The Electoral Commission is an independent organisation set up by UK Parliament, with the goal of ensuring 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. Alongside this, the Commission is also responsible for setting standards and policies for running elections and communicating the importance of registering to vote alongside facilitating the registration process.
Structure an ever-expanding content library
User-friendly interface that serves multiple audiences
Intelligent filtering to sort by date, type and subject
Accurate and relevant information from multiple sources
Stable and reliable search interface
A content heavy organisation by nature, the Electoral Commission needed a search platform, which was able to deliver accurate and relevant information from multiple sources quickly and easily.
Serving everything from political parties and campaigners to academia and public sector workers, the search platform had to be both reliable and accurate enough to effectively serve around 35,000 individual searches per month.
The previous system had been outgrown by the content on the site and wasn’t fit for purpose as Chrystna Chymera explained:
“Our previous search system 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.”
Offering a range of features such as filtering, relevancy tuning, user rating, multi-lingual search, advanced multi-parameter search and contextual navigation; the implementation of Funnelback was designed to give users the ability to refine their search results quickly and efficiently, enabling self-discovery of the most relevant content.
These and other performance enhancing features all work to improve navigation, user experience and the speed of information retrieval.
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, date, subject, location and audience.
Expand terms to increase the number of search results and increase search relevance for semantically linked terms – i.e. ballot – vote.
Provide intelligent suggestions to users, through grouping and suggesting potential results that are contextually relevant.
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.
Implementing a combination of sophisticated features and tools within Funnelback has transformed the user experience on the Electoral Commission website, delivering more accurate and meaningful results, quicker than ever before.
Intelligent filtering, contextual navigation and the use of synonyms allows users to self direct and intuitively cut through thousands of results to find the information they are looking for, without the need to shift to other channels to gain answers to their queries.
Chrystyna from the Electoral Commission explains the direct impact of the new search platform on the organisation and its customers;
“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 have a number of different website visitor groups, but the terminology used by them when searching for completely different things can be very similar. For example, ‘postal votes’ is a common search term, but some visitors will be looking for information about how they can register for, or complete, a postal vote, others will want news releases on postal votes, and some will want to know how to administer a postal vote. A simple search engine can’t consider any of that.”
The implementation of Funnelback has not only improved efficiency and the experience for users of the website; but has also had a huge impact for the team behind the scenes, allowing them to separate language content such as English and Welsh, and most importantly influence the order of results and promote content through search;
“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. So, if there’s one key document I know everyone is going to need, I can tag it against a set of search terms and it will automatically go to the top of the results for those terms. It’s not to be used for everything, but as a special emergency measure it’s really powerful.”
Providing the ability to search across all three of the commission databases, Funnelback bridges the previously stand-alone data siloes, ensuring that users have full access to the most relevant information, no matter where it is stored. Making things even more intuitive, the new platform provides a top level overview of results returned and distinguishes the format of data, highlighting if the results are web data, PDF, forms or spreadsheets.
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.
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 mas- sive boost. We now have a speedy and comprehensive customer search experience.
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