Louise is the Digital Services Team Leader. She is obsessed about User Experience (UX), has a love for beautiful designs and enjoys re-engineering the way people use websites.
When not at work Louise can be found exercising at circuit classes and cycling around the beautiful town of Shrewsbury.
We’ve had the pleasure of meeting a lot of other local authorities through various events, visits and social gatherings, and we’ve always been asked if we would be willing to share a copy of ‘the’ contract/policy we talk about when working on new.shropshire.gov.uk. Unfortunately, we’ve always said no. We felt it was never quite polished enough to release to the wider world.
However, after thinking about it, we realised that we always say how we work in an agile way, and like to share as many ideas as possible with other councils, so why shouldn’t this apply in this situation?
So after a lot of thought, we decided to share our contract, but please note it is a ‘work in progress (WIP)’. Yes, I did just make that awful joke!
We hope you find it useful, and please free to edit it, add to it, remove bits or throw it in the bin as you see fit. It’s completely up to you.
If you do happen to download a copy and use it, it would be great if you could let us know if it helped you, and what improvements/changes you made.
It’s been a long time coming but we are finally redesigning Project WIP.
Within the team we’ve had some ideas about what the new site should look like and what we should be focusing on, as there have been a lot of changes over the past two years.
Project WIP has evolved into a ‘brand’, a far cry from its humble beginnings early in 2011 as a way for the IT Development staff to get their voices heard and show off their good work. Ownership of Project WIP has predominantly stayed within the ‘Web Team’, but we’ve had some restructures and staff changes, with more than four of the original members of Project WIP who worked in IT Development leaving us. We’ve also had some new additions, and have become the Digital Services Team, which helpfully puts the development, design and content aspects of our work together under one roof.
We’ll be keeping the blog area, and would like to give you a bit more of an insight to the team, maybe even some video blog posts so you can see us! We’d also like to let people know what services we offer in case any of you would like to work with us in the future.
We’ve always been open and honest with you and we’d now like you to be open and honest with us. We’d like to know what you, our followers, think of our current site, what you like and what you don’t like about it. So please send your feedback via our online form.
We’ve also included a few screenshots of possible ideas and concepts to give you an idea of what we’re thinking.
On Friday we attended the first all day web conference in Shropshire.
Project WIP team members helped out at the event with tasks such as registration and giving out goody bags, and we were lucky enough to sit in on a lot of the talks too. I’ve put all my thoughts from the day into this blog post and would like to thank all the inspirational speakers from the day.
I’ve taken a lot away from the whole (R)evolution event, which actually started the night before the conference at the smaller Shropgeek event called Rebellion.
Neil Kinnish and Pete Nelson from Mixture gave an interesting talk and inspired me to pick up some ‘side projects’ and “Have Fun”. I’ll be doing this in work, where I’d like the team to work together one day a week on a project that desperately needs doing, but always gets pushed down the list of priorities. I’m also hoping to pick up some old side projects of mine at home too.
Dafydd gave an interesting talk about the team behind gov.uk and how they operate, including how the team of designers, developers and content writers all work together.
Dafydd also told us about their new colleague, a toy badger – yes you read that correctly! Gov UK have a rule that, unless you are physically holding the toy badger, no work to complete a release is allowed. Dafydd, if you’re reading this, I would love to know if the badger has a name.
Robert spoke a lot of sense; he presented as though he was talking to me individually, which was great since his whole presentation was about tone of voice.
Robert has taught me that you need to find where you sit on the spectrum, from professional to fun. If you are a professional organisation there is no shame in putting yourself on the professional side of the spectrum. As Robert said, you wouldn’t want a solicitor’s website to be overly friendly, you want them to be professional.
Laura showed us some excellent examples of sites that weren’t very accessible. Laura made me stop and think about sites I’ve designed over the years (she’ll be happy to hear that I’ve started underlining links again in my own work).
She also got me thinking about the use of ‘Click Here’ and the fact that some users now tap! Will this be a historical reference that we will always use, similar to the way the floppy disc icon is still universally used to save, long after the floppy disc itself has faded into obsolescence? Laura also showed us examples of the mistakes designers make, and gave us some tips that I will use in my next project.
Joel’s presentation had me in laughing my socks off! Brilliantly delivered but still had some solid points.
Joel explained that it was OK to make mistakes and that when we do succeed we should celebrate. We shouldn’t be selling ourselves short either; after all, Joel himself won’t even give his own Mom a discount!
Well, where to start? Elliot Jay Stocks is a personal favourite of mine. I was so excited when I learnt from Kirsty that he would be presenting. Elliot took us through his personal decade of web design which including a lot of Flash!
Elliot got me thinking about how we need to work with other people who are experts in that particular field and the importance of working on different things so you don’t go stir crazy.
Finally, I’d like to say that the (R)evolution conference really did give me some food for thought. I’d like to thank Kirsty Burgoine, Zach Beauvais and Pete White for putting on such a brilliant event and letting us be a part of it.
