Re-engineering Hackney content: weeknotes 07/08/19

It’s all about the navigation this week. We did a round of testing, and users were finding it difficult to move between sections. So we’ve worked out a way to have all four levels on the menu, avoiding a left hand navigation and over-reliance on a big ‘menu’ icon. This also means we can go full width and save a whole load of space.

Now we’re trying to speed up the generation of the menu. I also spent the weekend ordering the many, many pages on the menu. It was like the Christmas jigsaw: didn’t want to do it; couldn’t walk past it. 

Real progress is being made on the homepage. Tomorrow, the fab four of Carolina, Gill, Alan and Emma will be setting up shop in London Fields to see if real life people understand what we’ve done with it. We need it to be useful to people but also represent the borough and what we stand for.

We had a demo from Site Improve this morning. This promises to be a handy addition, particularly for accessibility, and we’ll be putting a business case forward to embed it in all our sites.

We’re continuing to look at ways to close the loop between users and services via our Hotjar feedback. As you’d imagine given Parking is our most popular section, we’ve had most feedback on the parking pages. We’ve been in touch with our lovely friends in the service and are thinking together of the best way we can pass on this feedback and how they can best manage it. I’m thinking gleaming dashboard in walnut veneer, currently it’s cut and paste in Google Sheets. We’ll get there. 

Re-engineering Hackney content: weeknotes 29/07/19

Sometimes you need to go a bit [cover your ears, children] Waterfall. We’ve unfinished business on the project and the best way to organise it might just be an old-fashioned schedule:

  1. Navigation and redirects
  2. Security
  3. Left hand navigation
  4. Homepage
  5. Image block
  6. Search
  7. Accessibility testing
  8. End to end testing and bug-fixing

Quite a list. However, work has already started on each one and we reckon we can get it done in the next month. Six weeks allowing for holidays.

We’re continuing to populate the navigation. Early user research showed that, although alphabetical order didn’t actually help anyone find anything [roads and transport; transport and roads, anyone?] it gave comfort to know it was ordered in some way. Further down the road, we may look at Hotjar heatmaps to see which are the most popular and order accordingly. 

The left hand navigation is our next priority. This is only needed on pages that sit on the lowest, fourth level of the content hierarchy. Without it, users can’t get to the village in our country/county/city analogy so we are racing along those B roads to deliver.

Our successor to the landing page is now in code. The existing landing pages (eg /parking or /planning) are essentially navigations featuring two menus that sometimes repeat themselves [no, we’re not sure either]. Our new mechanism is for, eg, /#planning to ping out the expanded Planning navigation so users can select what they want. We’ll test, of course. 

An impromptu brainstorm about the homepage saw us discussing the weighting that should be given to each component. We don’t want to create any more work for content editors but we can at least rank editorial content above the fold, while still providing access to all the services. We also realised we can design image components on the homepage for reuse elsewhere on the site. This negates the need for bespoke templates for pages that warrant a more visual treatment, saving time.

Earlier conversations with Customer Services paid off when we populated the contact page. We’re not in a position to implement chat bots yet but we have been able to encourage self-service with a simple content redesign. That, in conjunction with direct links on the homepage to key tasks, will hopefully encourage users to seek out what they need 24/7 instead of having to wait for the doors to open downstairs. 

Generally, our users want to be in and out of the Hackney website with minimal fuss. As a heads-up, we’ve added reading times to pages that will take more than a minute to read. Don’t say you weren’t warned, people. 

Lest we lose all of this lovely content, we’ve implemented daily backups using the All In One WordPress Migration plugin, at the princely sum of $99. This means we can restore a clean installation in a matter of minutes. The whole content management system is only 121MB so we’re not breaking the Internet here. The frontend of the website is backed up in GitHub.

Now we’ve done all this designing and coding, we could potentially launch the templates as a theme on WordPress. This would mean other organisations can borrow it and populate with their own content. Our own Intranet site may be the first to try it out.

Re-engineering Hackney Content: weeknotes w/c 15/07/19

Pose is on BBC iPlayer
And the winner is… Pose

The content population is complete! We only have left those pages that may warrant a different template from the standard, such as Contact Us or Leaving Care. And the Homepage.

On that note, Lead Service Designer Joanne kick-started a discussion with us about how we can best include Search on the homepage; which led to us thinking more deeply about the homepage’s raison d’etre. 

Looking at the ‘competition’, there’s been a trend in recent years for councils to simply list their services on the homepage, with a few quick links to specific tasks. This does tend to give the impression that all the council does is take money off us for parking fines and council tax. It certainly doesn’t leave anyone with a warm fuzzy feeling about all the other things the council does. Yes, we all want to be in and out quickly when paying rent; but we’d also like to know Hackney Pride is polishing its rainbows in readiness for the parade or that free bike checks are on offer in London Fields. So we’re looking at how we can meet both needs. 

Meanwhile our Developer, Mo, has been researching the family tree for the menu. Some pages are parents, some are children, some are parents and children, some are grandparents, some are confirmed bachelors. We need to cater for all options in one list as well as sort out a mechanism to order the items. Our minimum will be manual ordering but we hope to move to drag and drop in the longer run. 

An added complication is how to ensure landing page urls (eg /housing) – ubiquitous in leaflets and mousemat giveaways – have a place to call home. We’re endeavouring to design something revolutionary involving the menu, it’ll either crash-and-burn or win us a Webby. 

We met with a couple of Housing teams this week to discuss metrics and how we can help them move forward with their digital services. Hotjar really will be a goldmine for this as end users love telling us how we can do better. We’ve got a list going of all the lovely teams with a pioneering spirit; and of all the lovely things that could be sprinkled with digital fairy dust once the move to WordPress is complete. 

I enjoyed a course at the GLA yesterday to help us get off the blocks with Google Data Studio. It’s given me enough to move forward; and I can spend a few evenings next week watching metrics tutorials instead of Pose. And the Category is… Working Mother in Lounging Pyjamas at 2am Trying to Connect to WiFi.

Love Summer map now live!

Breaking News! Now live at

Explore summer in Hackney with our map of playgrounds, pools, picnic areas, drinking fountains, walking routes and m
Explore summer in Hackney with our map of playgrounds, pools, picnic areas, drinking fountains, walking routes and more.

We’ve just finished a four week side-gig to get the best out of the fantastic resource that is Map.Hackney. While it’s a valuable tool for urban planning, it also holds hidden gems such as locations of drinking fountains, wildflower meadows, paddling pools and quietways. Which we want to shout about.

With an assembled team of a mapping expert, user researcher, developer, designer and deliverer, we kicked off our sandals and took the idea to the people. Our first stop was London Fields, where we interrupted unsuspecting bystanders to ask what they like to do in summer in the city.

Out of this research came four personas that we hoped would resonate with people. The one who likes to hang out with friends in the park and play ping-pong (‘Chilling’); the one who wants to keep the kids occupied for an hour (‘Playing’); the one who wants headspace while meandering through the streets (‘Wandering’); and the one who wants to create their own summer (‘Everything’).

With a wireframe best described as no-fi, the team was able to spin out a prototype faster than ice melts in a mojito. More research yielded great feedback: are the blue lines rivers? [cycle paths]; is that a bus route? [Hackney boundary]; can you see cafes in parks [heck, yes!]. All this was iterated back into the prototype. If you click on the slides, you can try it out for yourself via the QR code.

We all learnt something on this project. For some, it was the first experience of Agile working; for others, GIS was a whole new world; still more were introduced to GitHub. But the learning curve never felt too steep.

We’ve still got some end-to-end testing and colour contrasts to work out but we’re ready for our Monday launch. Let the summer begin!