Finding support services near you (formerly Directory of services) weeknotes 24/01/20

It’s official, we’re moving towards a single source of reliable data on services.

We’ve begun to reimagine how the City and Hackney directory could work, starting with a fresh database (MiDoS) where information is stored.

Applying this approach means the data is stored independently from the front-ends that use it – meaning that, in the future, we can drive other user experiences from the same data set, without needing to duplicate work.

Has anyone else done it?

Yes. This is similar to what Transport for London does with its data, which led to innovations like Citymapper. Buckinghamshire County Council has adopted this approach and other Local Authorities/ Integrated Care Systems are beginning to follow suit. It’s the same logic that underlies GOV.UK Registers: durable, maintained open datasets that can be repurposed to solve many user-facing problems.

Over the next few weeks we will be providing a select group of organisations that operate in Well Street with logins to the MiDoS database (so they can view/ amend/ add to their data) and gather feedback that will help inform our next steps.

Hackney residents are surrounded by community and voluntary organisations that are ready and willing to help, but it can be hard to find them.

In conjunction with the Well Street Common Partnership Programme being led by Hackney CVS, we’re developing a simple website that aims to simplify this search for services, pulling information from the directory.

But let’s not get too excited… We need to know that community and voluntary organisations will keep their information up to date and that those searching trust the information that is there.

Over the next few weeks we will have something visual to share with you (pending our proposal getting approved by the IT Enabler Board on Monday so we have some £ to do it).

How do we TRUST the organisations who are on there?

We held a verification workshop with a range of colleagues (from Employment Advisors to Nurses) to understand what lengths they go to to ensure an organisation they refer to are the ‘real deal’.

Turns out it’s quite a lot. And it varies.

To summarise, there are a range of approaches to validate legal angles (are they who are say they are) and quality (are they any good?).

Our next step is to propose a verification approach for organisations that are/ want to be listed on the directory. Watch this space.

These weeknotes were originally written by team member Meg Dibb-Fuller

Finding support services near you (formerly Directory of services) weeknotes 17/01/20

This week, we’ve been busy trialling our chosen database, MiDoS, and analysing the results from our interviews and surveys with local organisations. 

Before departing for the slopes, Chris from Intuiti – the company that owns MiDoS – kindly sorted us out with a login to the admin interface. It is through this route that organisations can enter their details into the MiDoS database, ready to be pulled into any front-end website we choose. 

Meg and Winston tested the out-the-box interface and we are pleased to report that, with zero training, it’s very easy to use. We’ll verify this with volunteers from the organisations themselves but we couldn’t help having a poke about ourselves in the meantime. 

There are a few fields we want to tweak before we open it up to organisations and we’ll be working with MiDoS to configure those to suit our needs. And we also want to apply our own taxonomy to organisations, based on the services they provide, so that end users can find the services they need.

Our user research lead, Wing, has finished interviewing voluntary organisations large and small about their digital presence; and our survey on the same subject has closed. We’ve found that 90% of organisations (18/20) use their own website to market themselves and their activities, and many supplement this with Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to promote individual events. One of the two organisations that doesn’t have a website expressed a desire to have one, which we hope to address through the ‘upskilling’ arm of this project.

Only 10% of organisations (2/20) have an up to date entry in the existing iCare directory. One of them, which did not have its own site, said they did get referrals from it. The rest cited “lack of time”, “it’s not used”, “I can’t remember the password” or “I don’t know how to do it” as reasons why it wasn’t updated. 35% (7/20) were not listed in iCare at all.

We can conclude that only one organisation saw the existing directory as a key part of its digital strategy. What does that mean for this project? Is the directory dead?

We don’t think so. With iCare, organisations are asked to update too many extraneous details that they’re already updating on their own websites (eg opening hours, minutiae of activities). Many don’t bother, and end users have stopped trusting the information. Equally, iCare doesn’t provide sufficient information on what the organisations actually do and consequently doesn’t encourage click-throughs to organisations’ own sites. Finally, its front-end design tucks the directory right at the bottom and also fails to encourage users to browse through to other organisations providing similar services.

We intend to address these issues with this project and, with the benefit of Agile and continual testing, we’ll be able to make sure we stay on track. It’s also worth highlighting that one interviewee wanted a user-friendly directory that not only signposts clients to them but that they can signpost clients to.

One clarification following our renaming exercise. Although we are now calling this project ‘Finding support services near you’, this isn’t reflective of any potential name for the directory. It’s simply the working title of the project so that those involved can understand readily what we are trying to achieve.

We rounded off the week with a planning session for our ‘How might we… verify an organisation’ workshop for next week. We’ll let you know the outcome of our collective creativity in next week’s update. If you can’t contain your excitement until then, you can always distract yourselves with Megxit. 

