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Slides for talk on "When your website is a 'national embarrassment' the only way is up" given by Matt Jukes, ONS at IWMW 2016 event.

Slides for talk on "When your website is a 'national embarrassment' the only way is up" given by Matt Jukes, ONS at IWMW 2016 event.

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When your website is a 'national embarrassment' the only way is up

  1. 1. When your website is a ‘national embarrassment’ the only way is up #CivilServiceLive @CivServiceLive
  2. 2. Matt Jukes Head of Product, Office for National Statistics #CivilServiceLive @CivServiceLive
  3. 3. 1. Background 2. Vision & ambitions 3. User research & engagement 4. Lessons learned 5. Questions @jukesie
  4. 4. In partnership with 1. Background 2. Vision & ambitions 3. User research & engagement 4. Lessons learned 5. Questions @lauradee@jukesie
  5. 5. The Office for National Statistics is the UK’s largest independent producer of official statistics. @lauradee@lauradee@jukesie
  6. 6. The website receives approximately 500,000 visitors per month. @lauradee@lauradee@jukesie
  7. 7. @jukesie The annual list of popular baby names is our single most popular release. @lauradee@jukesie
  8. 8. @jukesie@lauradee@jukesie
  9. 9. @jukesie The Office for National Statistics launched a new website on 26th February 2016. @lauradee@jukesie
  10. 10. @jukesie
  11. 11. @jukesie It replaced a website that had been widely criticised by users. Including being called; “..a national embarrassment.” in the Financial Times. @lauradee@jukesie
  12. 12. @jukesie According to a Parliamentary Administration Select Committee; “The Office for National Statistics website makes figures hard to find and statistics are often presented in a confusing way..” @lauradee@jukesie
  13. 13. @jukesie It was identified in a best-selling book as; “The worlds worst website..” @lauradee@jukesie
  14. 14. @jukesie A respondent to the website satisfaction survey ended their response thusly; “The ONS website makes me want to cry..” @lauradee@jukesie
  15. 15. @jukesie 1. Background 2. Vision & ambitions 3. User research & engagement 4. Lessons learned 5. Questions @lauradee@jukesie
  16. 16. @jukesie To be widely respected for informing debate and improving decision making through high quality, easy to use statistics and analyses on the UK’s economy and society. ONS Strategy. @lauradee@jukesie
  17. 17. @jukesie Data intense. Design simple. @lauradee@jukesie
  18. 18. @jukesie
  19. 19. @jukesie Of the web, not on the web. Stephen Dunn (while at the Guardian). @lauradee@jukesie
  20. 20. @jukesie
  21. 21. @jukesie Make things open: it makes things better www.gov.uk/design-principles#tenth. @lauradee@jukesie
  22. 22. @jukesie Start with needs* *user needs not government needs www.gov.uk/design-principles#first. @lauradee@jukesie
  23. 23. @jukesie 1. Background 2. Vision & ambitions 3. User research & engagement 4. Lessons learned 5. Questions @lauradee@jukesie
  24. 24. @jukesie Always put our users first We always start with our users. We ask, observe, analyse and act based on their needs. We don’t make assumptions. We have empathy for our users. @lauradee@jukesie
  25. 25. @jukesie Almost 2000 individuals & 80 organisations contributed to our user research or provided feedback on the website as it evolved in the open. @lauradee@jukesie
  26. 26. @jukesie More than 300 people contributed to the research for the new navigation structure alone. @lauradee@jukesie
  27. 27. @jukesie Three personas: expert analyst, information forager & inquiring citizen. used to improve research recruitment never in place of observed insights. @lauradee@jukesie
  28. 28. @jukesie ons.gov.uk focuses on information foragers & expert analysts. but to ensure that ‘inquiring citizens’ were catered for we launched Visual.ONS as an experiment - it features new formats and more topical content. @lauradee@jukesie
  29. 29. @jukesie Public beta we provided public access to the Beta of the site as it was developed for six months. @lauradee@jukesie
  30. 30. @jukesie Guerilla testing. visited universities and statistical conferences seeking feedback. @lauradee@jukesie
  31. 31. @jukesie Critical friends. group of [very] expert users who were regularly consulted. @lauradee@jukesie
  32. 32. @jukesie Surveys. user satisfaction survey to provide a benchmark and a teminology survey to investigate use of language. @lauradee@jukesie
  33. 33. @jukesie Online tools. especially Loop11 and Chalkmark for quick tests to investigate hypotheses suggested by wider user research. @lauradee@jukesie
  34. 34. @jukesie Ethnographic research. visiting users to observe them using the website in their workplaces rather than in articificial circumstances. @lauradee@jukesie
  35. 35. @jukesie Diary studies. asking a cohort of users to maintain a diary of their experiences of using the website. When/why/where and sentiment at time of use. @lauradee@jukesie
  36. 36. @jukesie A/B testing. making use of tools like Google Experiments & Optimizely to show users different versions of same page to see which worked best. @lauradee@jukesie
  37. 37. @jukesie 1. Background 2. Vision & ambitions 3. User research & engagement 4. Lessons learned 5. Questions @lauradee@jukesie
  38. 38. @jukesie Being open is not enough. despite the public Beta, regular blogging, all the user research, liberal use of social media & talks all around the UK most users were taken by surprise by the new site. @lauradee@jukesie
  39. 39. @jukesie Users want to help. we spoke to users all over the UK and they were always generous with their time and their knowledge. @lauradee@jukesie
  40. 40. @jukesie You cannot please everybody. despite all our user research and engagement some users will feel let down because we did fix the issues that frustrate them most. @lauradee@jukesie
  41. 41. @jukesie People dislike change. even users who hugely disliked the previous website found the move to the new one jarring. ‘Big bang’ launches are challenging. @lauradee@jukesie
  42. 42. @jukesie Launching is the start not the finish. we received more feedback in the first two weeks of the launch than in the previous six months. @lauradee@jukesie
  43. 43. @jukesie Internal users are important. we could have started our internal engagement activities earlier and provided more resource to them. @lauradee@jukesie
  44. 44. @jukesie Make your roadmap public. it is vital to make sure users understand that there is a commitment to continous improvement and a public roadmap makes a statement. @lauradee@jukesie
  45. 45. @jukesie Working this way is hard but extremely rewarding. spending this much time with this many users increases empathy with their challenges and they with yours. @lauradee@jukesie
  46. 46. @jukesie 1. Background 2. Vision & ambitions 3. User research & engagement 4. Lessons learned 5. Questions @lauradee@jukesie
  47. 47. @jukesie Thanks. @lauradee@jukesie

