Weeknotes: week 26

A shorter week

Neil Lawrence
May 1 · 4 min read

A short one for me this week as I needed to deal with some family stuff, but it felt like a lot was packed in to 3 days.

Finalising our migration plan

Since resetting our launch window for the new website to accommodate all the extra development needed we’ve been hard at work ensuring that our wider (non-development) plan covers all the bases. This week that plan got a peer review by a colleague and we worked towards final allocations of the tasks.

The team are still struggling with BAU and requests for new work meaning they can’t dedicate as much time as they’d like to to the project, so I’m ‘running interference’ (love that US football term) to head off new stuff coming our way.

We had some niggles with migration this week as our 2nd migration release didn’t land quite right, leaving us missing some data. Placecube have regrouped (as always) to tighten up on this, and have built an extra release into the schedule to give everyone some latitude on what comes over and when.

Our friendly Placecube dev Dave was consigned to nearly two days of wading through our multiple tickets feeding back on the migration to date and raising questions. Lots of additional stuff landing on the Jira board as a result which will make resolution easier to track for us.

Design deliberations

The migration plan discussions gave us a good opportunity to chew over some of the trickier ones that don’t have an easy answer. One of these is how we approach our traded services designs. These are a deliberate departure from a GOV.UK approach to make pages on (mainly) facilities more interesting attractive.

Over time this approach has slipped out to other areas, so that not only do we have a category we’ve called ‘blended services’ (which none of us could really define) but high priority pages like COVID-19 info also took it up.

In building our migration tools Placecube have done a brilliant job in replicating the traded services look almost exactly. Which brings us to our dilemma; how do we make a change to bring back a more uniform design approach that matches best practice? Do we do it before launch and risk rushing it, or do we leave as is and work on it post-launch and more slowly.

We’re still mulling that one over. As most of the Traded Service look has come across as HTML-only at this point, and our final sprint of dev work will take us closer to the launch date, it could be that the timing on this is out of our hands.

Developing our development resource

Another really important part of our migration is the creation of a new website for Public Health Dorset. While this is a small site, it nevertheless provides a real challenge as it’s out first microsite on the platform and we need it to look like the old site rather than carry the Digital Place theme for the main site.

This week I had a catch-up with the devs that have been drafted in to build the site under the steely-eye focus of Glen Conroy. I’m always jealous of devs as they seem to operate with ease in an area I struggle with, and find solutions to things that feel insurmountable to me.

I was blown away by how quickly they had picked up the fundamentals of Liferay and had started the site again from scratch (replacing my feeble efforts to get the site build started previously). Not only that but I’ve started having initial conversations with them about how we’d move to a commissioning model from our CMS roadmap to build new features we feel are needed.

Battle of the SOM

As the early runners in the customer platform roll-out we’re going first with some of the new initiatives, such as establishing a Service Operating Manual (SOM) for each main product. This week we caught up with colleagues in ICT to talk through the interface areas and who will do what. We’re still experiencing some hangover from the days the web team dealt with all aspects of the website, before we moved into DDAT specialisms like content design.

The key one that is coming up is domain management. We’ve got some issues not only with day-to-day management of these, but also how to crack the legacy domain (dorsetforyou.gov.uk) that seems to be hard-baked into every nook and cranny of various web applications.

Meet the members

Last up was an intro session with 2 of our cabinet members that have agreed to help us out with our platform project as a sounding board and keeping us on track.

Before we started we asked them what their vision was for any changes to the website, and the responses were eminently sensible; make the search work well, clear and simple to help find how to do things, use the right language (a lovely throwback to my early days with Highways being told by them that ‘pavement’ is the wrong term for a pavement) and always remember that the people that use our website are the important ones.

We did get a question about the potential to use of What3Words in the council too, and I rather ran off talking about the recent research, it’s non-open approach and the fact that no fellow nerds I know would touch it. I felt I’d overreached a bit, tbh, but had I….?

And finally….

Some other things that happened this week:

  • had a blast from the past getting in touch with Will Callaghan about the LocalGovDrupal project and its approach to product info, resulting in being invited back to play on the project!
  • hearing that Greenwich have snagged @Yinlingjing to be their new Head of Product, so reached out to see if we can play together in setting up a #localgov product group and share ideas
  • Shortlisting for my fixed-term Content Designer and also for Business Manager

Digital Dorset

On a Digital journey to become a Digital Council in a Digital Place

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