Bracknell Forest Digital Services


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Moving on

 My year as a Digital Content Officer has come to an end!

I applied for this job as an English Literature graduate straight out of university. I wasn’t sure where I wanted to start my career, aside from knowing that I wanted to write, and I wanted to help people. I saw the advert for Digital Content Officer, quickly Googled what Drupal was, and applied.

Since I got the job, I have learnt a huge amount about how people think, how people use digital technology, and what we can do to make compulsory government processes easier for people to complete. I have spent a lot of time reading about and considering usability and accessibility, and reworking my writing to make it as useful as possible. This has meant getting rid of academic writing or anything remotely poetic, and sticking to words and phrases which everyone can understand. A key element of usability is that no one should be excluded from what you build or write, and this is something I will remember for the rest of my career.

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Drafting a user journey

There have been many times during the year when I have found this job really fulfilling. We took a team to meet and work with the Nepalese community from Sandhurst for some user testing, and I saw how difficult it can be for some people to use the websites I take for granted. Being able to offer help and solutions to some of the digital issues they faced was great.

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User testing with Nepalese community

As expected, the part of this job I have enjoyed the most is putting together the content for the new website. I have been working on the new content for areas including Schools Admissions, Business Rates and The Look Out Discovery Centre. In the content workflow, I have learnt to take constructive criticism. The first time someone changes what you’ve written, it feels like a bit of a blow. But I’ve taken to reminding myself that we’re all working toward the same goal, and in correcting each other, the content will only get better.

I’ve got to know a great team while I’ve been here – they’ve set the bar high as the first proper colleagues I’ve had! I will be sad to leave, but hope that my new team in Bracknell Forest’s Democratic Services will offer similar challenges, fun and encouragement. I hope to bring my new-found awareness of accessibility and openness to the democratic process. Many thanks, Colin and the Digital Services team, for taking a chance on an inexperienced but enthusiastic graduate!

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Leaving lunch

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Lessons from a GDS service assessment

I spent much of yesterday at the Government Digital Service (GDS) in London observing a four hour(!) service assessment. Service assessments by the GDS currently take place at three occasions: at alpha, before beta, and before go live. You can see this full process outlined on the GDS service design manual. It’s worth a read, even if you are not looking at running or attending an assessment, as it provides a lot of intelligent questions to ask when a service is being designed or redesigned.

So, what did I get out of sitting in someone else’s meeting?

Well, for a start, it’s always nice to get out of the office and see others working towards the same goals as us; a better online experience for customers! I also got a lot of ideas from the session as to how we can improve our in house reviews of online services and how we can approach user testing.

The first part of the assessment was of most interest to me. That’s the first three points on the standards that focus on user research and user testing. I have pages of notes that basically repeat the same user-centric message:

  • ‘ask the user’
  • ‘find the evidence’
  • ‘run comparison testing’
  • ‘check it works for the lowest skilled user and if it doesn’t, how are you going to assist them’

This is where the assessment hit home to me that we need to place more emphasis on user testing.

We are just getting started with our navigation testing and we know we want to do more. It’s just we haven’t got there yet.

As we move into alpha and beta versions of our new website, we will look to do a lot more user testing, both remotely through online channels and in person through lab days or pop up sessions in the local shopping centre. This research should then give us the reassurance that what we are doing is what the customer needs, or if it’s not, give us the knowledge and understanding to change and improve the customer experience.

Don’t forget you can sign up for user testing online at www.bracknell-forest.gov.uk/getinvolved or by emailing us directly at digital.services@bracknell-forest.gov.uk