https://servicedesign.blog.essex.gov.uk/2018/11/21/essex-gov-uk-the-platform/

Essex.gov.uk: the platform

Prototype of a landing page
Prototype of a landing page

The essex.gov.uk project has been progressing at pace over the last few weeks with most of the key building blocks either underway or completed.

Since I posted It’s all about the content we’ve:

  • Completed key re-design work on Adult Social Care content
  • Audited 1,200 pages on the essex.gov.uk website
  • Started to re-design content for Education, Registrars and Children’s Social Services
  • Nearly completed an Information Architecture project to help us organise, structure and categorise our content
  • Tested and iterated key page layouts including homepage designs

But what about the technology?

Over the Autumn we’ve completed a significant piece of work investigating the technology options for the project.

It would have been relatively straightforward to pick one of the leading ‘off the shelf’ Content Management Systems (CMS), but this didn’t feel right given our ambition for the future and our support for the ambitions of the Local Digital Declaration.

Instead we opted to collaborate with Stockport Council to reuse code that they had developed for their stockport.gov.uk website as it would:

    • give us a meaningful head start
    • reduce the dependency on a development company’s roadmap
    • reduce the risk of not being able to meet future business and user requirements

 

Stockport have developed an offer that includes:

  • Events
  • Directories
  • My Account
  • Payment integration
  • Smart questions and answers
Different devices used to access essex.gov.uk
The 'headless CMS' makes it easier to serve content to a number of different type of devices

Content is held in a ‘headless CMS’ which means that it can be delivered to different devices and platforms, not just presented on a website. We needed to understand all of this in more detail so embarked on an in-depth technical discovery.

Discovery

It was important that we had a clear scope for technical discovery to stop it running on and on. We decided that the critical things were to confirm that we were happy to use Stockport’s choice of:

  • CMS
  • content types (i.e information page, alert, image, video)
  • search engine

We created two small proof of concept sites using Stockport’s choice of CMS and another market leader. This enabled us to understand more about Stockport’s choice, the headless approach in general and to estimate how much time it would take to swap out the CMS if we wanted to at a later date.

Managing complexity

Running this as an agile project means that we’ve understood user need, tested and iterated our content, templates and designs and moved in a controlled way between project phases.

At this point it felt critical for the technology build to be scoped as an agile Minimum Viable Product (MVP) to reduce risk and enable us to deliver and iterate without a ‘big bang’ go live.

We concluded that our MVP should deliver:

  • homepage, landing page and information page content types
  • our tested Information Architecture with Adult Social Care content
  • tested designs
  • configured search
  • feedback mechanism and Tag Manager set up

We’ve created a prioritised backlog of enhancements for discussion with Stockport so that we can meaningfully consider opportunities for collaborative working.

We are also assessing the bigger Stockport offer of directories and My Account to see whether we want to implement it all, or if we’d like to do some smaller discoveries around other options.

Next steps

  • Our Information Architecture project delivers at the end of November
  • We’re creating a ‘components library’ which will deliver instructions for how to build the front end view of the website
  • Procuring our CMS and search engine

If you’d like to find out more about our work why not come along to our regular show and tells. Email us at service.design@essex.gov.uk to be added to the invite list.

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