Re-engineering Hackney content weeknotes 14/01/20

Site Improve screenshot
Site Improve screenshot

This project continues to throw up a multitude of potential avenues to explore. As part of the DevOps trio of projects at the end of last year (excellently DM-d by Felix), we cleared a load of outstanding bugs that had been, well, bugging us. Plus, the proto-support process that evolved out of the DevOps experiment has empowered our infrastructure and app support teams to respond with gusto if the site has a wobble. We’ll confirm it’s working if the ticket I just dropped in the support desk ends up in the right hands! 

We weren’t able to settle all of our irks in DevOps but, in the spirit of continuous improvement, we continue to push the bar where resources allow. The commercial properties service now has a more visual approach, akin to its real estate competitors. And the road safety pages have benefited from an audience-centric restructure. We’ve run a few workshops with services to promote the concept of user-centred design and, if your service would like help with this, give us a shout. We’ll also try and come up with workshop templates so you could run a session yourselves. 

Some services require more of a marketing focus than others. One example of this is Hackney Museum. We’re working with Niti and her team to create a museum website that holds its own against other museums’ and tourist attractions’ online offer. To achieve this – with minimal additional effort – our front-end developer Emma has created a Hackney WordPress theme using the WordPress CMS as the back-end and the HTML components built for the Intranet for the front-end. This equips us with a wider suite of components from which to devise a visual, enticing design that will appeal to visitors.

We can re-use the WordPress theme over and over again, where needs require. And, in the spirit of open source, we’re seeking to submit it to the WordPress theme repository so other organisations can repurpose it at no cost.

Some of the third party sites to which we link continue to use ancient templates, which disjoints the user experience. Working through a schedule of updating them is a project in itself, however, we now have the UI toolkit to aid suppliers. Museum Collections and News are up next for reskinning. New suppliers should be given the toolkit during onboarding (with requirements included in contracts) and the design team, led by Joanne, can assist with this. 

The Comms team continues to embed Site Improve into its business-as-usual routine to great effect. Thanks to Iain and Alan’s sterling efforts, we are pleased to report that all four metrics of quality assurance, accessibility, search engine optimisation and digital certainty have surpassed the government benchmark. 

We’ve put Hotjar back on the site and the DevOps blitz has increased from 55% to 65% the percentage of users scoring the site at least 4 out of 7 stars. The 35% less than happy with the current sitch are often complaining about embedded apps not working; and we’re looking at how we can feed this back to services to fix. On that note, Behrooz Mirmolavi will be flying in shortly from GLA to talk about his role as a website data analyst, especially around Google Analytics and Hotjar. All Hackney staff are invited so get your diaries prepped for 10am on 30th January. Save your spot or miss out!*

*(You don’t actually have to save your spot, just turn up)

Finding support services near you (formerly Directory of services) weeknotes 10/01/20

Happy New Year!

After a bit of a break, it’s useful to recap what’s happened before and why. So here’s a reminder of our problem statement.

In the last sprint of 2019 we:

  • Started to explore investment in digital upskilling across voluntary and care services in the borough.
  • Interviewed and surveyed organisations operating within the Well Street Common Neighbourhood to test the assumption that they will add to and update a single directory; and to get an idea of their digital confidence or any gaps in their skills.
  • Extended the minimum viable directory (currently a spreadsheet) to social prescribers, Hackney Adult Social Care 3 Conversations, Job Centre employment advisors, sexual health nurses and physiotherapists.
  • Ran a naming exercise, and we’re pleased to announce the new name of Finding support services near you that, in just a few words, encapsulates the point of the project rather than the underlying technology. This will replace the Directory of Services name in future weeknotes. If you want to learn more about the importance of naming projects, read here.

What’s next: 

  • Analysing the results of the survey and interviews with voluntary and care organisations, feeding back next time.
  • Transferring the data held within the minimum viable DoS spreadsheet into MiDoS and trialling with end-users within Well Street Common (including social prescribers, social workers, employment advisors, voluntary and care organisations and residents).
  • Continuing to gather feedback, adapt and test again.
  • Implementing the standardised voluntary and care services and local authority data structure led by Buckinghamshire County Council. Click here for an example of how this is being piloted by the Local Government Association (LGA).
  • Running a workshop to define the verification process and standard for organisations that want to be featured in the directory.

These weeknotes were originally written by team member Lucy Clifton.

Directory of Services show and tell 17/12/19

Thanks to those who came to the Show and Tell for this project yesterday. And for joining in with our naming and verification exercises with gusto. 
We’ll work through your name suggestions in the New Year and announce a new moniker for this project that better describes its purpose. Plus, your ideas on verification will also input into how we are going to make sure the organisations we present are bone fide

Please read through the Show and Tell slides so you can see more of what we covered, and add any questions, comments or feedback for the project team. 

  1. What is Agile?
  2. What we’ve done so far – crafted a problem statement, user research with organisations, investigated databases
  3. What we’re doing next
  4. Questions and feedback
  5. Naming the project
  6. Verification