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Iterating the trade tariff tool with HMRC

One of the tools we’ve created on GOV.UK is the Trade Tariff tool. It contains up-to-date and historical information on the duty you have to pay when importing and exporting goods outside the UK and the EU. The tool lets people find what the codes are and duty rates for their goods, and you can read more about how it works in this blog post by Matt.

Last week Mark (the team's delivery manager), Matt and I went to Southend for our monthly meeting with the Tariff Team. We've been meeting with several teams dealing with the tariff since we began work on it, but in particular we met with the Tariff Management Team (TMT) and the Tariff Classification Team.

The view of sunny Southend from HMRC

We've met with the Joint Customs Consultative Committee, run by HMRC, who are our expert users, and this has led to many potential features and changes that we could include in the tool. We've prioritised requirements to implement based on user feedback and the needs of the HMRC teams. The TMT update the tariff and make sure the print and online versions are correct, and the classification team help traders to find the correct code for their items and provides Binding Tariff classifications.

Iterative design

Designing the Trade Tariff was hard. It needs to cater for many kinds of users - notably those whose job it is to use the tariff constantly (including the classification team) as well as those who only use it once or twice, such as SMEs or personal traders. We err on the side of helping those new to the tariff, but need make sure it's detailed enough and fast enough for those who use it every day.

We’ve been through several iterations during the beta test, but we've already got a backlog of further potential improvements that we’ll implement over the next few releases. These include making clearer the distinction between the GOV.UK search and the tariff search box, letting you specify the trading country to make the data more useful, adding in indents/dashes to help expert users navigate pages quicker and including duty and VAT rates on the heading listing pages to make it easier to compare commodities.

Our analytics tools show that we’re getting similar numbers of users of the electronic tariff compared to the previous Business Link tariff. Those users are going to more pages, but spending less time on the site. We think that means that the system is quicker to use, and that people are encouraged to browse more. We’ll be doing more analysis of use, as well as talking to more users of the system to see what we can change to make it better.

We’ve also heard from the classification team that some of them have moved from using the paper version to the new online system, which is great news, but we want to make sure that we keep improving it and making it more useful as we get more data about how it's used.

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  1. Comment by Louise posted on

    And just to add that the perfect tariff tool would mean you wouldn't have to browse - you'd be able to classify your product quickly and easily without any ambiguity. Some sort of question tree would be great!

    • Replies to Louise>

      Comment by chrisheathcote posted on

      Hi Louise

      We are comparing like for like with Business Link. I appreciate there are different ways of reading the limited data we have so far - that's why we need to talk to more people to see how they're using the tool. Plus, as you say, there will be people just trying to new tool to see how it compares. Talking with the classification team, the number of calls hasn't changed since the new version was made available.

      We are looking at a more question/answer version of the tool, but whilst it may help to explain classification and the questions you need to ask to get the right code, it would probably make the system slower for expert users. Once we have more data on usage we can make a better call on bigger changes to the tool.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment, we really do appreciate feedback and suggestions.

  2. Comment by Louise posted on

    You could interpret your user data differently. If users are spending less time but viewing more pages of the tariff, you could conclude that users can't find the correct info so keep trying and when they can't find it give up quicker. Another useful measure would be to see if calls to the classification helpline have reduced.

    Is your analytics tool the same as was used on businesslink? If not you're not comparing like for like. Also it's likely, as with any redesigned site/tool, you'll have people 'playing' to see how it compares. I know I have!