— Email is the preferred option for formal correspondence, where students expect a letter (physical proof that they’ve done or are going to receive something).
— SMS is great for instant messages e.g. ‘You’ve just been paid’. Users are always happy to provide their mobile number; student finance is important and they have an expectation that we’ll send them updates.
— If you want to ensure you can email the user in 12 months time, don’t allow users to give .sch or .ac.uk email addresses. All students will have more than one email address. We’ve also discovered that some University’ email filters may mean your email may not actually reach the user! It’s doubtful that students will forget their University email address, biggest problem they’ll face is whether they can access it post graduation (timeframe for this varies widely).
Caroline JPeople with unstable lifestyles / poor people ...
if people are homeless or in and out of work etc then they may not have, or may not recall, email addresses.
if money is short then several people in a household may all share access to the internet and hence share an email address.
are more likely to have low digital skills
are less likely to have access to a computer
may not have an email address, may share an email address with other members of the household, or may have an email address but not know what it is or how to use it.
Also: even amongst those of us who use email regularly, we may not recall which email address we used for a service or remember all of our email addresses. Example: I had to look up a business email address that I use rarely, but had to resurrect this week because my primary email account suddenly took against someone and I didn't want to use my personal or government email for that particular discussion.
Stephen Gill we're currently looking at the best name for the Civil Service Resourcing - Fast Track apprenticeships service. Any suggestions? Reading the blog post below it would seem best to have something like "Apply for a Civil Service Apprenticeship"?
Henry Charge that's an interesting one. Wonder if it needs to be modelled as a full-blown service - or if https://www.gov.uk/apply-apprenticeship could act as the 'way in' for users? Wonder if there are additional civil service-specific questions that need asking, or if there's stuff that would help other employers? And if the latter, whether there's potential to add as functionality within the SFA service?
Caroline JIn short forms, it ought to be possible to design the flow in a straightforward way so that people don't ever feel lost or confused. Then the progress indicator becomes a purely decorative element of the page - which is OK, but it seems like a lot of work for not a great deal of user benefit.
In complex forms, they have many disadvantages:
difficult to predict what steps the user will need to complete, so the progress indicator may jump erratically
there is often no really clear and unambiguous route through the form. Users may need to tackle parts of it in an order that is different to the order that we envisage. Progress indicators are rarely navigable, so people don't think of clicking on them to find out of they are navigable - so making ours navigable won't help
the survey methodologists have tested them on surveys, which really do progress from beginning to end (but may have skips in them). They discovered that progress indicators only reduce drop-out if they are falsely optimistic, that is if the progress indicator lies to the user about the amount of work left in the survey. That's a 'black hat' technique that I can't recommend. (Will dig out the citation but not right now - it's a topic that Mick Couper has done a lot of work on)
Tim PWe've now removed progress bars from both Waste Carriers and Claim Carer's Allowance exemplars, with no negative effect on completion rates.
Tim PThe first version of the service had a twelve step horizontal progress indicator. It took up lots of space, didn't scale to small screens well and confused some users who thought they could use it as navigation (they couldn't).
When we removed it from the live Beta it had no significant effect on completion rates.
We also tested and rejected a version that allowed users to skip around the form from a left hand column:
However, we realised that most users just want to get through the form and finish. The current version has no save functionality, so the benefits of skipping sections are minimal anyway and don't justify the added complexity.
Sam QLike the Carer's Allowance, we started with a horizontal progress bar. However, this raised a few issues in testing and we had some extra requirements that have lead us to use a more scalable nested-doll approach, allowing the user to review and navigate between various sections of their application in a non-linear fashion.
Example: File your company accounts and tax return, an example of type 3 (summary menu)
Here's what we're currently developing as part of the "File your company accounts and tax return" service. It has undergone many revisions as a result of user testing (note: the labels are quite technical (eg "CT600") and are being revised)
The difficulty we have is that there are potentially dozens of screens/steps to this service - so we decided against a horizontal progress indicator because there's not enough screen width to fit them all in. The number of screens/steps depends on choices made by the user (and/ or the circumstances of their company). There are 7 items under Accounts in the example below, but that can change. And a even more items might appear under Computations and CT600 sections. (note: those "technical" labels are being rewritten)
Our solution was to:
Show progress by marking completed sections with a tick (and allow users to navigate back to those sections by making them a link)
Mark current sections in bold
Mark "to do" sections as disabled (greyed out) - users can't jump ahead in the service, only jump back.
Testing has shown that most users understood this system (not all).
What some users didn't like was the fact that the initial view might suggest there's only a small number of screens/steps to the service (because we don't expand the sections to show the screens "under" it, until the user arrives there). If we did expand ALL the pages at the start, the left-menu would be VERY long (and might be misleading, as some screens wouldn't necessarily need to be completed depending on choices the user has made).
Update: Based on feedback from GDS, we've tweaked the design/functionality of our summary menu, and will be user-testing soon. See animated screengrab below. The two main changes are:
Clifton GDoes anyone know if this pattern was open sourced or used in the live service?
"Successfully completed" green ticks are positioned on the left
Previously completed sections are now hidden (user can expand these via an "accordion" link).
In addition to this, we're also looking into removing this left-nav content completely, and instead having the "pages" accessed via an accordion style page - the intention being that the user would complete the three parts of the journey - Accounts, Computations, Annual Tax Return - separately. Once an accordion section has been completed, it would be tagged accordingly (with text, "completed", and/or a visual indication such as a green tick). Quick demo of this approach below:
Clifton GHi James Francis, do you have a live prototype of this running on Heroku by any chance? I'm currently working on a project with DWP and DCLG for the European Structural and Investment Fund which has a rather large application form which this pattern could potentially be extremely useful. So if you have something it would be great to take a look.