Yesterday we presented at Socitm’s Building Perfect Council Websites conference. We’d like to thank Socitm for inviting us along and all those who attended the morning workshop with myself. As promised, here is a write up of the presentation from the workshop ‘Project WIP we’re awesome (but we all make mistakes)’. I apologise now for the length of this blog post, but it was an hour long presentation .
What is Project WIP?
Project WIP was created by two members of IT Development around 3 years ago as a means for our staff to get the recognition they deserved for all the hard work they did. It was to prove to people that we were good and could be trusted.
Project WIP has its very own website (that you may well be on right now, if you are reading this). The website includes a who we are area, a testing area where you can sign up to become one of our testers and a blog section. On our blog section we take it in turns to write about what we’ve been up to, to share ideas with like minded people and generally just to let you know how the team is getting along and what we plan to work on next.
Who are Project WIP?
As mentioned earlier, Project WIP was originally created by IT Development and since then teams have evolved. The IT side of things used to be very separate to the content and overall management of the website whereby we used to have a ‘client & supplier’ relationship. We have since merged and added a few extras in to form the ‘Digital Services & Innovations Team’
If you’d like to know a little more about the individuals, please see our ‘who we are’ page
What is it you do?
Well, we drink tea and eat a lot of cake! As well as the following (to name a few).
Project WIP was created overnight and without consent and since then it has gone from strength to strength. We’ve even received praise from Tom Loosemore.
In the next part of the presentation we spoke about new.shropshire.gov.uk, the process behind it and what went wrong (as well as what went right).
We knew that the Shropshire.gov.uk website needed a change, it was heavily loaded with content, running on an old CMS and had really seen its best days.
We wanted a blank canvas, we needed new ideas, so we created new processes.
We needed to understand our customers fully:
How were they getting to the site
Where did they land
How long did they spend on the site
What keywords were used to reach our site.
This is one of the most important steps in the process, as this will become your evidence for why you are changing things.
Based on our research and the information we had gathered from the workshops, we then set to work on creating the sitemaps which would form part of their navigation. The navigation needed to be intuitive, but also forgivable just in case the user made a wrong turn.
Based on our sitemap, we then created wireframes to help us think about how the page would look, what would sit where on the page and what we needed to present to the user.
Page templates/ Mockups
We then needed to pad out the wireframes and see how they would look as an actual webpage. This was also the point where we started to think about how our content editors would edit the page and how the information would be served to the customer.
Time to build the page templates and the site structure in Umbraco
We used our pool of testers, who had signed up via Project WIP, and sent them a mailchimp email asking them to test the latest area with a brief description of what we had done.
Once testing had been completed, and we had made any alterations that were needed, we released the completed sections of new.shropshire.gov.uk and removed their old counterparts on Shropshire.gov.uk
Now, onto the lessons learned part of the presentation:
Lesson #1 Don’t put lipstick on a pig
We’ve all done it. We’ve added some new colours and changed the font in the hope that it will buy us some time. Don’t. Look at what really needs to be done and do it!
Lesson #2 Get the power you need
Get the power for you to be able to say ‘No, we’re not having that, it doesn’t add any value to the customer’. Or in some cases to say ‘Yes, we can change that, because it will benefit the customer’.
People need to trust your judgement and empower you to make those tough decisions.
Lesson #3 Get buy in from your services areas
Get your service area on board as soon as possible. Explain to them that it’s not that they have been doing it wrong, but that things have changed and there are now better ways of doing things.
They are a member of your team as well now and will help you deliver the project.
Lesson #4 Cut through the red tape (and replace a tiny bit)
We cut through our red tape to speed processes up. But sometimes you do need a little bit there. We’ve replaced a tiny bit of ours and have developed a process that anyone in the team can follow to see how the project should be run. For example, when they need to get sign off, when to consult with the customer, when to go out to testing etc. This guides our staff through the process, while ensuring that we don’t miss any vital steps out.
We’ve also made a lightweight contract/statement that we give to our customers before we start work with them. This outlines how we work, why we work in a certain way and what they can expect from us. In this contract/statement, we also include what we expect from them e.g timely turnaround when signing off, and a designated officer that we can contact.
Lesson #5 Agile for the win.
We’ve used waterfall methodologies in the past and for us personally we haven’t found that it’s worked.
We like to use an iterative cycle where we keep going back to the customer and checking. As Chris mentioned in his presentation “Build, measure, learn, and build again”.
Finally, we always like to close with one last statement
Design for the user!
Remember our websites are there for members of the public, not our internal staff!
Thanks for reading and for those of you who attended the Project WIP presentation at Socitm, we hoped you enjoyed it and were able to take something away with you.
Earlier this week we had our neighbours from Birmingham City Council pay us a visit. It gave them a chance to find out about Umbraco – our new Content Management System (CMS) – and how we were getting along with it, and also give them a deeper insight into Project WIP.
The visit was interesting for us all here. Primarily it brought us up to speed on Birmingham City Council’s plans for their website, and it also highlighted the common goals/issues we both face when trying to determine our target audience whilst also bringing about a culture shift internally to make our services realise how useful our websites are for them.
