FTC’s Analytics Success: Making mission-related tasks easier for the user to find
In the summer of 2015, members of the Federal Trade Commission’s Office of Public Affairs (OPA) Web team worked with their FTC colleagues to analyze Digital Analytics Program (DAP) Google Analytics data (onsite search queries, landing pages, pageviews, etc.) for FTC.gov. We found that many visitors were coming to the site to perform mission-related tasks, such as filing a complaint or reporting identity theft. Unfortunately, we didn’t make those tasks obvious on the homepage – in fact, most of them were hidden under the global navigation menu. At the time, most of the homepage was informational, not task- or customer-oriented. In addition to the data analysis, we also conducted internal interviews to learn about any other tasks we should make more visible.
Armed with this information, we revised the FTC.gov homepage in October 2015 and added a new area called “Take Action,” cleanly and prominently displayed at the top of the page. On the mobile version of the site, we made the Take Action section cover the entire screen upon landing on the homepage. The purpose of the change was to enable consumers to very quickly find the “top tasks” that motivated them to visit FTC.gov. We sought to measure success by comparing data from the month before the change, and the month afterward.
What we learned
The results were wonderfully conclusive! Our changes had a huge positive impact on site visitors:
- Traffic to resources exploded. Traffic from the homepage to the tasks in the Take Action area jumped dramatically — 47% for Complaint Assistant, 54% for Do Not Call, 9,691% for ID theft. Free Credit Report and Scam Alerts never had any measurable traffic from the home page – now they do. This means that people are using this new section to get quickly to the resource that helps them with their task. This improvement was especially timely for ID theft because it put a reference to identity theft reporting right on the home page, just in time for the rollout of the new identitytheft.gov.
- Site searches dropped dramatically. The number of FTC.gov site searches people conducted using terms related to these top tasks — such as free credit report and do not call — dropped dramatically. (Metrics show that these are always the top search terms on our site.) This indicates that because people were able to quickly find these tasks on the homepage, they didn’t have to resort to our site’s search engine to find them.
- Traffic soared for “Competition” tasks. While Competition (antitrust information) is a critical part of our mission, metrics show that competition-related tasks are not top tasks for most of our site visitors. However, competition tasks are vitally important to certain audiences. So we added those tasks to the home page as well when we made our improvements. The results were substantial increases in traffic from the home page to the two competition tasks.
We’re thrilled that this home page change had such a major impact, and so quickly!
What’s next for FTC.gov
Our next steps to improve our site’s effectiveness include:
- Monitor metrics and optimize constantly: Good web management requires constant monitoring of metrics to understand customer behavior and needs. With this data and understanding, we can make decisions about content, navigation, design, and functionality to make changes that improve the customer experience and our site’s effectiveness. A website is an ecosystem that requires constant care.
- Improve site search: We recently launched a feature called “best bets” in our site search results to point visitors to the best result for the top searches customers perform on our site. This is a short-term improvement. The long-term plan is to do a deep dive into our search engine’s performance to make more substantial improvements.
- Focus on usability: We will conduct a usability study to establish a baseline to understand how well the site is performing, and whether other changes are needed.
Many thanks to our FTC colleagues who assisted us with this analysis and with identifying our customers’ top tasks.
Chris Noonan Sturm is the FTC Website Manager in the Office of Public Affairs. This post is part of an ongoing series of case-studies highlighting how the federal government is using the Digital Analytics Program (DAP) to improve websites for the end-user. If you have an analytics success story to share, or want to get your federal government site participating in DAP, please email us.