weeknote δ

So this week was the completion of our first full development sprint. It has been something of a learning experience and even with us all co-located and having stand ups etc there have been a couple of bumps in the road due to some mis-communication. As Product Manager I have to take responsibility for this but hopefully we identified things early enough as to minimise any major problems and it didn’t have too detrimental an effect on the momentum of the team.

Even with all the ground work we have done in the ‘discovery’ phase it is still amazing to see ideas come to life in code and the team really delivered a huge amount. They might come to regret that as my expectations have risen now about what we can achieve in this Alpha phase 🙂

We now have several page types built and a significant part of the proposed site structure is now in place and it is possible to browse through the site following a couple of popular user journeys and we also have a working search – albeit one that doesn’t index a great deal at the moment! All in all though there was enough there to get it in front of some people outside of the project bubble and get some real feedback.

Phil, our User Researcher, led a day of what I guess I’d call ‘facilitated feedback’ more than deep dive user research with five volunteers from outside of the organisation. These volunteers ranged from expert statistician familiar with the ONS outputs to a user with basic knowledge of the web. At this point we were looking for quite broad brush findings- particularly whether the navigation proposed held up, did the search model make sense and in general were there any glaring usability flaws in the design.

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Generally the feedback was reassuring but it did identify some areas for work – one of which is significant. Basically our current homepage design just doesn’t work. In our (mine really) desire to have a homepage that is entirely task driven rather than one that is, for want of a better word, softer it has ended up lacking an identity and users just don’t realise that is where they are. While I have some sympathy with the whole ‘homepage is dead’ crowd it is still far too important to how people use the site so it needs a major rethink. There were certainly doubts about it going in but it is clear now that it is even more of an issue than I had realised so it needs fixing.

There are some smaller UX issues that can quickly be fixed and should make some immediate improvements and help us get prepared for the next significant round of user insight we have planned for the end of sprint 3.

It was brilliant seeing members of the development team crowded in to the observation room of the lab scribbling notes on post-its. Also thanks to Sophie and Alex from CX for coming along and contributing as well.

I also did show and tells about the work to date to some staff in Digital Publishing and also UKSA while Laura did the same with some of our directors.

Away from the core project I also took part in an interesting meeting about building more bridges between our work and that of the Electronic Data Collection team and the work of our surveys/respondents teams in general. This is a hugely important part of the work of the ONS and is something we (in the Alpha project) don’t really understand well enough yet.

I also spent some time getting to know the WDA project a bit better by helping go through the GDS Service Assessment criteria with their Product Owner. This is something we’ll have to go through at some point so it was an interesting exercise and as I will be taking some responsibility for this service in the coming weeks it was timely!

Oh and our Data Stories platform is pretty much ready for its debut – just waiting for some domain stuff to be sorted. The Digital Content team have some exciting plans for this site and it is something I am very much looking forward to. Speaking of the DC team they completed their first ‘design sprint’ with the Migration team down in Titchfield on Friday and judging by the snippets I was overheard last week they are going to have some interesting ideas to share.

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