Getting back into the swing of things

Earlier this week we deployed our first proper set of changes since we went live 11 weeks ago today (that went quick!). The team have been making and deploying fixes and updates regularly since we launched this has been our first opportunity to introduce and improve functionality on a larger scale.

So what are the changes?

We have improved the PDFs available on the site both in terms of appearance and resilience to meet user feedback. This includes a specific template for the PDFs which allows us to be much more responsive in making future changes. These changes take effect in anything new we publish and we are working to update all previously published PDF’s over the next couple of weeks.

We have had a lot of feedback around the PDFs on the new site, which tended to fall into one of two camps;

  • problems with only partial or incomplete files being downloaded, including missing data tables at the end
  • presentation of the PDF’s, in particular font size

When we looked into these issues we realised that a change of approach was the best solution. Rather than generate each PDF as it was requested we decided to bring this forward a step and pre-generate before publication. This fixed a number of issues as we could ensure these were complete and there was no risk of users getting a partial PDF, but it also meant that these were served to users more quickly.

We decided that whilst we were fixing these problems it also made sense to revisit the way we were generating the files themselves to give us more control of the way they were being presented so that we could solve the presentational issues that had been raised as well.

We have enhanced the table builder we use in our written content to allow the headings to be marked up correctly in HTML so going forward these will be much more accessible.

We have a lot of complex tables as part of our bulletins and articles and developing a tool to accurately convert these from Excel into HTML proved to be difficult, so much so that the first iteration of the table builder did not have the facility to mark-up these tables with appropriate headings.

This was one of big things we identified at launch as a priority to fix as soon after as possible was around the accessibility of the data tables we use in written content on the site and in particular extending our table builder to allow us to mark these up with appropriate headings.

In the background we have also reviewed the UI of our publishing tool, Florence, and started to update the key areas that needed a bit more attention. We have also added additional functionality to allow us to make bulk updates to the titles of individual time series on the site as part of the publishing process and developed the basis for more robust and informative logging to allow us to identify problems sooner and easier to identify and fix once we do.


If you have any thoughts or comments on these changes or any other part of the site  please do let us know by email, the comments on this blogpost or on Twitter to @ONSdigital.

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