Improving GOV.UK on mobile devices


Mobile use on GOV.UK has increased significantly since launch in October 2012, moving from around 15% to 23% of the overall audience.

We are now starting to improve the experience for mobile and tablet users accordingly, so here’s an outline of a couple of simple initial changes we’ve made.

Prioritising content

Screen space is in short supply on small devices. So making good use of what’s available is really important.

One thing that had troubled me for some time was how little content was actually immediately visible in the view on a lot of pages when browsing on mobile. The navigation and titles dominated too heavily.

We’ve just deployed some changes that help tighten up this space and get more of what our users need in front of them — content.

It’s a subtle change, but an important one.

Testing our assumptions

Another thing that I think we’ve needed to address for a while is the ‘Not what you’re looking for’ link in mobile views seen above, and below in more detail.

Some background

On desktop screens, related links are shown to the right of the main body of content. This is to help users navigate to content that is associated with what’s in front of them (and in some contexts may be more useful). Though this depends of course on how they found their way to the page.

On small viewport screens however, there is no space to show these links in the same position, so instead they sit at the foot of the page.

The ‘not what you’re looking for’ link was originally added in the belief that it was still important to allow users immediate access to these ‘near-miss’ pieces of content on mobile.

What’s never sat right is how jarring it is to be presented with a statement ‘Not what you’re looking for’ as soon as you arrive on a page. It assumes a user is in the wrong place and second guesses their intentions.

Decisions based on data

We don’t like to remove things based on hunches. Our iterations are based on users’ behaviour and research.

So, we added click tracking to the ‘not what you’re looking for’ link at the end of last year with a view to waiting and letting the data do the talking.

The result was unanimously in favour of the redundancy of this link.

Just 0.352% of pageviews in mobile viewports resulted in the link being clicked.

So, we have removed this item, safe in the knowledge that it will not be missed and that the related links are still there at the foot of the page where they are still useful.

What’s next

We have more improvements in the pipeline to improve the experience of GOV.UK on different devices and will keep you updated as and when we ship them.