Paying council tax can hardly ever be a pleasant experience. Are UK council websites doing their part to make this process as smooth as possible?

In order to find out, Realeyes
ran a test with 54 tax-payers, asking them to pay their council tax
online on 6 different council sites. All participants were eye-tracked
to gain objective measures about the user experience during the tax
payment process. The study identified both good and poor design
elements, wide ranging performance differences between councils and ‘banner blindness’ on some navigational items.

Good design examples

The top 3 performers all directed users to conduct online payments via ‘Quick menu’ feature from the home page. These menus allow the user to quickly find the appropriate section of the website reducing the volume of phone calls or emails which are more expensive to deal with.

          Oxford                      Portsmouth                 Hounslow

Oxford menu   Portsmouth menu   Hounslow menu

Providing a clear, graphically pleasing menu with icons helped the user to perform this key call-to-action task more efficiently.

Issues within Poor Designs

The worst performing pages (Plymouth and Tower Hamlets) suffer from lack of clarity as to what are the most important processes for the user when visiting the site.

One of the eye tracking metrics high-lighting such design ambiguity is the average view to click time, i.e. the time elapsed between a participant fixating on a correct area and the user actually clicking on it.

The table below shows how on the Plymouth and Tower Hamlets page the time it takes people to process the content of the menu is more than double of that of their peers. Finally, the high time to completions and low ease of use scores also signify that the users struggle with these complicated designs.


‘Banner blindness’ on navigation items

Banner blindness signifies user behaviour by which anything resembling ads are almost subconsciously avoided by online users. Whilst analysing data for Portsmouth page we noticed that their version of the ‘Quick menu’ was not performing well by some important metrics: the average time to view for the menu was high (average 6,3 seconds – see the graph here), the average ease of use score was low, success rate was not ideal and the number of eye fixations needed to complete the task was high despite the seemingly simple menu design.

The design of the ‘Quick menu’ was intended to stand out and attract users attention, but became a victim of its own success, the strong yellow / blue contrasts forced user attention away as they assumed it was a banner ad for something unrelated to their objective. After presenting the findings to Portsmouth Council the quick menu was redesigned.

                OLD menu                                    NEW menu


Testing with real users helps respect the tax payer’s priorities

Council websites should provide concrete functions that their target audience needs. Testing these key processes with real users and eye tracking technology allows Councils to ensure that public money is being spent in the most efficient way. Eye tracking tax payers helps Councils understand their customers and provide them a better user experience.