I came across the homepage for London.Gov.UK one day at work. I liked the way it tried to have a separate personality from the rest of the Gov.UK suite of pages. But there were a few things that irked me...
So, in my hubris I decided to see if I could improve it.
It is quite well designed and fairly accessible, but I think a few tweaks could make it even more usable.
So, let us have a look at it.
My first impression — and probably what drew me to review it in the first place — is that there are quite a few elements that are trying to be helpful, but actually hinders the understanding of the page.
These are items such as:
Let me start with some quick decisions:
One of the stranger things I noticed was the favicon (the little icon displayed on the browser tab): It is a little black box with the letters
CH in it. I am not sure how that relates to either the Mayor of London, the London Assembly, or the City of London itself?
The page uses a sparse colour theme (apart from in the “what we do” section — but I will come to that):
I will get rid of the steel blue. I do not think we need a separate link colour for the London Assembly. As we are not going to a different site with its own colour scheme, it can be be kept in a simple colour scheme for the sake of recognition.
(Update: I have noticed that the steel blue is used in other places on the website when referring to the London Assembly — and more confusingly in the media centre, which still sports a burgundy header and bread crumb trail. In my humble opinion, if “brand” colours are needed (and I would argue they are not), I would prefer them to be different to the “link” colour.)
The burgundy is a slightly bigger problem because it is used for both interactive and non-interactive elements. This is visually confusing. Especially, as links on this page are (generally) only indicated by colour. I am not trying to change the brand, so I will keep the burgundy for interactive elements — but strictly only for interactive elements.
Now — with the basics in place — the rest of the page can be looked at in order.
The masthead holding the branding has two logos that are oddly centre aligned as the only items on the page. It also holds the search box on the right, which makes the whole thing a bit lopsided.
It would be easier to read if they were on the left.
It would probably also be easier to understand if it was just one logo. We can do this with a simple “and”, an ampersand (“&”) or a slash (“/”). As it is better to err on the side of Plain English, I will opt for “and”.
Next is what I for the longest time thought was just a hero image for the site and scrolled straight past it.
But it turns out it is actually a Coronavirus banner wanting to update and inform me about the Covid situation in London.
This means that it is not fixed feature (🤞) and it is actually trying to alert you to its important message.
I think it failed its purpose, because:
It can stand out by introducing a new colour that is not in the colour scheme and therefore signals that this is important and not part of the regular site. I will also move the text up, so it will get noticed. The image does not need to be full width.
And why not add the same information that is everywhere else on the gov.uk website to show an agreement on messaging? Coherent messaging is something a lot of people say is lacking (source: the pub).
The “What we do” section is probably what made me open the browser inspector and play around with the page in the first place.
First of all it does not really fit in with the rest of the design: A slim, multi–coloured band in the middle of the page.
The icons are very big and using a lot of colours not used elsewhere on the site. This is probably to be helpful and aid the user find the service they want quickly. But, unfortunately, not all the icons are as easy to relate to as the first ones.
Secondly, the services have been put into a carousel, which obscures most of them.
I am not a fan of carousels for many reasons, mainly:
... not to mention the coding of them, which rarely considers accessibility.
So, the first thing I tried was to put all the carousel items on to the page. This is already an improvement.
But I would like to tighten it up a bit more by putting emphasis on the text over some of the weaker icons. I can achieve this by making the icons smaller and remove the multi–coloring, which doesn't do much for finding items quicker.
Lastly, I will move the icons to the side of the text to use the space more effectively and change the title from “What we do” to the more empathic “How we help”.
After this there are only small things left:
As you have made it this far through my meandering methodology then I hope you will not be disappointed by the final design...