7 steps to helping older people find what they need

At Govt.nz, we’re working on producing information about services that are relevant to older people. We published a big chunk of new content about health services on the site on the 29th of April. Our approach is to organise content around the needs of users rather than the structure of government. Here’s the process we followed to decide how to group the pages so that people can find the information they need.

1. Environment scan — what information is out there?

To begin, we looked online and found all the information and resources we could relevant to older people. We also got help from the Future Service Delivery to Older New Zealanders inter-agency working group to identify what services are available to seniors.

Some of the many different websites with information for seniors

2. Talking to people — what do people want to know?

We talked to older people about their experiences with government and the services they use. We talked to non-government organisations about their work supporting older people, and contact centre staff to find out what people know and don’t know when calling, and what they call about.

Find out more about this discovery phase research.

3. Open card sort — how do people group the topics?

Once we knew what topics we needed to cover we ran an open card sort using OptimalSort. People grouped the topics together however they thought they belonged and then named the groups. While no two people put the topics in the same groups, there were reoccurring themes of help at home, accidents, wellbeing and mobility/transport. For example, the topic ‘Getting your house modified’ was put into groups called ‘Help in your home’, ‘unable to look after yourself but not significantly disabled’, ‘I want to stay in my own home’, ‘Help options’ and nine more variations.

A screenshot of card sorting software where topics are sorted into groups by the user.
Participants move cards from a list of topics into groups that make sense to them.

We did the card sort with a small number of participants, 19, because we knew the software would be tricky for some older users, and because we were looking for themes, not definite answers. We recruited by sending the test to our own networks of people over 65, and to the Wellington SeniorNet.

4. Making leaps — how do we join it together?

People grouped the cards quite differently, so we looked at the results and made some hypotheses.

A grid showing how often topics were grouped with other topics.
Matrix showing which topics were grouped together the most often in the card sort. The numbers represent what percentage of times topics were grouped with each other. The darker blue areas indicate the strongest relationships. Above 60% is considered a strong relationship, above 30% is considered a moderate relationship and below 30% a weak relationship.
Topic matrix text alternative
TOPICS Help with cooking and meals Help maintaining your home and garden Getting your house modified Help paying your heating costs Help with day-to-day personal care Nursing and medical help at home Getting a medical alarm Glasses and help with failing eyesight Help with hearing loss and hearing aids Help to recover from an injury Help if you have an injury Getting palliative care Looking after your mental wellbeing Maintaining social contact Getting a needs assessment Disability allowance — what to ask your GP Paying for a vehicle when you're disabled Modifying a car if you're disabled Using a mobility scooter Transport to visit a partner in care Help with travel to medical appointments Complaining about residential care Physical or mental abuse of a senior
Help with cooking and meals N/A 94 78 68 78 68 31 5 10 0 10 5 10 26 31 10 5 5 0 15 15 0 0
Help maintaining your home and garden 94 N/A 73 63 73 63 36 10 15 0 10 5 15 31 26 10 5 5 5 15 21 0 0
Getting your house modified 78 73 N/A 68 63 52 31 5 15 0 0 0 5 21 31 26 21 21 10 10 15 0 0
Help paying your heating costs 68 63 68 N/A 55 45 31 10 20 5 10 10 5 10 21 26 35 10 5 10 25 0 0
Help with day-to-day personal care 78 73 63 55 N/A 60 42 15 21 10 15 10 15 26 36 5 5 5 0 10 10 0 0
Nursing and medical help at home 68 63 52 45 60 N/A 47 21 15 21 26 21 26 31 42 10 5 10 5 0 5 0 5
Getting a medical alarm 31 36 31 31 42 47 N/A 63 63 47 36 31 36 26 31 10 5 5 10 10 26 0 10
Glasses and help with failing eyesight 5 10 5 10 15 21 63 N/A 85 65 50 55 60 26 31 21 5 0 15 15 21 5 21
Help with hearing loss and hearing aids 10 15 15 20 21 15 63 85 N/A 55 45 45 55 26 26 15 10 5 10 10 31 5 15
Help to recover from an injury 0 0 0 5 10 21 47 65 55 N/A 80 50 40 10 31 21 5 0 10 10 10 5 15
Help if you have an injury 10 10 0 10 15 26 36 50 45 80 N/A 55 35 10 26 21 5 0 0 5 10 5 21
Getting palliative care 5 5 0 10 10 21 31 55 45 50 55 N/A 40 10 36 36 10 5 5 15 10 10 31
Looking after your mental wellbeing 10 15 5 5 15 26 36 60 55 40 35 40 N/A 63 26 15 10 10 10 5 15 10 26
Maintaining social contact 26 31 21 10 26 31 26 26 26 10 10 10 63 N/A 31 5 5 15 15 5 10 21 15
Getting a needs assessment 31 26 31 21 36 42 31 31 26 31 26 36 26 31 N/A 47 5 5 5 10 0 10 15
Disability allowance — what to ask your GP 10 10 26 26 5 10 10 21 15 21 21 36 15 5 47 N/A 31 21 15 10 15 10 15
Paying for a vehicle when you're disabled 5 5 21 35 5 5 5 5 10 5 5 10 10 5 5 31 N/A 78 57 57 52 10 5
Modifying a car if you're disabled 5 5 21 10 5 10 5 0 5 0 0 5 10 15 5 21 78 N/A 68 52 47 10 5
Using a mobility scooter 0 5 10 5 0 5 10 15 10 10 0 5 10 15 5 15 57 68 N/A 52 42 5 0
Transport to visit a partner in care 15 15 10 10 10 0 10 15 10 10 5 15 5 5 10 10 57 52 52 N/A 63 15 5
Help with travel to medical appointments 15 21 15 25 10 5 26 21 31 10 10 10 15 10 0 15 52 47 42 63 N/A 5 0
Complaining about residential care 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 5 5 5 5 10 10 21 10 10 10 10 5 15 5 N/A 63
Physical or mental abuse of a senior 0 0 0 0 0 5 10 21 15 15 21 31 26 15 15 15 5 5 0 5 0 63 N/A

