https://pds.blog.parliament.uk/2017/11/22/the-next-stage-of-the-procedure-guide-for-mps/

The next stage of the procedure guide for MPs

House of Commons chamber

I’m a product manager at PDS and I want to share the findings from a recent alpha phase into creating a guide on House of Commons procedure for MPs.

A guide for MPs (and their staff)

It’s not just MPs who would use this guide, their staff would too. The guide will also be of interest to people whose work relates to Parliament such as political journalists and civil servants, and to some of the public.

Although MPs can find out about procedure from Erskine May and Standing Orders, these are not the quickest or most practical sources of information.

Our top priorities for the guide are that it’s:

  • plain English
  • practical
  • comprehensive
  • up-to-date
  • accessible

Building the guide

Starting from the intranet

The intranet, which is used by MPs, Lords, their staff and Parliamentary staff, has some procedural information but it’s difficult to find and under-used as data showed the number of visits to the procedural pages was low.

Content modeling

All content in the guide has to be clear and authoritative. For the alpha, we used text-based content on an area of procedure called Questions. This has been written by a subject matter expert and revised with help from the content team. We also explored the inclusion of content that’s not just words like videos, images and tables.

The content is split into:

  • step-by-step guides that map out exactly how to complete a particular procedural task
  • quick guides which give at-a-glance explanations to topics
  • topics which provide more detailed information
  • contact an expert where you can ask someone face-to-face

The guide is written in plain English and we’re aiming for it to replicate the positive experiences users reported when seeking advice in person.

A headless CMS

A ‘headless’ content management system (CMS) focuses on atomic content parts which are basically segments of text that exist in isolation from a website. The way the content parts are used once they’ve been created is flexible and depends on what’s required.

This approach separates content modeling and editing from website coding. It allows editors to update content independently and without the need for a developer.

This was identified as one of the main business needs during discovery and will help maintain the guide in future.

The CMS should offer:

  • basic publishing functionality
  • basic user management
  • a basic audit trail/version control
  • single sign-on is preferred but not essential

Website

We need a website for this content and it needs to be accessible across multiple digital devices. The content should be user-focused and designed around the main tasks and outcomes to meet the needs outlined during discovery.

As a priority, we build products that are designed for mobile devices, and can be accessible to all users. We also need to make this guide easily available for MPs and their staff outside of the Parliamentary estate.

Testing

We had to make a number of behavioural assumptions about how MPs and their staff might use the site when building a prototype. Discovery findings were used to inform what was needed and towards the end of the alpha phase there were a series of user testing sessions scheduled with MPs’ staff.

We took them through the prototype, confirming which part of our prototype worked for them or what changes would enhance their experience.

Next steps

Having tested our assumptions and assessed if users are able to navigate the guide, we’re now preparing for the guide to procedure to move into the beta phase. We feel we’re in a confident place to progress thanks to our testing with the users.

Read about how we started work on the procedure guide for MPs

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