By Rob Van Tol, User Experience Consultant
If they ever make a rock opera about developing new websites, consultants like me would bounce in, a la the Spice Girls, asking:
So tell me what you want, what you really really want?
And our clients would respond in Queen-esque falsetto:
I want it all…and I want it now!
Admittedly, real life is less theatrical than that. Sequins are in short supply and the stage is usually a large table in a meeting room, but you get the gist.
An important skill of the consultant at Precedent is to bring together all interested parties, to find out what they really really want, and to marry that to what they can really really get.
In complex organisations this is quite hard. Membership organisations, universities, NHS trusts, central & local government and most financial services companies are often like this. Made up of multiple communities, they often have diverging agendas and different appetites to support digital change.
So marketing might be tasked with building reputation and driving growth, IT with containing costs, operations with improving customer experience and product management with innovating. These are all reasonable goals, but don’t necessarily share the same approach or digital needs.
Reconciling them can be tricky, but it vital in order to create a coherent digital presence for your audiences. When projects go wrong it’s usually because internal stakeholders have siloed agendas.
The simplest solution is still the best: get everyone round a table and encourage them to talk. Talk about their hopes, fears, presumptions, and requirements. If you can tease these out – especially those unspoken assumptions people often don’t think are worth mentioning, then you can go a long way towards reconciling different demands, making commonsense trade-offs, getting agreement and building trust.
Still, getting everyone aligned might take more than a round-table chat with tea and biscuits (note, quality biscuits do improve meetings, fact). So you may need to consider escalating to having one-to-one talks, or even getting divergent opinions to write a position statement.
What I’d be looking for is to make sure people feel that they’ve been heard and that there needs have been accounted for. Doing digital stuff is often disruptive: new (extra) tasks, changes in culture, even changes in the business model.
Airing fears and grievances, and managing risk is ultimately how we square the circle of conflicting wants, meeting limited ability to deliver within time and budget. This is where our project managers step forward, breaking things down to the achievable, and thinking through how to mitigate risks.
It’s a shame there’s not a bit more magic to it, a bit more rock-n-roll; but its really just people sensitively and intelligently listening to each other. Perhaps that’s why the website development rock opera is yet to written. Though if you have an idea for one, or even just a concept album, we’d love to hear it!
By George Evans, Head of Melbourne office
Cities such as New York and Palo Alto have begun to strategise their development by considering the merging of the physical and the digital, also called ‘phygital’ if you like a trendy portmanteau.
The City of Melbourne has also taken on this approach. The City seeks to explore how digital technology can help keep Melbourne one of the greatest places to be today — at work, at play and at home. Have a look yourself!
Some of the Precedent team including myself were invited to kick this off with an event last month: CoMConnect. We quickly realised this event developed into a collaborative forum. All partaking groups united to help figure out ways digital technology can improve Melbourne at work, play and home.
In other words, CoMConnect was an open discussion between the City and certain key audiences: community leaders, thinkers, designers, technologists, researchers, urbanists and makers. This format is known as ‘unconference’, meaning a loosely structured conference emphasising the informal exchange of information and ideas between participants. It was great fun and I highly recommend the format for anyone interested in trying out variations on the ‘open space’ method.
I facilitated a discussion on the topic “UX, Community engagement, and experience mapping”. The discussion suggested methods the city could use to engage with their audiences, both digitally and in analogue forms, as ways of understanding the publics’ needs. I put forward recommendations such as more unconference style events, whiteboards in city squares, using existing communication channels. Another key for a better understanding of who the cities audiences are is to create personas. Like every story, you need characters; and characters, or personas, allow personalisation and prioritisation of short and long term actions.
Participants’ ideas were shared, recorded and developed over the event, and eventually made out for three separate themes:
- Theme 1 — Long-term projects: changing policy & infrastructure to be able to respond better to technological advancements, such as opening up the huge amounts of data sets a city possesses
- Theme 2 — Short-term projects: quick win projects and conversations which the council can pick up and move forward with
- Theme 3 — Tools: localised search, leveraging NBN, ethnography, gamification and crowd sourcing
Crucial to the success of this great venture is to combine the three themes. This will make open data and progressive policy allowing groups to collaborate and use tools to improve the lifestyle of Melbournians.
Over the last few weeks I’m keen to see how the city is moving forward, tackling the following goals:
Identify and prioritise the long and short term themes
Support short-term projects
Work towards long-term goals
Continue to engage, and with a wider audience
In short, I think the answer is to think big, start small and act quick.
