Hello! Last week was a 4 day week for me, I’m always excited about those. Also, I started a Circles for growth substack to write specifically about small circles, why and how I’ve started one, why they are great and what we get up to.
Here are 3 things that happened in the last week, more things happened but these are the highlights and some of the things I’ve been thinking about
3 things that happened
One – Research Analysis
We did some research interviews last year to understand why some parts of GOV.UK were not accessible enough. A user researcher from another team ran a group analysis session for us. This is the first remote group analysis I’ve done so we used Trello since Jamboard is not particularly accessible.
The group analysis helped the whole team familiarise with what we learnt although we found that we barely had enough time – it’s easy to forget when doing research, how much time is needed for analysis. The user researcher then reviewed the notes again and synthesised the findings.
As expected, a lot of the findings confirmed some of the assumptions we had, for example, overreliance on Front End Developers and need for training. We also learnt about a few new problem areas, for example, accessibility being deprioritised because teams are rushed or assumption that using a component means it has no accessibility issues, which is mostly true but sometimes the way it’s used could also introduce issues.
Next week, we’ll play it back to the program and find some time to think about how we might tackle some of these issues to keep GOV.UK accessible.
Two – Open Documents and accessibility
In December, we updated guidance on publishing accessible documents to also say that publishers should turn existing PDFs into an OpenDocument format if it is to be edited, such as a form. We’ve had some publishers raise some issues they are experiencing so we spent some time this week reviewing the issues raised and talking to people like Terence who know a lot about Open Document Formats.
For some layout issues or problems with interactive features not working, we think that they can be prepared in a different way that prevents these issues but we’ll need to do some work to provide examples and improve guidance.
There is a general concern about locked text becoming editable, I’m not sure I fully understand why this is a major issue so we’ll need to talk to more people about that. There also seems to be an issue with opening them on iphones/Ipads that we need to investigate further.
I talked to another product manager who is doing a discovery to learn about collecting information from users because the core issue here is that our current ways are not accessible enough. Ideally, forms should be put on a website as an HTML form for people to fill, filling in a form as a text editor should be an alternative. It’s definitely an area that needs more focus.
I’ll be having more conversations about this as we work out next steps.
Three – “How might we” questions for structured information challenges
Our little working group that has been thinking about the next steps for GOV.UK’s content strategy continued working on exploring structured information. Now that we’ve talked to a number of people about current and expected challenges that are caused by content not being structured enough. We spent some time this week reviewing our notes from those conversations and coming up with “how might we” questions for each challenge. For example: How might we let publishers reuse organisational information?
We’ve only done that for current challenges, we need to do it for expected challenges and then we should be able to prioritise these questions, talk through rough ideas on approaches and determine which ones are most feasible. It’s slow progress as we only meet once a week but we feel we are on the right path.
What I’ve been thinking about
I’ve been thinking about learning and development. Specifically, I’ve been looking for resources related to accessibility, coaching and product strategy. I’m coming up with a list to share with my line manager so I can apply before the end of the financial year
For the first time in a long time, I actually logged in to the civil service learning platform and there’s a number of options there especially related to coaching and general leadership. It’s definitely a resource I’ve underutilised so I might actually add things to my learning plan and use it more often.
What I wish I could have changed
Our team has functioned for a while without a user researcher, I think that’s because the nature of most of the things we were doing at the beginning were clear problems with clear solutions. We’ve now entered a phase where we need to explore problems and solutions a bit more and it’s becoming a struggle without a user researcher.
GOV.UK is currently hiring so we should get some user researcher’s time soon. For now, we are mostly doing what we can ourselves.
What I’m looking forward to next week
Next week, I’m looking forward to coming up with some strategies with the team to tackle the issues we’ve learnt from our research into why some parts of GOV.UK were not accessible enough.
I’ll also be thinking about how to ensure we have a plan to do regular accessibility audits, when it’ll be done, what that will look like, how the audit results will be addressed etc
On a personal note
My son turned 3 on Friday, I decorated the house, we had a party for 3 with a huge cake and lots of yummy food. The last 3 years have gone by really quickly and I’m so grateful to have such a delightful child.
I started a substack! I’ve always struggled to be part of product management communities outside of work. I woke up one morning at the end of May 2020 and decided to determine what my needs are and what an ideal community for me will look like. What if it was not a community at all? What if it was something else?
I decided to start a small group that works for me, I wrote about why this approach matters and how to get started on circles for growth
I’ll be writing more about this so If a circle for growth is something you’ll be interested in starting or if you are just interested in our journey and what we learn in this process, please subscribe to my substack or just send me a message on twitter.
My digital declutter is still ongoing, although I did log into Twitter last week to say I started a substack. I’ll give myself a pass for that. It’s almost over so it’s time to start thinking about my operating procedures which is exactly how and when I’ll be using the technology I re-introduce.