Snow Disruption: usability review

As the snow spreads across the UK, people are turning to their local authority websites for the latest local information. With the adverse weather now into its fifth day in the North East of England we were not expecting to find too many usability issues at How wrong we were!

We set a single user three simple tasks to complete.

1. Is my child’s school Open or Closed?

The website’s home page has a prominent link to information about school closures and navigating to a specific school is relatively easy (they are listed alphabetically). Against each school a box displayed the status either Open or Closed but for many that box was empty.

In the following clip the user simply could not tell if their child’s school (Kells Lane) was Open or Closed and the link to school page did not work.

2. When will my bins be collected?

We thought that finding out whether bins are being collected or not would be a key task and might merit a link from the Home Page (in the same area as the School closures link), but it isn’t. In the following clip the user eventually found the information by using search, after navigating to the Collection and Disposal section of the website which did not yield the expect information.

3. Request for Gritting

Citizens can request that a street or path is gritted. Naturally, all councils need to prioritise gritting at these times, but we were surprised to find a broken link on this area of the website.

For some reason the Request Gritting page is a secure (https) page which only adds to the confusion.

Watch the following clip to “feel the user’s pain” and watch out for the broken link!


This single user test revealed some obvious areas where Gateshead Council could improve how information is both found and displayed. Getting this right will help build trust with Citizens who, according to central government policy, will be expected to increasingly transact online to reduce costs.

We normally recommend testing with five users, but in this case some of the issues were so obvious we stuck with just one.

2 Responses to “Snow Disruption: usability review

  • Interesting. Have you shared this with the Council other than via Twitter?

    • whatusersdo
      8 years ago


      Yes, we’ve spoken with Gateshead Council who have already made improvements to the website.


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