A content strategy to give and get advice
People come to Citizens Advice in their millions because they need advice to help them understand and solve their problems.
Our advice is the product of years of experience. We help people solve problems by getting to the bottom of their situation and knowing what to do to improve it. We call this tactical advice. It’s different from just giving people general information about a subject – people come to us because they know they have a problem and want help.
Digital advice is a vital part of the service we provide. We thought we’d share a summary of the changes we’re making to digital advice, the principles we follow and how we prioritise our work. We call this a content strategy – it’s a plan for what we aim to do to help advisers give – and people get – advice.
Why people use our digital advice
Last year there were 36 million visits to our website by people who needed help to solve a problem or get advice on the options they need to consider. Citizens Advice advisers also use our site to help people solve problems. We call the reason why people come to the site ‘ a user need’. Answering user needs is the fundamental principle on which we develop digital advice.
We use data and research to discover user needs and design content or create tools to fulfil them.
Why we’re changing our digital advice
We’re changing our digital advice to help more people get tactical and actionable advice online, and provide better content for our advisers to help people in person. Sometimes that means including extra information for our advisers – like useful case law references to help a client in a tribunal case.
With more accessible and useful online advice, we can use scarce resources to help more people face-to-face, perhaps because they have more complex problems or aren’t as confident using the internet.
How we design content
We design digital advice content, we don’t just ‘write’ it. This means making decisions on:
- the format we use, and how this works for different devices
- the structure and information we include
- our tone of voice and language
- what will help people find our advice
We use normal web pages as our advice format most of the time – it’s the easiest way for people to access advice as most people come to our site after searching on Google. If an issue is more complex, we make tools or decision-trees (like our benefit checker) to help people find the right solution.
Research helps us define people’s problems, and understand the language they use when they’re searching for help online. Designing content based on this research means it’s easier for people to find and understand our advice. Content is then tested with our users – both the public and advisers – to make sure it helps to answer their problems.
We always write in plain English and our tone of voice is straightforward, reassuring and positive. To make sure our writing is consistent we use a style guide. Testing has shown that people trust our advice and find it easiest to understand when it’s written like this.
How our teams work
We work collaboratively in multidisciplinary teams, including:
- content designers – who design digital content and tools according to user needs
- user researchers – who find out how people behave when using digital advice, what they need and what motivates them
- designers – who design how our digital advice works so it’s easy to use and great to interact with
- developers – who build tools and digital services
- data scientists – who use data and analysis to understand how people are finding and using our advice and how content is performing
- our expert advice team – who check every piece of content is factually correct and look ahead to changes in policy, legislation or practice
How we prioritise our work
We want to redesign our digital advice as quickly as possible so we can devote more resources to improving content and developing new areas of advice people need.
Our advice covers many subjects, so we need to prioritise carefully. We concentrate resources where we know more people need our help.
Alongside this we’ll also:
- improve newly published content based on user feedback, data and research – we call this ‘iteration’
- repurpose content that answers user needs that are less frequently searched for, to make sure it’s written in plain English and contains actionable advice
- remove content that doesn’t fulfill a user need – for example general information about a subject people aren’t searching for
People’s needs are always changing, so we iterate and produce new digital advice to keep pace with changes in society. In this way Citizens Advice will continue to help many more millions of people for years to come.