By , Consultant
On the 26th May, the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) gained the ability to take legal action against any sites found noncompliant with the EU ‘cookie law’.
To help you try and stay current with cookie law events and requirements, here are three steps to put you on the right track.
1. Audit your site and associated systems
The first step is to review your web properties and any data capture or relationship management systems integrated with them, so you know what you’re dealing with. Having an accurate picture of your digital landscape is essential to allow you to make decisions for further compliance.
As well as looking at your own systems, if you’ve given space on your pages to third parties like social networks, external video hosting or advertising then ultimately you are responsible for disclosing to your visitors that their data may be captured on your pages by these suppliers (even if it’s only a disclaimer, as with the Guardian’s stance on third-party ads).
In referring to the EU Privacy Directive as ‘the cookie law’, it’s easy to overlook the fact that it also covers confidentiality of information, treatment of traffic data, and using contact details for marketing purposes (spam) as well as cookies. Privacy statements have been required to disclose similar information for years, but with growing focus on online privacy now could be a good time to review your compliance in all these areas.
With many structural changes, mergers and service changes within the NHS, it can be a challenge to communicate these successfully to your audiences. However digital can be the perfect way to not only keep your audiences informed about these changes but also help them to embrace new ways of delivering services.
We’ve recently been working with Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust and Barts Health NHS Trust to help them with their digital communications following their mergers. Together we’ve learnt some important lessons and would like to share some tips with you.
1. Make practical information easy to find
No matter how important a new brand, partnership, department or building is to your organisation, your service users’ priorities will still be access to information about practical services and care. Ensure they can quickly find this without having to figure out your internal restructuring to do so.
This practical approach can also be extended to GPs and referral information. This can be as simple as providing downloadable referral forms.
Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust (shown below) do a great job of providing clear practical information aimed at different audiences.
2. Provide reassurance
With the news full of headlines about NHS cuts, bear in mind you are talking to a suspicious audience who now more than ever need reassurance they are getting top quality care. Show them how delivering familiar services in new ways, for example through integrated teams or at home can actually be a better experience for them. Consider using video to explain new services; having staff or even patients explain changes will help you instil trust in your users.
By , Consultant
If you own or manage a website and you don’t yet know that you need to comply with the UK privacy legislation (aka The Cookie Law), you’re probably in the wrong job.
The law was passed last May but UK websites have been granted an additional year by the Information Commissioners Office (or the ICO, the body enforcing the law in the UK) to implement this. If you don’t get up to speed and take the necessary steps, you will be liable for a fine of up to £500,000.
You have until the 25th May 2012 to become complaint, and time is running out.
What does it all mean?
By John Campbell, Regional Director Scotland
Any improvement in digital connectivity speeds across Scotland will be very welcome – in rural communities and remote towns we still watch the Windows egg-timer ask us to be patient or we notice our mobile phones give up on that last download as we leave yet another 3G or even GPRS zone. Therefore, recent positive talk from those involved in the Scottish Government Action Plan and the use of terms such as ‘digital boost‘ in Scotland fill me with hope.
At Precedent we strive to deliver optimal digital experiences and we need the connectivity promised. Personally, and from a Precedent viewpoint, I can’t wait. We are told the best internet speeds we can expect are up to 300MBPs with a current average of 6.8 MBPs. Working recently in the north of Scotland I achieve a broadband speed of less than 1MBPs and even when home working (a working style keenly promoted by the Scottish Government), in commuting distance from Edinburgh, I get little more than 2MBPs!
What will 4G on mobile and the implementation of super fast broadband mean for Scotland? Opportunities for companies and the economy to grow through digital innovation and for rural communities to feel fully part of the worldwide internet cloud. I look forward to seeing the timeline as the plan is launched, but 2020 does seem all long way off.
By Nicholas Oliver, Project Manager & Creative Technologist
This morning, Rory Cellan-Jones posted on the BBC blog about an FOI request that had been made in order to better understand the government’s software expenditure.
Can Whitehall open up to open source
What’s Whitehall’s attitude to software procurement? A cynic might sum it up as “nobody ever got sacked for buying Microsoft”.
With such a large number of government websites out there and over 294,000,000 pages being indexed by Google on the .gov.uk domain, I thought it was worth a deeper look to better understand where open source software was being used to best effect.
Starting out with one of the world’s most popular open source content management system, Drupal, a number of colleagues had a dig around to find some websites that were being powered by Drupal. A pretty sizeable list of 26 websites appeared: http://groups.drupal.org/government-sites#UK