Editor's Notes

  • The ONS is the largest producer of national statistics in the UK but not the only one - a number of other Government
    departments produce official statistics which brings its own user challenges - when you are called the Office for National
    Statistics it might not be a totally unrealistic expectation to find all of them on the website...and with us being exempt from
    GOV.UK it is a complex landscape.
  • Compared to more transactional GOV.UK websites our traffic is relatively small but it is not a trivial amount and we certainly have our share of influential 'loyal' visitors - everyone from the Bank of England to the Financial Times or even the Brexit campaigners are reliant on our statistics
  • Much to the despair of a number of our statisticians the annual list of most popular baby names is consistently the most viewed release year on year
  • ..and we love a Game of Thrones related campaign about the list! Our design team were finalist in the international 'Information is Beautiful' awards for this years work.
  • The new ONS website launched on the 26th February 2016.
  • It looks like this. Pretty isn't she.
  • Getting to the new site though as a journey of almost 3 years and in many ways it started in May 2013 with an article by Tim Harford in the Financial Times.
  • Which reinforced the findings of the Parliamentary Administration Select Committee 'investigation' in to the communication of ONS statistics.
  • Which reinforced the findings of the Parliamentary Administration Select Committee 'investigation' in to the communication of ONS statistics.
  • Which reinforced the findings of the Parliamentary Administration Select Committee 'investigation' in to the communication of ONS statistics.
  • In 2014 we quietly started work on a new website and I'd like to take this opportunity to just talk a little bit about the vision and ambitions we set out with - and how those evolved over time.
  • In fact we boiled it down to the very essence of the vision - the website would support 'informing debate and improving decision making'..one of the many problems with the old ONS website was that it was actually really quite difficult to find the statistics. This is because the data is often buried in Excel spreadsheets or PDFs with complex, if accurate, titles and when they are surfaced in the HTML it is unstructured and inconsistent. This is because the organisation has never really moved beyond traditional print
    publishing thinking – we are ON the web but we are not OF the web.
  • To do this our motto throughout the project was 'Data intense. Design simple.' The focus needed to be putting the data (the statistics) first and making sure that we removed distractions and let the numbers shine. This was a big part of the decision to avoid any stock photography or non-data driven graphics. The visual identity of the site is driven by charts and data visualisation - no decoration for the sake of decoration.
  • Even our stickers are data driven.
  • When we started thinking about what we could/should do we kept coming back to 2 initiatives from back in the naughties –
    the short-lived Open BBC catalogue and the launch of the Guardian’s OpenAPI.
    What these ideas had in common was making the underlying, structured data available in machine readable formats. It wasn’t about creating a separate API for users but rather that ‘the website is the API’ and that everything else builds up from that – including your own UI – it was the embodiment of that horrible saying – ‘eating your own dog food’.
    This seemed the right fit for us – the needs of our users were changing and we needed to provide a more flexible platform to support them now and in the future.
  • JSON underpins the whole new ONS website and is available to all users simply by appending /data to any page.
    This has allowed us to provide functionality throughout the site that is customisable by users, developers, data scientists and us.
    Interactive charts and headline figures are auto-updated as soon as the data refreshes, we can provide feeds for all sorts of configurations of our data and users are already using the data feeds in applications of their own.
  • I'm sure many of you are familiar with the work of the Government Digital Service? How many of you are aware of the 10 Design Principles? <might be worth doing a show of hands>
    I think these are the most important thing to have come out of GDS HQ in the five plus years since they were founded and it was one of the first things they did. There are two principles I think are particularly important. Making things open was important to our project for a number of reasons - working in the daylight meant we could engage with users / stakeholders at every step of the way and build trust, get help from a broad range of experts and receive constant feedback from users..
  • ..because putting users first was at the very heart of this project. This change of approach - putting user rather than organisation needs front and centre and getting the organisations leadership to support that is the most important thing that happened.
  • So how did we approach this militantly user focused project? Here are a few things we did..
  • This is the ONS Digital Publishing Divisions FIRST principle
  • We spoke to 100s of individuals who represented dozens of organisations and everything we did, every decision we made,
    was about making the ONS a better experience for them.
  • The extent of change we were proposing should not be underestimated - 300+ people contributed to research on a radically updated navigation structure.
  • The foundation of our user work was the research we did to create three new personas for ONS website users. We were inspired by the Guardian approach to these and avoided the more common format of naming and anthromorphising them.
