One of the primary things that starting to look at information seeking raised was quite how much data we have. When you pair this with the amount of information nhs.uk serves (our onsite search appliance indexes over 600,000 pages of information, data and content), it gives us quite a task to narrow this down into something we can start to work with.
Our initial thoughts on narrowing our focus centred around what people did most, both in terms of what they search for on- and offsite, and from existing user research. This gave us some areas of overlap, suggesting topics and areas we knew were important, such as the overlap shown below for onsite searches in the areas of dental practices and dentists.
When we compared the on- and offsite search data, there were six key areas where the data matched. We know from user research that users want to find information on conditions, treatments and/or symptoms. These key pieces of information help us to narrow our focus.
We showed this data and research at our inception day, and came up with key areas within groups, based not just on the data and research, but also on different types of user journeys, within a mix of contexts. From these 20 key areas, we looked again at the overlap between the data, and those identified by the groups. This helped us to come up with a list of areas we could really focus on, driven by user needs as well as being key topic areas suggested by the data.
What are these topic areas? In order of how we’ll look at them (and why we chose them above other topics) they are:
Not only are these user- and data-driven, they also represent different ways of information seeking: chickenpox is very symptomatic, with the main use case most likely to be parents looking for their children, while social care covers data (in the form of care services), content (conditions likely to be associated with care, such as dementia) and a need state (looking at care options can be highly emotive). This should help us to gain broader insight into how people search – because we can look at a very broad picture when considering information seeking (such as ‘how does a user find a service? What do they expect from this service?’), we can hopefully apply learning from one topic to multiple others.
The next step is to look at the assumptions we came up with on the inception day, and refine them, reposition them, add new ones, and move on to looking at specific user journeys. This will allow us to test some of the assumptions, and begin to see how users actually look for things.