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)

Strengthening support on the Hackney website – Weeknotes W/C 25/11/19

This third phase of the DevOps programme is focused on strengthening support on the Hackney website. We are using DevOps tools and approaches to make the website more reliable and sustainable. It is also testing one of the hypotheses from our initial discovery:

“Developers working alongside people with ‘ops’ (i.e. infrastructure / applications support) skills will increase velocity, resilience, security and stability”

This project will run between 25th November and the 20th December. 

Previously we carried out a discovery; and launched an initial alpha focused on cloud procurement and a DevOps pipeline approach.

The team

The team is made up of people from the applications, infrastructure and delivery teams as well as a DevOps engineer, Dan, and a Front-End developer, Luca, from Digi2al (who we have been working with on the DevOps programme). 

This is the first time we have applications people in our team, and it is a great opportunity to see how closely apps skills align with DevOps skills. Equally, for some of the team, this is the first time that they have worked on a development project using agile methodologies. As a result of all this, one of our key focuses is learning and development.

For the first time during the DevOps programme we have a team working on this almost full time, which is great as it allows us to more easily maintain focus and build momentum.

What we are doing?

This week we have been getting up to speed with the underlying technology of the website. Luca and Dan have been diving in at the deep end and quickly getting up to speed with the codebase. The rest of the team has been getting familiar with the technology and terms; and shadowing the more experienced members of the team. 

We have to strike a balance in this project between outputs and knowledge transfer. One week into this four week project, the HackIT team is primarily learning. While the  Digi2al duo has been identifying areas where the team can up-skill, providing introductory readings and running tech workshops.

There is an existing backlog from the project that delivered the website, which included a combination of bugs and small features. Product Owner on this project, Susan, has been looking through the backlog with Dan and Luca to identify tasks that add the most value and also make the website more maintainable and supportable in the future. 

This has resulted in an early focus on two areas: search and WordPress. Luca’s refactoring and simplifying of search will greatly improve the quality of search on the website and make future improvements easier. 

Secondly, Dan is working with Omar from Infrastructure to make the WordPress backend more reliable. It has a tendency to fall over during simultaneous deployments, requiring a manual restart. By restructuring the AWS architecture upon which WordPress sits, we should be able to save our content publishers  time and ensure the site is updated readily for our residents. 

What’s next?

We will agree on areas that our HackIT team members can look at over the next three weeks that will add value and broaden their learning. They are also continuing to shadow the Digi2al members of the team. 

Luca and Dan are working through the search and WordPress re-architecting, respectively, in addition to picking up minor bugs and code-reviewing other work that is taking place on the website. They are also running tech workshops and supporting the learning of the rest of the team by suggesting material to learn and exercises to try.