For the past two months, DOR has been asking you – our website users – to review and critique our site – its appearance, usability, clarity of information and overall usefulness to you. The results are now in and we want to share what you had to say, what you like and don’t like – and the changes we’ll be making as a result of your comments.
First off, thank you to the 81 folks who took the time to respond to the survey and voice your thoughts. While we strive to create a site that helps people perform their tasks or find the information they need quickly and easily, to hear back from our audience – good or bad – is extremely helpful to us.
So, here’s a summary of the major survey results:
Overall, your reviews were very positive for the look of our site. As you may recall, DOR, like the majority of other state sites, underwent a redesign at the state level last December. As part of the state-wide redesign, some of the new features such as overall look, spacing, tabs and use of “mega drop down” menus, were part of a required template for all agencies. Outside of that general look, agencies were free to add any number of graphic or design elements.
Looking to create our site in a more modern style, we added a slideshow/video player on our homepage and, beneath that, a sliding icon section, to make sure we can quickly bring to your attention new initiatives or important programs, or direct you to popular items quickly.
Of the respondents who liked the new look, the typical comments mentioned the easy-to-use format, the use of large graphics for vision-impaired folks, and the use of videos. It was also great to hear that many of you have watched our videos and found them helpful – especially the annual filing season video. By the way, please let us know if there are any topics you would like to see covered in a future video.
While there were no specific criticisms of the website’s design, we did hear from a few folks that they didn’t like it. A sampling: “Can’t find anything anymore.”
To those who do not like the new site, we apologize and, be assured, we take your dissatisfaction seriously. If you have specific suggestions how we can improve the site for you, please let us know! We’ll do what we can.
Usability is the key to any website experience; without proper usability, you potentially waste the time of your users as they try to guess their way through your site.
The Usability portion of the survey revealed a very specific criticism – the use of “mega drop down” menus as part of our website’s top-level tab (Individuals, Businesses, All Taxes, etc.). architecture. Mega drop-down menus are supposed to be a quick shortcut – mousing over the tab displays a summary of all the main topics under that tab and can be clicked on quickly – well, at least in theory.
In a nutshell, respondents hate the mega drop down menus. At issue is the speed in which the menus operate and their large size – equal to almost two-thirds of the web page. Users were frustrated with the rapidity of the mouse action – causing temporary confusion while users try to determine what happened to the page they were just looking at.
Here’s the story: the drop down menus, like the website’s Search feature, are part of the state-wide design and DOR has no control over how they function. We have investigated as to what action can be taken to alleviate this issue and, unfortunately there are no solutions available – yet. We have learned, however, that agencies have the option to disable the drop-down menus for their website. Based on the negative response to these menus, that is exactly what we will do. We trust this will make for a less confusing web experience.
Another issue that surfaced a number of times was users’ inability to quickly locate DOR phone numbers, such as our Customer Service or Audit divisions. To remedy that, we have added a “DOR Phone Numbers” link to our Quick Links section on our homepage.
Another concern that a few respondents mentioned was the inability to log into our WebFile programs directly from our homepage. We actually tried to accomplish this when we were redesigning the site, but, unfortunately, our homepage is on a different server than the heavily-secure WebFile applications and there were acute security concerns – enough that we decided not to proceed. This is something that we still believe makes sense, however, and will keep exploring a possible solution – but not at the expense of security.
One user did mention their inability to locate tax form mailing addresses on our site. We will point out that we do have a “Tax Forms and Mailing Addresses” link on our homepage Quick Links.
Lastly, we received an interesting comment from a user who requested that we create a “Fast Facts” page on our website that provides a quick glance at some common Massachusetts tax information such as number of Massachusetts taxpayers, average tax bills, tax rates, and other similar information. Sounds good to us. We’ll begin compiling these and other useful facts from our site and create such a page. Look for it soon.
Clarity and Timeliness of Information
A couple questions on our survey asked about users’ satisfaction with the clarity of the website’s information and how current they thought it was. On this, we received high marks. A few respondents rated us “Not at All Up-to-Date” but provided no specific criticisms for us to evaluate.
Summary and Conclusion
Again, thanks again to those who took the time to comment on our site. We really appreciate your time investment and take your comments seriously. Overall, it appears we’re doing well, and folks are readily adapting to the new site. That being said, there are a number of usability issues that need to be addressed. We’ll be tackling those issues we can immediately – stay tuned to our homepage, Facebook or Twitter pages as we’ll update you when we make these changes.
Comments on this story? Let us know.