Weeknote: Publishing workflow and best-laid plans

tobiogunsina Product management, weeknotes Leave a Comment

I don’t work every other Friday so this was my 4 day week. I’m usually quite excited to have Fridays free, who doesn’t love 3 day weekends?

Here are the highlights of my week:

What went well

This week, everybody in my team attended the Cross-Government Accessibility Community event for half a day. There were lots of interesting talks on how different governments and departments handle accessibility, auditing at scale, creating accessibility empathy labs, and so on.

I really enjoyed the interactive talk from Anika, one of GDS senior accessibility specialists. It was titled “Alternative text – There’s more to it than meets the eye”. 

My key takeaway from the talk is that Alternative text is not just for screen reader users – more people benefit if the alternative text is on the page and not hidden, for example, people who use magnification or have trouble understanding images. Also, Alternative text should depend on context and is really about conveying the information that the image was meant to convey, not describing exactly what’s on the image. 

I had been aware of these things but the talk now has it stamped in my mind so I thought I’ll share.

I finished the first draft of a blog post to share our work to improve GOV.UK’s accessibility. It’ll share our process, key challenges and lessons learnt. It might be possible to publish it earlier than planned so yay! 

Many moons ago, I was working on the publishing workflow team. The vision was to design a workflow that makes it easier for publishers to create and manage effective content on GOV.UK. For a start, we were working on Content Publisher (a new tool for departments across Government to publish their content). Content Publisher is in private beta but work was paused to focus on GOV.UK’s work on Coronavirus in March. 

I spent quite some time this week, talking and thinking about publishing and structured content on GOV.UK. A group of us who were invested in the publishing space got together to talk about how we might get buy in to get work on Content Publisher started again as soon as possible. 

This led to lots of conversations and writing a one-pager for the management team to re-emphasise how getting on with work on Content Publisher as soon as possible is central to GOV.UK’s future plans and work on Content Strategy. We tried to outline the cost of delay and why we should be working collaboratively with the content strategists now. 

I think we are now all on the same page about the importance of this work, I’m glad.  There may be more conversations next week about what getting started without a full team might look like as GOV.UK is and will be doing a lot of hiring over the next few months. 

I’ve been in and around publishing on GOV.UK long enough that I’m constantly worrying about how much non-shiny, fix the foundation work there is to do and how little love they get. Here’s hoping they get a lot more love and soon. 

I spent some time doing bits and pieces either to start a new piece of work or to move something along

Craig, my delivery manager and I started scoping out our work for investigating why some parts of GOV.UK became less accessible. We have a few assumptions we want to check and we want to figure out if there are any other reasons. 

This will help us come up with strategies to keep GOV.UK accessible. We are doing the investigation on our own and plan to talk to people in different roles across product teams on GOV.UK. We know what areas we want to explore but will probably need a user researcher to help sense check some of our questions. 

I also ran a session to talk about raising awareness about the accessibility problems we’ve fixed so they are easily recognised and less likely to be repeated. We’ve now split that work into 2 – content focused and technical focused, that way, each group can determine what’s most effective to raise awareness about and how. 

I spent the rest of my time moving things along in different ways like reviewing the change to guidance on publishing accessible document, drafting an announcement for that change, providing clarifications, talking about potential work the team might be involved in, etc

I attended 2 retros, a team retro and a GOV.UK product management community retro. I find frequent retros are good practice, like going for a check-up and discovering there’s a fixable problem because you caught it early and can make plans to fix it – you are glad you went because imagine if you didn’t.

There was a lot of conversation in our team about the sheer pressure of having or being required to be involved in so many things outside of direct team work and how to push back where needed. 

What could have been better

We have some work to explore ways to prevent accessibility issues before they are published. To explore them properly, we need a backend developer in the team, currently, we are a team of Front End Developers and Content Designers. 

We found out this week that we won’t have a backend developer for a while which means that work will have to be pushed back till later. The best laid plans of men and mice eh? I understand the circumstance and the pressure GOV.UK as a whole faces but it doesn’t make it feel less disappointing. 

Other things that happened

I did some more application sifting for a role. Also, my line manager is leaving GDS and I now have a new line manager, we had our first catch up to talk about our expectations and how to work together. 

I also attended the line manager induction since I am a new line manager. I feel like there’s so much for line managers to know and keep up with that it feels overwhelming. The best approach is probably to know what exists and only dig deeper as needed

I am currently reading “Digital Minimalism: Choosing a focused life in a noisy world” by Cal Newport. Digital Minimalism is a philosophy of technology use in which you focus your online time on a small number of carefully selected and optimized activities that strongly support things you value, and then happily miss out on everything else. 

I feel like I’ve not quite optimised my Digital life enough, so far this book looks like it’ll help me make all the right changes.