My name’s Katherine, and I started work in the Intelligence bit of the Public Health Team in 2014. One of my first jobs that summer was to look into commissioning a website for information on local health and wellbeing needs.
Over the next two years, I wrote a lot of business cases, learned a lot about procurement processes, and missed a lot of deadlines. The one thing I didn’t do was test anything out. We’d already consulted with stakeholders in 2014 – why would we need to talk to them again before we’d commissioned a website for them to test?
Then, at the start of 2017, we met with Matthew. Great, he said, I like your idea – now try it.
The Intelligence bit of the Public Health Team has four members. We don’t build websites. We can whip you up a lovely infographic about vaccinations (good) or smoking (not good), and if you stand still near us long enough we’ll probably explain some statistics to you, but we don’t build websites.
We built a website.
We decided on the least possible amount of content we could put on the website to make it worth testing. We decided on the most important basic things that the website needed to do in order to be worth having. And then, using free online tools and a couple of half hour tutorials in Matthew’s office, we put it together.
In two weeks of building this simple, quick, bare bones prototype, we learned more about our idea than we had in two years of talking it through. We refined it down, discarded the bits that didn’t work, and realised that we’d been making life needlessly complicated. We can now use free tools for things we thought we’d have to spend half our budget on.
Over the next few weeks, we tested it out with actual humans. We asked them to do things on the website, and got them to talk us through the process. Pretty quickly, we learned a second thing: What people want out of this kind of website is several simple ways to search for content, not one super whizzy way.
From this, we learned the difference between what stakeholders may say they want and what they actually want. We understood better how people will use our website, and what will make them abandon it. We now have a clear idea of what we want the site to look like and do – which will save us time and money when we bring in an external designer.
That bit comes next. I’ll let you know how we do…