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It’s tasks all the way down

Liverpool.gov.uk is a very task focused website, it is built on the principles of ‘Top Tasks‘ – finding the most popular tasks you’re users want and providing them with quick and easy ways to find them.

Quite often top tasks can be misinterpreted as “popular pages”, “quick links” or just a list on the homepage – that really is missing the power of top tasks and it makes Gerry McGovern rather animated

Thinking in “Tasks” forces you to think like your users, not what is a popular page, but “how do I do this thing ?” –

For liverpool.gov.uk we did a lot of work identifying the popular tasks and then we did a lot of thinking about how people might go about those tasks, and when you’re thinking about them you often realise that one top tasks is often many little different tasks – all of which need to be considered.

When is the pool open?

One example of this for us is Swimming Pool opening times. – often cited as a council top task – and it’s simple to think of this as ‘when is the pool open?’

But if you stop and think about your customers for a bit – it’s very unlikely that a simple the pool is open from 7am to 8pm is going to answer your users need.

When can I do “x type of” swimming?

People going swimming often have different things in mind; some people may want to go swimming with the kids, others don’t want kids in their way, others want to swim up and down in lanes. “The pool is open 7am – 8pm” doesn’t tell them any of that.

That’s why when building the new liverpool.gov.uk/lifestyles pages we looked at breaking down the task into further steps. “when is general public swimming on?”, “when is it adult only?”, “when can i lane swim?”

the result is split swimming information on our centre pages.

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users can quickly see the times for different types of swimming, and make their choices accordingly.

Breaking down the tasks like this can become very complex and you have to be careful you don’t overwhelm your users – but I think we’ve done a good job of showing the different answers while maintaining the simplicity of the site.

What this example shows is how you have to think beyond you’re headline top task – into what the make up of that task actually is, and break it down if people are after specific information.

it’s not just top tasks, it’s tasks all the way down.