Research on User Perceptions of EU website

Interesting piece of research on “how online experiences feed back into offline perceptions” in the case of the official europa.eu website which indeed has some potential for improvement regarding content, accessibility, participation and navigation. Some points are obvious, others quite surprising though:

  • The hierarchical structure that relies on top-down decision processes often led to the Internet being used as a “bin” and even now, the institutions are still heavily reliant on this hierarchy, including many people at the top not recognising the value of online communication, or understanding the website as an archive and not a means for interaction. (…) Accordingly, higher-ranking officials do not usually attend usability workshops so that a top-down change in thinking cannot occur.
  • While a willingness to change is apparent, the Internet strategy paper (2007) points out that the transformation has to occur in a “resource neutral scenario”, meaning that even though the importance of (online) communication is recognised, the budget is not increased.
  • The majority of students found the site confusing or difficult to handle, independent of prior attitudes. While many students are positively surprised by the website – mostly in terms of language variety and amount of information – they all encountered problems.(…) While most of the German students held highly positive and uncritical views,the Danish students were the most critical and inquisitive, and the British students showed the greatest lack of interest and knowledge about the EU.

Read more about the findings here. Would be interesting to get hold of the recommendations…

3 Comments

  1. If this study looked at the Commission web sites, we would need a team of super-competent guinea pigs to search the Council web pages.

    They are, in my humble opinion, the ultimate test.

  2. Interesting – the findings can be found here (PDF): http://is.gd/dK3h

    Here is a short summary:

    1. Increase the font size to reduce confusion and make the site more user-friendly.
    2. Add flags to the language links on the entry portal to make the language selection
    easier and avoid problems of accessing the site.
    3. Improve language by: 1. adjusting the information to the web, 2. avoiding the use
    of officialese in order to be more inclusive, 3. trying to provide content according
    to age/user groups, and adjust language accordingly.
    4. Improve the coherence. There needs to be a clear structure throughout EUROPA
    so that users do not continuously have to re-orientate themselves.
    5. Decrease the information load by clearing outdated and obsolete information. The
    website should not be viewed as an archive. If there is information that needs to
    be kept – create and archive and clearly mark as such.
    6. Differentiate content according to different user groups and clearly define those
    groups and their needs, in order to adjust to those needs.
    7. Include users in the creation of new pages, or the re-organisation of the general
    structure. By including user views in the production process it will be more likely
    that the organisation-centric view can be abandoned.
    8. Improve the search function with the help of an external provider so that the
    search becomes more efficient and employs features users are familiar with.
    9. Include more Web 2.0 features to foster interactivity, feedback, and information
    sharing, which might add to increased awareness.
    10. Increase awareness about the website in order to reach a wider audience and
    more of the people who do not even know the website exists.

  3. The direct link to the executive summary (including recommendations) is this:
    http://www.communiphil.de/talke/Hoppmann_Summary.pdf

    And the complete report will be published this year.
    If you have any further questions, please let me know.

    Cheers

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