We designed two different versions of a site tree to test our thoughts. In one version, we split the topics into six groups and in the other, nine groups. This tested the trade-off between the difficulty of more options to choose from and the benefit of more explicit titles. For example, the first version had a group called ‘Medical help’, which was split into ‘Eyes, ears and teeth’ and ‘Accidents and injuries’ in the second version. We also tested alternative label names like ‘Keeping independent’ versus ‘Help in your home’.

5. Tree test — are topics where people expect them to be?

We ran the two tests on tree testing software, TreeJack. People clicked through a site tree (the topics and sub-topics that contain pages) and selected where they thought they would find the answers to our questions We had 44 participants for one test and 45 for the other.

Version one of the tree test results in more detail

Version two of the tree test results in more detail

If you'd like to request a text version of these results, please email govtnz@dia.govt.nz

A screenshot of tree testing software where the user has clicked through levels of topics and found an answer.
A screenshot of the TreeJack program.

6. Compare and revise – what’s not working?

The variation with more groups was the winner, with a success rate of 72% compared with 65% for the other. We found out which wordings performed best and where further adjustments were needed.

A screenshot of analysis from the TreeJack showing the paths three users took through the tree.
We asked participants: Where would you find out if you are eligible for help with the costs of being in a nursing home? This image shows three of the paths users took, the first incorrect, the second found the answer after backtracking, and the third found it on the first go.

Participant 13 selected ‘Residential care’, then ‘Choosing residential care’.

Participant 14 selected ‘Caring for someone’, then returned to ‘Health’, then ‘Residential care’, then ‘Residential care subsidy’, then ‘Who can get it’.

Participant 18 selected ‘Residential care’, then ‘Residential care subsidy’, then ‘Who can get it’.

7. Usability testing — can people find things in situ?

We visited the Kapiti SeniorNet to test the content once it had been published. We talked to people about what experiences they'd had with health services, and then asked them to look at a part of our information that was relevant to them. What gets published is almost never exactly what was planned months beforehand, so this was a good way to do a final check and prioritise some tweaks we'll need to make. It also gave us a chance to see people using the information in a more natural way, and look at whether people can understand the information, as well as find it.

This is clearer than anything I’ve ever seen before [in government].

a SeniorNet tutor

This is the first of a few posts we'll do about our work around older people, so keep an eye out for more.

What techniques have you used to develop your information architecture? Let us know in the comments, we’re always keen to share experiences.

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