The Age of Discovery


Like every corner of digital in Government these days we are greatly influenced by the work of the Government Digital Service (GDS), even though we are not one of the organisations who fall directly under their remit.

Of the many useful things that GDS have provided us with in the short time they have been around perhaps the most important (to me at least) has been their Service Manual. This has become the blueprint for any team undertaking a major digital project in this environment and like so many others we are referring to it regularly as we work to make improvements to the ONS web estate.

At the moment we are starting to come to the end of what GDS would term the ‘discovery’ phase.

“A short phase, in which you start researching the needs of your service’s users, find out what you should be measuring, and explore technological or policy-related constraints.”

There has already been evidence of this work here on the blog. We have talked about the user testing we undertook around the navigation, the user survey that we ran in November and most recently shared the user persona work that the survey influenced. We have also undertaken a significant piece of research in to the tools and processes other National Statistical Institutes (NSIs) are using to publish online and commissioned external experts in search technologies to recommend the best way for us to improve the performance of our internal search [PDF].

As I blogged about earlier this week we are also working with the Open Data Institute technical team to investigate some technological opportunities and how they might allow us to better meet the expectations of our users (as identified by the user persona work.)

Work elsewhere in the Digital Publishing team has provided us with a detailed understanding of the constraints we work within as regards meeting the requirements of the ‘Code of Practice’ both when it comes to publishing at 09.30 and the security around ‘market sensitive releases’.

What we are working on now is translating all of this work in to a collection of ‘story cards‘ and getting them up on a ‘Kanban wall‘ so we can start making decisions about priorities and a battle plan for the next phase.

It is exciting work but pretty daunting. There is a great deal to do and we will continue to share it as we move along.