Simon Gray, Corporate Web / Self-Service Development Officer, from Birmingham City Council says:
“Building on connections we’ve made at UKGovCamps, LocalGovCamps, and the wider local government social media community we went to see our friends and colleagues from Coventry City Council and Shropshire Council, learning from their experiences of how their content management systems – Jadu and Umbraco respectively – help them in their work, issues that have arisen from fast migration plans, and specifically in the case of Shropshire learning from their own Project WIP activity, which was in fact the inspiration for us in creating this very project ourselves!
“We’re immensely grateful to Alison from Coventry and Lorna, Louise, Mark, Dale, and Lewis from Shropshire for the amount of time they let us spend with them during their own busy days, and the information we got from them has been invaluable as we move forward in our own work.”
We were recently invited by Shropgeek to give a presentation at their first ever Rebellion event at The Alb in Shrewsbury on Thursday 21st February 2013 (sorry, we know the post is a little late).
The Rebellion event gave us an excellent opportunity to show people the thought process behind the development of new.shropshire.gov.uk – in particular Customer Journeys and the User Experience work that we are carrying out for each new service we add.
We explained how Project WIP formed, who makes up Project WIP, how we chose our new Content Managment System (CMS), how we worked closely with service areas to redesign their online presence, and how and why we made the design choices we did.
We attended a Planning Portal & Local DirectGov Really Useful Day on Tuesday 12th February in Huddersfield.
Scott Alford had kindly asked us to give a presentation detailing some of the Customer Journeys and the User Experience work that we had been doing for new.shropshire.gov.uk, with a particular focus on Planning.
We started work with the Planning service area last year, looking at how we could best present the information to the users in a way they wanted and understood. To achieve this we looked at their statistics and tried to get inside the customer’s head, thinking about the related tasks they may need. Take a look at our previous blog post about the workshops we held with the Planning staff for more information on how we re-designed their webpages.
We have handed Planning over to the Corporate Content Team so they can work closely with them on structuring & re-writing their content (along with Building Control last week). So keep your eyes peeled for the launch on new.shropshire.gov.uk .
We’d like to thank everyone who attended the event and we hope you were all able to take something away from it.
The Project WIP team blog contains many informative posts about what we’ve been up to and the mischief we intend to get into next. If you are interested, please follow us on twitter and be sure to sign up to become one of our testers.
You’re probably aware that we’ve been busy working away on new.shropshire.gov.uk – to be honest it’s all we’ve been harping on about, how could you not know?
As part of the new.shropshire.gov.uk project we’ve been re-engineering the whole look, feel and experience. Now, we think we’ve done a fairly good job, but, as the saying goes, “the proof is in the pudding”.
So, armed with an iPad we visited The Shrewsbury Coffeehouse and sat with some friendly local residents who were kind enough – in between eating their cake and drinking their coffee – to carry out some testing on new.shropshire.gov.uk.
First we asked our testers to use the site freely and to give general feedback. We then asked them to carry out some of the top tasks we had found in our statistics to ensure that they could:
Still find the information
Find it easier
Maybe learn something new along the way.
The information we got out of this session was priceless, it proved that we had made things better, but there was still room for improvement. For example, with something as simple as the menu button, we noticed that most of our testers scrolled past it, so we’ve now made it purple in the hope that other visitors to the site will spot it with ease.
We’d like to thank The Shrewsbury Coffeehouse for allowing us to come along during their busy lunch hour to speak with their customers.
Rich, who works there, looks forward to meeting you and says:
“There’s so much Christmas spirit there’s not enough room to swing a cat.”
We’re hoping to visit The Shrewsbury Coffeehouse again before Christmas so keep an eye on our Twitter account (@projectwip) for details. However, we’ve been told that to gain entry we must wear reindeer antlers or Santa hats…
We’re always on the look out for other suitable venues for conducting our usability tests. If any businesses think they could offer us a venue, access to customers and some free wifi then please get in touch.
We’ve recently completed development work on the Libraries and Recycling and Rubbish pages, so, “what’s next” you ask?
We’re moving onto Planning Services (cue scary music). But you’ll be pleased to hear we’re off to a good start. We hosted a workshop the other week with the good people of planning to help figure out the content we will need. It’s important to get the right mix in these User Experience (UX) workshops. You need people from all different areas, people who receive the planning applications, people who validate them, people who give the pre-application advice and people who have the power to make difficult decisions. We were lucky enough to have enthusiastic and engaged people along with the Planning Development Manager, who fully supports the radical changes we intend to make.
The workshop gave us a real insight to what Planning actually do and they had some brilliant ideas about how we could give the customer a better user experience.
In the next picture you can see the creativity that came out of the 2 hour session. I’ll be working through the visitor statistics on the current Planning pages and these mockups to come up with a “top task” orientated landing page and a well structured navigation.
We’ll be cutting down on the amount of pages our users have to navigate around and keeping to a strict rule – if another website is doing it, link to it! There’s no point duplicating content, so with this in mind we’ll be signposting users to the Planning Portal for information that already exists.