The incubation period for Jargon Buster has gone by in a bit of a blur.
So it came as a surprise when last Thursday the team were already presenting our final thoughts to thirty or so people at the office of our brilliant hosts, fluxx, which we’ve called home on and off for the past four weeks. The event was also a great reminder for me of how far the product, the team and our working style had developed in that time.
Jargon Buster began as one of 18 two minute pitches given by a group of people from across both Houses at the beginning of the ‘Rapid Start’ event in March, just one month before. Anyone who has met me knows that clear language and accessible content is something that is a real interest of mine, so when the Jargon Buster idea was pitched my hand shot up in the air to vote yes (or Aye)!
In those first two days a small team with diverse skills and experience, many of whom had never met before, worked collaboratively to move from a vague idea that we should try to explain our language in context on our website, all the way to a fully formed prototype. Before we knew it we were sending out our test site into the world after less than 24 hours work and had feedback and analytics to inform next steps almost immediately.
We learnt that when our definitions were live, people clicked – not just once but on average over three words per page – and we knew that some words being clicked (for example the top word on our EU Referendum page was ‘Referendum’ itself) we might not even consider jargon day to day!
So after presenting the final conclusions at the end of our very busy two days (see video below), we were confident enough to move it into four weeks of ‘incubation’.
Ever ambitious we decided to aim to get the product live on the website before the end of that period to test in combination with real content.
Every day we sat at the same table together, tapping away on laptops, popping in and out of conversations, contributing to tasks assigned at our daily stand up and making decisions – and this is the crucial bit – making decisions very quickly. Amazingly by the end of week three, a fully tested version of Jargon Buster with 250 agreed definitions was live on News. On a personal level as a content specialist, I particularly enjoyed working so closely and transparently with the developers and designers from the Digital Service and fluxx, continually sharing experience on content, audiences and functionality on a daily basis to develop the product together – both for Jargon Buster and for Interact, the other project in development.
That’s not to say the product is perfect, and this is something some of us in Parliament may need to get used to when working in this way. We are learning every day. But I believe taking an iterative, continually developing approach – and essentially being brave by putting the product live – has sped up this learning process immeasurably. Feedback is coming in thick and fast to develop the product as we move forward, iteratively and in response to our audiences (both internal and external).
The only blip – although still a learning in itself – is that our analytics have not been fully compatible with the product, so we haven’t been able to collect all the user data we are so keen to know... yet... but we’re confident that the great team back at Parliament are going to find a solution very soon.
Visit the news on Parliament.uk between the hour and half past to check out Jargon Buster in action.
In terms of the product, the team are still working collaboratively to develop it as a user tool, but more than anything we see it as an important learning tool for Parliament. Once analytics are up and running we’ll be able to get more information about our audiences’ understanding of Parliamentary language than ever before. In turn, this can help inform our content strategy going forward and may change how we write across Parliament.
In terms of the ways of working, I know I am bringing back lots of learning from fluxx and from working with the team. One of the interesting reflections fluxx included in our final presentation was that we held around 10 hours of meetings across the full month (mostly made up of our daily stand ups) rather than an estimated 200 hours in our old way of working. Being in the same location, focused on the product, working together and responding immediately clearly saved time and energy and is something we can all learn from.
The challenge now is bringing back this way of working into Parliament to ensure we can bring together digital specialists, procedural experts, content producers and others to run projects more quickly, more effectively and more collaboratively going forward. I’d certainly recommend this process to anyone who may be approached for similar projects in the future.
Finally I wanted to say a personal thank you to all those back in Parliament who helped the team to get this far – from those who were proofing and checking definitions on very tight deadlines to developers working day and night to get the product live and I’m sure many people in between – thank you!
Holly is the Deputy Head of Public Information in the House of Commons. Holly was invited along to join a team consisting of staff from the Digital Service, our partner fluxx and other House staff from the Lords and the Commons in a two day rapid prototyping event called “Rapid Start.” This was followed by an intense four weeks of “incubation” where the prototypes were progressed further.
If you would like to talk to Holly about her experience working with colleagues from fluxx, other House teams and the Digital Service then please email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Alternatively you can contact Ganesh Senthi or Julie Byrne in the Digital Service.