Bolton Council is a local authority, serving over 220 thousand residents with information; advice and services on subjects ranging from education and community activities to care facilities and bin collections.
Bolton Council had a clear vision of what they wanted to achieve for their users:
Create a personalised and flexible local directory - ensuring that users could find the information they were looking for online, without the need for shifting to more costly to run channels such as call centres or face-to-face contact hubs.
Implement an intuitive and accessible interface - The new Care Act obligates local authorities to make information on vital services and advice more accessible, and create a local directory of support services for those with special educational needs and disabilities.
Centralise and structure information from multiple sources - The search solution had to be sophisticated enough to index and display relevant results such as contact details, advice and services from national providers including the NHS and Gov.uk central government websites; as well as local results from the council’s information archives, and output all of these with an intuitive and consistent look and feel.
Create a personalised and flexible directory
Intuitive and accessible content search
Provide structured information
Index over 9,500 items
From the outset, the team at Bolton had a clear vision for the local directory to act as a platform that would help the community help themselves, through self-discovery and self-curation.
The ability to combine local information as well as centralised healthcare advice and government services from the NHS and Gov.uk websites, aimed to provide an effective, consistent and holistic directory where users can find the most relevant results, without the need for the Council to create duplicate content on topics already covered elsewhere.
Moving away from the Council’s traditional role of simply being a service provider, the directory was also designed to be flexible enough that the local community could list events and activities, and in doing so transform a static database into a dynamic community portal. This required a sophisticated search solution, capable of handling multiple formats of data, from multiple sources, before displaying the results in a consistently easy to navigate format.
To do so, Funnelback worked closely with Bolton Council, drawing up a plan combining ‘out of the box’ elements such as autocomplete and faceted navigation, with more bespoke features aimed at creating a dynamic experience for users, such as postcode searching, map outputs and basket style comparison capabilities.
Faceted navigation hands control to the user, empowering them to filter their results by the field's most pertinent to them, such as file types, site section and location.
Create an intuitive comparison feature, where users can select and ‘shortlist’ results in a basket, wish list or comparison window; providing an instinctive platform for them to get the most from your content.
Location Based Search
Allow users to narrow down results by postcode and proximity searching, showcasing only the most relevant results related to a particular area. Provide an intuitive output for geographical results, plotting results with summary information on an interactive map output.
In my 13 years as a development manager in customer service, Funnelback have been the most innovative and easy team to work with to create a positive customer experience.
Combined, these features have added shape and structure to an ever-expanding database of information, and delivered a dynamic local directory, which fulfils its goal of connecting the community to vital services and local information.
Widely used by the public and practitioners alike, the precise search and filtering, coupled with shortlisting and comparison tools, allows users to create their own personalised ‘digital prescription’ on a topic that matters to them, which they can then save, update and share.
Not only meeting its obligations to make information accessible under the Care Act, the directory has proved such a successful tool in connecting users to local services and aiding channel shift, that Bolton Council are investigating rolling out Funnelback across more of their public facing portals in the near future.
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