whether each is something they would like to be able to do when using the Transport Scotland website. As Figure 8.1 shows, 49% of respondents stated that they would like to be able to download reports, 36% stated that they would like to be able to download or watch videos while 30% said they would like to subscribe to an e-mail newsletter. Only 15% answered that they would be interested in downloading or listening to podcasts. It is also worth noting that a proportion (20%) stated that they were not interested in any of these features.
Figure 8.1: Interest in website features among respondents to the online survey
Q. Which of the following, if any, would you like to be able to do using the Transport Scotland website?
Base: 496 users of the Transport Scotland website (8 July –26 August 2008)
Note to figure: Percentages do not add up to 100 due to multiple answers
8.3 Analysis of these findings by sector of employment shows that respondents working in the transport sector were more likely than average to select the download reports option (68% versus 49% overall), highlighting the importance of the reports for transport professionals.
8.4 This finding is reinforced by the results from the qualitative interviews among transport professionals, who all indicated that they had downloaded reports from the website. The Scottish Transport Appraisal Guidance (STAG) was commonly cited as a report these professionals had viewed.
Download videos or watching videos relating to transport projects or issues
8.5 The video content option was more likely than average to be selected by respondents who visited the website to look for news information (56% versus 36% overall) and by those who looked for project information (43% versus 36% overall).
8.6 Consistent with the findings from the online survey, stakeholders broadly welcomed the addition of videos to the website and felt that these would be most appropriate for news and project information.
"Where they add value in providing information in a digestible way - that is fine. I don’t want to be told what a wonderful organisation they are. It should be project specific and where there is a major public interest."
Scottish Government employee
8.7 These users felt that the content of the videos could include background project information, updates on how the project is progressing and opening ceremonies. When asked what style these videos should take, participants indicated that they should be presented in news reporting style.
"I think this would be really good. I would expect it to tell me the same thing I could read myself, but in video form. Someone telling you the information."
Member of the general public, non-user of the website
"This would be a good development. It would be good to have these done in the style of BBC reporters. It would be good to include these on a local report archive which people could use to put together a history of the programme."
Local Authority employee
8.8 Members of the public, key stakeholders and transport professionals were also asked about the value of a webcam placed on the Transport Scotland website which would show how projects are progressing. Again, this was broadly welcomed as users felt this would enable them to see exactly at what stage a project is.
8.9 Some users stressed that providing video content should not compromise the speed at which the website loads, as this can cause frustration. Additionally, a number of key stakeholders felt that these videos would be more of interest to members of the public and noted that videos should only be added as an additional option to text. These key stakeholders preferred text for their professional information needs.
8.10 Thus, we recommend that if video or webcam content is to be developed then these should be project specific and news oriented, without compromising either the speed of the website or the availability of text-based information.
8.11 Sub-group analysis of the findings from the online survey showed that frequent users are more likely than average to state that they would like to subscribe to an e-mail newsletter (42% versus 30% overall).
8.12 Among the key stakeholders and transport professionals interviewed, few currently subscribe to any of the newsletters available, though there was considerable interest in this feature.
8.13 Many were unaware that the opportunity to do so already existed, although one respondent had said he had subscribed but could not recall ever receiving a copy of the newsletter.
"I have signed-up to receive newsletters, but I don’t seem to get them. I even re-subscribed as I thought I must have completed the form wrongly. I would expect a monthly or quarterly newsletter."
Rail industry interest group representative
8.14 The link to the newsletter subscription form should be placed more prominently within the Transport Scotland website. Currently it is placed at the bottom of each page along with links to copyright and website accessibility information and it is clear from the interviews that few have noticed it there. A link to the newsletter on the homepage and prominent links in the relevant parts of the website should be considered.
Download or listen to podcasts relating to transport projects or issues
8.15 Turning to audio content, respondents who looked for news information on the website were more likely than average to answer that they would like to be able to download or listen to podcasts (29% versus 15% overall).
8.16 Users and key stakeholders interviewed in the qualitative fieldwork were sceptical when asked about the value of podcasts relating to transport issues. Some indicated that they would not listen to them as they prefer text, while others were unsure of what additional value these would add to the information.
"I don’t know how many people would download it. I might listen to it on the website. You could have a library of discussions, or parliamentary debates or something. I might listen if it was close to my heart."
Member of the general public, previous user of the website
8.17 Those who did say that they would be interested in listening to podcasts, felt that these should be news and project oriented.
8.18 Taking these findings together we therefore recommend that resources would be better directed towards enhancing the website with the more popular features such as video content and the interactive map discussed below.
8.19 In addition to the features explored in the online survey, participants in the qualitative research were asked to consider whether they would be interested in an interactive map that would enable them to search for projects. This was widely welcomed, as users noted that this would allow them to view all the projects in a specific region, including the smaller local projects. A map was also seen as more user-friendly than the current list of all projects that users have to scroll through.
8.20 Some users regarded the interactive map on the Highways Agency website as a good example. The map was praised for its simplicity and its use of bright and attractive colours.
8.21 Users did not feel that there was a need for a single map to be produced and instead a map for rail projects and separate map for road projects was seen as acceptable. It was also noted that these maps should allow users to see existing as well as upcoming projects.
8.22 Given the advantages of a map identified by users and its positive reception, we would recommend this tool is developed with the Highways Agency tool used as a template.
Personalising the homepage
8.23 Lastly, the qualitative research explored users’ views on a functionality that would enable them to personalise the contents of the Transport Scotland homepage. This means that each user would be able to customise what is displayed on the Transport Scotland homepage based on their individual interest. An example of this functionality can be found on the BBC homepage (www.bbc.co.uk).
8.24 Views were fairly mixed with regard to personalisation. Users who indicated that they would spend a few moments to personalise their homepage would do so by either location or project type.
"I would do it. Location and topic seems the obvious ones, but by date as well, so you could cut out anything that was out of date."
Transport / Engineering Consultant
8.25 On the other hand, some users stated that they require an overview of everything that is going on in Transport Scotland and therefore would not be interested in this function.
8.26 We would recommend that the option to personalise the homepage should be provided, as the frequent users of the website interviewed tended to visit the website for very specific information and expressed an interest in being able to personalise content to better meet their needs. The default homepage should remain broad based in order to satisfy the needs of those who need an overview of Transport Scotland.