The first two sprints of discovery for a new parliament.uk website have been extremely busy and very fruitful!
We have been working together with Bunnyfoot, a user centred design agency, on our research objectives: to validate the top ten tasks that users complete when visiting our website, and to explore what triggers their visit to the site. You might think those are very basic objectives, but we are keen to gather as tangible evidence as we can to challenge our approach to date. The Digital Service's commitment to put users needs first is a brilliant opportunity for us to make sure we start our discovery on the right foot. We want to continue to do research and test iteratively from now on, which will help us deliver services that meet our users’ needs.
For discovery, we decided on a number of research activities, including a material review (survey data, previous qualitative research, Google Analytics, etc.), tailored online surveys, stakeholder workshops and interviews in and outside of Westminster. To start with, we ran three 'uncover' sessions with stakeholders in both Houses. During those sessions, participants engaged with our website personas – the representation of a user’s goals, needs and interests based on user research – and put themselves in their shoes to think outside of the 'Westminster bubble'. The website personas we have are pretty outdated so it was important to have participants review them and include or remove what they thought was missing or needed nowadays, on the basis of their knowledge and understanding of their business areas.
Another exercise, that got their creative juices flowing, was to design a new website homepage. Some fantastic designs that will surely be consulted for the development of a new website!
We also ran one-to-one interviews with stakeholders in the House of Commons and House of Lords to make sure we address internal users' needs as much as we wish to understand and address external users’ needs. We had some very insightful discussions with a wide range of staff. One key finding so far being the importance of issue-related or topic-based gathering of information.
The highlight of last week for me – no offence to my dear colleagues in both Houses – was the visit to students at Leeds University and members of the general public in Newcastle.
Together with two Bunnyfoot consultants, I conducted interviews with Politics and Parliamentary Studies students at Leeds University. Their knowledge and understanding of Parliament was remarkable, but most remarkable was their engagement in politics and public affairs. You would think 'well, that's what they study so it makes sense they are engaged' but I would argue that no, I personally studied the same kind of degree and I was certainly not as politically aware at their age! We then went to the Student Union to 'intercept' students and ask them a bit about their knowledge and awareness of politics and public affairs as well as about the Parliament website.
On Friday we travelled to Newcastle to join one of the House of Commons Regional Outreach events. We talked to a dozen individuals about their interests in Parliament and whether they had visited the website. When those who had never visited the website were asked 'What would you expect to see on a Parliament website?', they mostly expected to find information about current topics discussed in Parliament, information about their MPs and how to contact them. We also ran similar sessions at an Outreach event in London, and with members of the public who were visiting Westminster Hall.
We still have a few more activities lined up in the next two weeks, including phone interviews with members of the public across the UK. I am also spending time with the team working on the incubation of Jargon buster and Interaction at fluxx to ensure the discovery findings are also feeding their work. It will also be time for further data analysis, personas update and mapping out key user journeys. The personas will help us keep our users in mind when moving to the Alpha phase of the development of a new website. It is important that we have a clear understanding of who we are building this website for, and the possibility to go back to those personas when we lose track of what we are trying to achieve.
Watch this space in early April for information on our findings!