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Understanding the needs of DFID's website visitors

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I’ve worked for DFID for 6 years managing our website and intranet team. I’m based in our East Kilbride office and work closely with digital communications colleagues in London (both in DFID and across the UK government) and with our aid transparency and intranet teams here in Scotland. Now the focus of my work is on putting our new digital strategy into practice.

Homepage of DFID website
DFID's homepage on GOV.UK

We recently moved our website on to the single UK government website, which has provided both opportunities and challenges. GOV.UK is managed by the Government Digital Service (GDS) and recently won an award for Design of the Year. The opportunities are to make DFID’s policies, spending and results really clear and to place our work in the context of what the UK government as a whole is achieving worldwide.Feedback has been largely positive about the bringing together departmental websites and the clarity and presentation of the information. The challenges are to structure and link DFID’s content clearly and to ensure people can find the level of detail they need.

One of the areas of my work I’ve always found particularly interesting is web usability testing. The GDS regularly tests the GOV.UK website with real live web users in lab conditions to see whether it is meeting their needs.  I recently observed the testing of the ‘worldwide’ section of the site. It enabled us to watch and learn how people search and navigate, what they click on and why, and how easy or hard it is to find what they need (as they give a running commentary). It never ceases to amaze me to see the different techniques people have for searching and browsing websites! It’s also illuminating and rewarding to see how familiar some of our audiences are with in-depth content that we publish.

In our digital strategy, we’ve set a target of improving how people find and apply for funds and grants from DFID. We offer around 55 different grants that a wide variety of organisations can apply for to meet specific development goals. This is one of the most visited sections of our website, year in and year out, but there’s work to do to make the process of identifying the right fund and applying for it simpler, clearer and faster. I’m working with colleagues from other government departments and I will keep you updated on progress on this blog.

Meanwhile, if anyone would like to give us feedback on our new website, or details of anything you can’t find, we’ll listen carefully and see how we can act on your suggestions. You can either post your comments below, or email us details at

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  1. Comment by John Goslino posted on

    Great to see a Government and development-focussed website actually be properly evaluated via usability and effectiveness testing, many NGOs could learn from DFID as many of their sites are just bad.