The Local Government Digital Unconference

In Feb and March this year the Local Government Digital Collaboration Unit (LGDCU) ran 4 unconferences in the cities of Bristol, London, Coventry and Bradford. I attended the London one on behalf of Digital First.

The unconferences were designed to bring together professionals from the local government digital sector to discuss common challenges for people working in the sector. They were also put on to foster collaboration and to encourage more councils to sign up to the Local Government Digital Declaration (LGDD). The Declaration was launched in January 2018 and already has 145 signatories.

Before we broke out into groups to discuss topics suggested by the delegates the LGDCU project and technical leads talked about their goals. There was heavy emphasis on their role in facilitating collaboration and shared fundings.

The talks covered Local Digital Fund (LDF) support for digital collaboration projects, free GDS academy training credits for LGDD signatories, the 16 projects currently in flight (10 discovery, 6 alpha) under the Unit’s supervision and Pipeline as a place to open source and share builds. There was also a very cool talk by the digital guys from Barking and Dagenham on their Social Progress Index.

The topics that were covered in the breakout sessions can be seen in the following graphic.

LGUnconference.jpg

Too many to attend them all!

I chose to attend sessions on data and APIs, how to gain leader support for digital transformation, successful digital delivery and procurement decisions.

From a Digital First perspective it was great to hear other councils talking positively about the design pattern library we have created to guide our web and app builds and have now opened up for others to share.  It was also great to talk to Bloomberg’s smart city representatives who were very interested in our IoT housing sensor project.

Coming back to Brighton and Hove I felt enthused about what is happening in local government digital and will recommending that our council sign up to the Declaration at the earliest opportunity.

Follow LGDCU at LDGovUK and #fixtheplumbing #localdigitalfund

Apply for school – four months on

We received 6300 school applications and there were problems with 23 (all of which were fixed promptly)

Back in October last year, I wrote about the new way you can apply for school in Brighton & Hove.

At the time, it was early days for our system and we had received around 1100 applications. Since then, the number has grown considerably. To date, 6300 applications have been made online. It’s covered the two major application rounds of the year – reception year for primary and year 7 for secondary – and the form has proven to be completely reliable.

Reception year applications closed on 15th January at midnight. In the lead up to the deadline, a few customers experienced problems either setting up their account or resetting their password. In total, 23 customers were affected. After some help from me and my team, 20 customers successfully completed their online application. The remaining 3 customers submitted paper applications by post. The 23 customers who needed help represented less than 1% of all the customers who applied for Reception year; 0.77% to be exact. This is a tiny percentage of the total number of applications.

Along with this, the form has been used frequently throughout the day. I analysed the usage of it between 15th December and 15th January. During this period, the form was being used at least three times an hour between 6 am and midnight, every day.

It is fair to say that the form has been a success and there are a number of reasons for why this the case. First and foremost, our Agile approach to development meant we could identify bugs and fix them quickly. It also enabled us to identify enhancements and changes that could be introduced quickly, user tested and released to enhance the user experience.

Secondly, testing. You must test, test, test and test again. If you don’t, you are setting yourself up for failure. Even though we were developing fast, this doesn’t mean testing can be skipped. It is an essential part of the Agile, iterative process. Miss it at your peril!

And last but not least, the customers themselves. We have received tons of feedback since the release of the form, including some really useful feature suggestions that we’ve developed and released in new iterations.

Whilst I’m chuffed with the success of the form so far, there is always room for improvement. Our team will be addressing this in forthcoming updates to the form that will make user experience even better and bring more benefits to the service too. Watch this space!

A new design system at Brighton & Hove City Council

bhcc-patternlibrary

Hi, I’m David Hampton, the User Experience Designer at Digital First. You can call me ‘Design Dave’, as the team do for short.

I joined the team about a year ago. My brief was to build on and improve the online identity of Brighton & Hove City Council, with a focus on designing and documenting standards for re-usable design. We call these ‘web patterns’.

Our overall goal is to provide Brighton & Hove residents with a consistent, friendly and familiar website, whether they need to find and read about a service, report a problem, or browse news.

What we’ve achieved in 2018

Over the past year I’ve been working closely with Product Managers, Content Designers and web developers at Digital First, re-designing and launching website sections.

Improving website accessibility has played a key part. We’re making sure our new design and code is in compliance with accessibility guidelines. This will help improve usability for residents who may access the website in non traditional ways, for example using screen readers.

If you’re a Brighton & Hove resident you may have noticed some of these new designs coming into effect, with some highlights in 2018 being:

How we’ll stick to our own guidelines

I’m excited to share our Website Design Guidelines and Pattern Library. Here you can find references to all new designs and patterns created since January 2018.

At first the pattern library was used internally to communicate new design standards and patterns amongst the team. Today we’re opening it to everyone. We hope this will be a useful resource across departments and teams for referencing new design, and offering solutions to reoccurring design challenges. It may even be useful for other councils and public sector organisations – we’ve built on the experience of others and are delighted to contribute for the greater good.

Our plan is to continually improve the library through ongoing testing and research with actual users. We’ll be including version releases so we can track design progression.

bhcc-pattern-example
Above: An example website pattern with usage notes.

Over the coming weeks I will be blogging in more detail about some of the new designs and pattern library features. If you have any questions, please post below or get in touch.