Digital MPs

Prototyping a tool to signpost constituents to the right help

We explored how a signposting tool could point constituents to the right help, and reduce the number of emails received by MPs and their staff.

It is vital that MPs are in touch with their constituents to understand the issues they face. A positive interaction can often lead to future help and support.

MPs are often seen as the go-to person when no-one else can help, but often constituents contact their MP about issues that can be resolved by directing them elsewhere first - for example to the local council or a website like FixMyStreet.

What we did

We explored two different ways of adding signposting information to an MP’s website - a “decision tree” and an enhanced contact form.

In a decision tree, information is provided as a result of choices made by the constituent. The contact form provides all the information at once. We used tools to create prototypes which an MP’s team could easily tailor to reflect the most popular reasons why constituents contact them.

In a real deployment of these tools, web analytics could be used to track the number of constituents being helped and to explore the most useful and most accessed information.

We used Twinery to develop a prototype decision tree. This tool is commonly used by writers and games designers to create “choose your own adventure” stories, but it allowed us to add a series of questions and provide appropriate information in response. It would be easy for an MP’s team to add links and simple formatting to test the approach.

We explored how the tool could provide the MP's views on particular matters, point the citizen to a better first point of contact (such as their local authority) or, ultimately, provide the contact details of the MP. You can see the prototype here.

We mocked up our contact form using wireframes.

What we learned

The caseworkers who tested the prototypes found them to be useful.

[The tool would be] a great help for anyone who’s a little uncertain about which office they should be approaching with their query, particularly where there are devolved administrations. [It would] also allow them to find out more about the latest developments and issues which affect them or in which they have a particular interest.

- Caseworker

Decision tree

An image showing the prototype's starting page
Image: How the decision tree appears to constituents
An image showing a landing page on the prototype
Image: Example pages showing how a constituent can be signposted elsewhere

Enhanced contact form

An image showing a landing page on the prototype
Image: The enhanced contact form prototype, with information provided after a topic is chosen, but still leaving the option to get in touch

We would like to see these approaches tested in more depth and made available in some of the more common MP website content management systems.

We believe they will be helpful for both constituents and their MPs.