weeknote Γ

This week was the start of our first full development sprint and I couldn’t be more happy (or more tired) by how it has gone. We are focusing hard on getting something built in this first sprint that can be put in front of users at the end of it (this coming Friday.) We have already made arrangements for external users to come in to the office to spend some time looking at what will have been built with our user researcher so there is a bit of pressure but it is helping keep things nice and focused.

The team are taking the wireframes and pattern library assets and building out enough pages to give a real browse experience of the taxonomy and also working on an Elasticsearch implementation that while very much a ‘starter for 10’ will give a good idea of what we are trying to do.

A face to face meeting with the team from CX and the Methods team in Newport really helped iron out some confusion and the front-end work has been accelerating nicely since then. It is amazing how real things start to seem once you can begin to interact with webpages actually in a browser. Photoshop designs and wireframes have their place but the minute you start to be able to click on those links and browse around a few pages the entire design comes to life.

This week we also started investigating some options for the site infrastructure as we get further along. I had an interesting conversation with representatives from Skyscape about their upcoming CloudFoundry offering and it is certainly something we are going to investigate further – particularly as it has the potential to support our ‘data storytelling’ ambitions as well.

I was lucky enough to be invited to the ‘Sprint Beta’ event run by the Government Digital Service on Thursday. This is an event primarily for the teams working on the 25 ‘exemplar’ digital transformation projects across Government. It was interesting day and I hope to write my thoughts up on it in a future blogpost but a couple of highlights were learning about the pace of digital enabled business change (rather than just fixing websites) at the DVLA and hearing about the work GDS are doing around creating a framework for project governance in an agile setting that allows leadership to feel confident there is enough oversight. This is of particular interest to us in this project as we know we are taking a different approach in many ways but we need to make sure the right people are getting the right information at the right times and this requires a number of people/teams to come to a consensus if it is going to be a success.

In an effort to maintain the transparency around our work we started arranging both internal and external show and tells this week. I am keen to keep up a dialogue with everybody who is interested in the project (within reason!) and keep gathering feedback based on user needs at every opportunity. At the moment we are running a ‘satisfaction’ survey about the website and once again I am amazed at the brilliant response we have got from users. While people are clearly unhappy with the current service they really are supportive of our attempts to move things forward and we all really appreciate that.

To close I just wanted to embed this video of a talk given by Tom Loosemore, a Deputy Director at GDS and actually the original project lead on Alphagov which kicked this whole new approach to digital government off. Tom was speaking at the ‘Code for America summit‘ in San Francisco and in 20 minutes eloquently summed up the background to what we are trying to achieve. It is worth a watch.