    We kept them high level aggregates based on skills, motivations and objectives. The 3 personas identified were 'inquiring citizen' - 'information forager' - 'expert analyst'. There is a continuum of familiarity with statistical concepts (and the ONS site) with time
    spent on the site a major separating factor.
  • While the corporate website focused on 'foragers' and 'analysts' we did not want to ignore the needs of 'inquiring citizens' so we launched an experimental blog focused on data journalism, interactive visualisations and more accessible content formats. Visual.ONS has been a popular addition to our communication channels and one that has provided us with lots to think about for the future evolution of ONS publications.
  • From July 2015 the 'beta' version of the website was available publicly (at beta.ons.gov.uk) and the was maintained 24 hours behind the main site.
  • We attended the Royal Statistical Society annual conference, Government Statistical Service events and just set up camp in the cafe at the University of Southampton to get quick feedback on proposed changes.
  • initially we were hoping to put together some kind of 'advisory council' made up of critical friends but what it evolved in to was a pool of very expert, previously critical users who we were able to bounce ideas off and use to sense check everything from design choices to communication plans. They were also incredibly helpful in making sure we recruited good candidates for usability testing throughout.
  • In many ways ONS is a big survey house with a great many experts in survey methodology so as a Digital team we need to tread carefully when doing surveys! We do use them though - albeit sparingly. The bi-annual (thats twice in a year right?)
    satisfaction survey gives us a solid baseline for comparison and the terminology survey was a real eye opener with 100s of contributors in just a couple of days providing some unexpected insights.
  • Much as we tried to meet people face to face sometimes you need to check things out quickly and with more eyeballs. The online tools out there are a mixed bag but we found Loop11 - software that allows you to run the same scenario on more than one site (i.e. find the last CPI figure or unemployment figure for women) - incredibly useful and Chalkmark is great for little experiments to just get a quick take on something.
  • The most time consuming and complicated to arrange is of course the most valuable in the long run. Getting to observe users struggling with your site for their day to day tasks in context is extremely powerful and worth the inevitable pain of trying to make it happen.
  • If you cannot do the full on ethnographic outing then diary studies are a useful additional to your research portfolio (and even if you can they are a useful addition.) It requires a commitment from the users though so target carefully.
  • Multivariate - or A/B - testing is the practice of experimenting with different versions of pages to see which ones get users to their goal quicker/easier. Facebook are doing it to you all the time! We did in a couple of places where the user research really didn't give us a clear answer and where our own intuition was failing.
  • So what did we learn running this project this way?
  • Just being open wasn't enough - despite all we did we didn't reach a wide enough audience of users. Open + utilising as many communications channels as possible seems to be a better model. Especially use some homepage real estate early and often on the site you are replacing.
  • That said being open from the start led to an amazing amount of support from our user community. We had so many people give up their time and all they got in return was the chance to improve the website.
  • Despite all the engagement we did, all the user research and all the openness some people remained unhappy. Unfortunately this seems impossible to avoid (see every change to every major website ever).
    This quote from Martin Belam of the Guardian and formerly the BBC seems appropriate:
    "Having gone through several big redesigns at the BBC, Guardian and the Mirror over the years I have a mental checklist of the feedback I'm expecting to get each time: "If it ain't broke don't fix it", "It looks like something Fisher-Price built", "Did you let the work experience kid design this".
    "Very vocal criticism online often reflects a real hardcore minority view though.
  • Despite how much are users disliked the old website they had developed coping strategies and a big bang change disorientates them - even if they accept things have improved. If possible avoid big bang changes - running fully in parallel for a period as well would be helpful (but VERY hard to achieve)
  • In some ways launching is the easy part - you need a strategy 9and people) in place to support continuous improvement and everything you do well will only increase expectations.
  • Internal engagement and communications can get lost in the focus on users and while in the short term that can seem like an acceptable sacrifice it becomes a significant project-debt and one that you will need to pay back if the project is to be successful.
  • Well first HAVE a roadmap - don't get hung up on the details but you bound to end up with a list of features you never managed to get to or that have emerged from all the feedback. Capture and at least roughly prioritise all of that and get it published - point people at it. Take feedback. It is a statement and a communications asset.
  • not going to lie working this openly, this driven by users and this quickly? It is exhausting and anybody who tells you ‘agile' is the easy option has never worked in good agile team. The rewards are fantastic though and when it all comes together you
    are left with something to be extremely proud of..
  • ×