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What information is important?

In the information age, cutting through the noise is vital – as we found in our latest project with the FCDO
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Shaun Curran

Head of Content

04 Feb 2021

Everyone reading this will know it hasn’t been the easiest start to 2021. January is a difficult month at the best of times - with the terrible weather and third lockdown showing no end in sight, this one has been particularly tough.

One bright spot for Caution Your Blast has been the publication of our latest project working with the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office. Together, we have devised, designed, created, and published bereavement pages for three countries on GOV.UK (France, Spain, and Thailand) with advice on how to deal with a death abroad. The culmination of several months’ work, the pages give users all the key information on the practical arrangements – including burial, cremation, repatriation – on what to do after a British person dies. Eventually, we will roll out to all countries.

For CYB, this was another welcome opportunity to provide a service that will genuinely help its users. One of our main briefs with these bereavement pages was to make the key information more concise, leaving just the vital things users needed to know - bereaved people don’t have the time or capacity to deal with an overload of information. This left us with the challenge of deciding exactly which information was important for users to know.

In many ways, this is the modern dilemma for everyone. With so much information at our fingertips, how do you cut through all the noise and get to what you want, or perhaps even what you need? Unlimited choice is everywhere – what do I watch on Netflix? What do I listen to on Spotify? Where do I source my news? Where do I order my takeaway? (OK, Snoop Dogg has made that last one a bit easier).

We make these types of choices every single day. But sometimes we need the choice taken away from us. These pages needed to present key information only. To do that, we took note of the following considerations:

User Research

We always value user research in everything that we do, and this project was no different. From a content perspective, speaking to people who had used the previous tools on GOV.UK allowed us to recognise which parts of the existing bereavement advice were most useful, as well as identifying the flaws of the existing tools (mainly an overload of information). We also soon realised that information for more traumatic cases, for example, murder or manslaughter, was not suitable for this project, as those users required specialised, personal assistance.

Understanding the context

We had to take into account the differing circumstances across the countries, and be aware that each country has its own specific guidance on certain issues – for example, the process of local burial can differ significantly. We also discovered that countries with a higher percentage of British expats predominantly needed a different set of information to those who were just visiting the country, and we needed to tailor our content accordingly.

Thinking about page design

Once we had chosen the best page design for our content – a list of relevant topics at the top of the page that could be reached with a single click – we had to ensure that the content was kept concise within that framework. It meant we kept asking ourselves – is this information relevant to this page? Could this information be housed elsewhere? To make sure we didn’t clutter the page, we signposted to various internal and external pages, such as international funeral directors and charities, even creating new pages where necessary. We also changed the order of the information presented on the page depending on the prevalence of expats or travellers in a country. This meant the user would see the information that was most relevant to them first.

Editorial decisions

As much as you can research and take design into account, in the end the information you choose to give is, at least in part, going to come down to editorial judgement. The question of where to draw the line and decide what you need and don’t need will always come at some point in the process. Various things will influence the decision – topic, layout, space – but you still need to be confident enough to exclude information when you feel it doesn’t add anything, or will only confuse. With these pages, we made the call that certain issues – such as organ donation and legal aid – were more niche concerns that would crowd out the essentials, and should be sourced at a different stage of the user journey if needed.

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