How the Electoral Commission made its information more accessible and improved customer service with Funnelback Website Search
The Electoral Commission is an independent organisation set up by UK Parliament. Its aim is to ensure integrity and public confidence in the country’s democratic process. Its main activities include registering political parties, administering rules and guidance on party and election finance, and publishing details of party and candidate funding. The Commission also sets out the standards and policies for running elections, and reports on the implementation of those standards across all the political parties. The job of communicating the importance of registering to vote and how to do so also lies with the Commission.
The Electoral Commission is by nature a content heavy organisation. It holds thousands of documents, forms, guidance and information essential to the UK’s electoral process. Its challenge is to deliver that information quickly and easily via searches on its website.
The organisation’s Senior Corporate Communications Officer (Digital Media) Chrystyna Chymera, explained more about the Commission’s challenges: "We have so much content, and a lot of it is statutory information, so it’s absolutely essential to those who are involved in elections in any way or those who want to know more about them. With our previous search system it was taking website visitors too long to find what they were looking for. It was very slow and search results were not relevant enough. They ended up giving up on their searches and we were taking lots of calls asking for content that was actually available on the website, but just not easily accessible."
The Electoral Commission was already using Squiz’s Content Management System, MySource Matrix, and selected Squiz’s Funnelback Search solution because of its powerful features and functionality.
Funnelback Search offers a host of features such as results filtering, relevancy tuning, user rating, multi-lingual search and advanced multi-parameter search. Funnelback’s ‘Contextual Navigation’ is also a key feature, which offers dynamic clustering of search results, allowing users to refine their search results to easily find the information they require. These and other performance enhancing features all work to improve navigation, user experience and the speed of information retrieval.
Chrystyna went on to explain the direct impact of the new system on the organisation and its customers: "Being able to provide appropriate results for different audiences is really important to the Commission. You get hundreds, maybe thousands of results for certain terms but what the Funnelback system can do is give options to refine the search results, and provide advice on which additional or alternative words they could try to retrieve better results."
"We also had a problem previously that people couldn’t distinguish between the types or formats of data that were being returned – whether it was web data, pdf, forms, spreadsheets etc – but now there are icons that clearly show what that data is. It’s a lot more user friendly.”
But the most beneficial aspect of the new functionality to the team is the ability to influence the results. Chrystyna said: "Now we can drive people straight to specific pieces of content when we need to. There are a number of tricks we can perform to influence where content appears in the rankings. For example, when we upload something new we can send it straight to the top of the rankings if we need to. It’s not to be used for everything, but as a special emergency measure it’s really powerful."
Other benefits to the Commission include the ability to separate content and search results by language (English and Welsh), the ability to search across all three of the Commission’s databases (only two were being included in the search results previously) and automatic search index updates to ensure that results are always accurate and up to date.
The improved search, new features and greater degree of administrative control have had a significant impact on the performance of the Electoral Commission’s website. Conversion rates have increased from 22% at the beginning of the project, to 52% after just three months, while clicks on featured pages have more than tripled.
Chrystyna finished by saying: "Our editors and managers are pleased with the enhanced control over the system and their ability to influence it. In the past, if there were any issues with search, there was absolutely nothing we could do about it. But now we have much more control. Our website visitors are also happier, especially with the speed of the service. It’s been a massive boost. We now have a speedy and comprehensive customer search experience."