Weeknotes s01e14: be kind to the tortoises, dear hares

10 to 16 April 2017

A short work week due to Easter was made shorter by spending Monday trying to shake off a migraine. I got a full-on aura on Sunday night which I haven’t had in ages. My usual tactic of taking some soluble aspirin as soon as it came on seemed to do the trick, and I made it to bedtime OK. But when I woke up the migraine was clearly still there. Staring at a computer screen is the thing most guaranteed to bring on a migraine for me — closely followed by stressful meetings. I decided it was better to avoid both, take the day off, and hope that settled everything down.

Tuesday I went back to work for ceremony day. The migraine still hovered in the background but I made it through. Thankfully it was a light day for me. I had hoped to share some of the survey findings at show and tell but taking Monday off put paid to prep time. I’m off most of next sprint so didn’t have much to do in planning either. My goals for this one are to finish off reviewing the video of last week’s research, analyse and collate insights, playback to the team, and do a summary of that and the survey findings for next show and tell.

Wednesday I worked from home watching research videos, and seeing feedback from the newly ‘live’ GP profiles roll in. My goal was to rewatch all the session videos from last week. We’re looking at almost the ‘microinteration’ level — exactly how do people interact with elements of the page? is there particular heading or sentence that isn’t clear? That can involve quite subtle cues that are difficult to pick up on in the moment, and patterns that are difficult to spot when the people taking notes change during the day.

I got through 2 videos last week, got 3 more done on Wednesday and finished the last one off on Thursday back in the office. I’d decided to take the opportunity to also make a kind of rough transcript — timestamped verbatim quotes so I could easily find video examples of interactions later. In all it was a pretty time-consuming process. Probably a couple of hours for each 45 minute session. I think it was worth it as by the end I’d found patterns and findings I wouldn’t have got to just from my own memory of the session and my colleagues rough notes from the day. But I wouldn’t recommend it if high-level findings are sufficient for what you need.

With hindsight also if I did this again — re-watching all the videos — I’d stick to transcribing onto post-it notes. Having everything in a typed document is handy for some future person wanting to review the sessions, but it made analysis awkward. I did end up doing the last session on post-its, as I didn’t have a second monitor to work on in the office on Thursday. It felt like the note-taking process was also quicker that way. I’m not entirely sure, though if you’re not a quick typist it certainly would be. In the ended I added lots of headings and highlighting to make it easier to scan through the transcript for patterns. I could have printed all the transcripts out, cut them up, and clustered that way. But it would have been quicker and easier to have everything atomised on post-it notes in the first place, and to stick them up on print-outs of the prototype screens as I went.

All the same I got the insights pulled together in time for Thursday afternoon. The Book a GP Appointment journey is looking good — we just need to make a couple of the ‘next actions’ clearer. Our two low digital skills participants both struggled on the search results page, and were tempted to go back and re-run their search even though they could see there own surgery in the list. One even did exactly that, in one of those unbeatable “just click the button!” moments you sometimes get in research. It turns out the copy at the top of the page wasn’t clear what they should do next.

Jean Luc Picard saying ‘Just click the button!’ courtesy of memegenerator.net and Ian Ames

On the GP Profiles things are a little more muddy. I think it confirmed that we will need some kind of navigation to orient people with what’s on the page, but it’s not needed urgently as the page is currently fairly short. We have some copy tweaks to make. Then there are the needs people have that we can’t meet with the data and information we currently have. If you’ve worked on ‘digital transformation’ in government you’ll be familiar with that problem. This is where the transformation bit comes in. Good news is that there is a team already working on improving the data. We’ll need to work with them to find better ways to help hard-pressed GP surgeries provide us with relevant, accurate, up-to-date info for patients.

The basic profile pages are now ‘live’ on the beta site. If you search for a GP surgery on nhs.uk you should get a yellow strip at the bottom of the page inviting you to view a new version of it. That’ll take you through to a simple version of the new pages we’ve been working on. We’d love your feedback.

A bit like with the survey the feedback is a bit of a double-edge sword. The pages are so high traffic that we got 200 pieces of feedback left in just 2 days after launch. So brilliant for getting lots of feedback from real users but quite a bit of work to process. Good news though is that from the looks of it so far most of the things people have told us they can’t find are things we know we haven’t included yet. That’s good, because it means our research, and especially the survey we ran in February, has basically been valid. It’s not so good as it confirms we still have a lot of work to do to properly meet the very diverse needs of the people who visit these pages.

We also spent some time on Thursday looking at ‘what next’ for our team, and I got to spend a bit of time this week on what’s next for me. Hopefully some interesting, more strategic work for NHS Digital. But that does mean I need to focus on finishing things off rather than launching into new research avenues over the next few weeks.

The migraine continued to bob up and down through the week. Wednesday was mostly OK, but Thursday took its toll. The twin weapons of aspirin and Paramol got me through. I’ve now got over a week off. The long Easter weekend, to finish packing the old house and getting the new one ready for our arrival. Then I’m in Oxford for a couple of days, attending the UX in the City full day workshop on Org Design for Design Orgs with Kristin Skinner, co-author of the book with the same name. Then we move into our new house on Friday.


Blog posts published: 1. YTD: 11.

Country miles walked: 0

Meditation: 3 day run-streak, back on the wagon.

Reading/listening/watching: Rogue One of course. Good. Personally I think suffered from the modern blockbuster disease of too much non-stop action and not enough storytelling or character development. I read a review that said the big problem with Rogue One is that it makes New Hope seem sluggish and boring. I felt rather the opposite. Oh for a half hour of droids wandering the desert. I also wish they hadn’t gone for CGI Tarkin & Leia. The tech is still in uncanny valley territory. I think I would have found recasting with new younger actors — as they did with Mon Mothma — personally less disruptive of the ever fragile suspension of disbelief.

Work wise Dan Hon’s very good post on the Stages of (Digital) Transformation (Grief) resonated, reminding us to tread gently if we want to bring the wider organisation with us:

There will be people who will feel a combination of angry and ashamed and guilty. Angry because they were on a path and it’s being closed off… Ashamed because now they feel their work wasn’t up to what “everyone else” expected. Guilty because they now might see how things could be different and they’re holding themselves up to new standards.
What I try to remember in times like this is that I’m going to transformation war with the army that I — that the organization — has. No-one is coming to fix it. The team has to own it. But that *they did the best in the environment they had*.

It reminded me strongly of Dan Barrett’s ‘Being a Tortoise in a land of Hares and Rocks’. Be kind to the tortoises, dear hares, they’re on your side and making them feel stupid and ashamed isn’t going to get you anywhere.

On the listening front, to survive the migraine haze driving home on Thursday I cracked open my Harry Belafonte. If I were ever to be on Radio 4’s Saturday Live then Harry Belafonte would be my inheritance track — the one my parents passed down to me. While ‘Matilda’ and ‘When the Saints Go Marching In’ from Live at Carnegie Hall hold a special place in the Dennis household’s collective hearts neither featured on the CD I had in the car. So I’ll leave you with his 1954 version of ‘John Henry’ — one man’s tragic determination to beat the onrushing tide of technological innovation:

Remember folks: it’s only digital transformation. No need to hammer yourself to death.