Did We Hear You Correctly?

Author: 
AGIMO - WPG Review Team
Category: 
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A couple of months ago we ran some focus groups on what people think about the Web Publishing Guide – what they like and don’t like about the Guide, and what we could do to the Guide to make their jobs easier. The results are sitting in our inbox now. Many of you will already have an inkling of what the hot topics are likely to be, but seeing the results from across all participants so far may also be useful. We’ve attempted to summarise this 34-page document into a single blog post -- most of your feedback could be roughly categorized as follows:

Overall Site Goals / Purpose / Identity

The site’s primary goals were seen as worthwhile, although the terminology surrounding the site seemed to detract from its recommendations’ ability to carry weight. Altering the site’s terminology from ‘guide / guidelines’ to ‘standards / requirements’ and changing phrasing from ‘should’ to ‘must’ was suggested to increase the perceived authority of the site. Endorsement from the CIO forum was proposed as means of achieving a standardized, enforceable baseline. Agency users felt that the site’s greatest benefit was the help it offers them (executives, project managers, designers, content authors and developers) discover and achieve the minimum standards quickly and easily. Renaming the guide was also suggested by participants – references to the terms ‘standards’, ‘foundations’ or ‘minimum requirements’ in the title were proposed.

Content Updates

Feedback indicated that, generally, the site’s content was a useful and valued resource. Accessibility was highlighted as a key issue, with related topics (WCAG2, PDF, Multimedia, Web 2.0) highlighted as being either ‘thin’ or outdated. Ideas for new content were also proposed:

  • Checklists (project management, content creation, standards compliance, etc.)
  • Case studies / hypothetical situations (problem, solution, outcome) for typical agency web publishing issues
  • Ready-to-roll templates (governance policies, legal statements, UI components, web page templates, code snippets, etc.)
Visual / Technical Changes

The look-and-feel of the site didn’t rate as being a major issue for our users. While our designer is flattered, some re-jigging of page layouts may need to occur to support any significant content or information architecture revisions. However, there were a few requests for some additional technical capabilities, including:

  • Printer-friendly versions of pages
  • Expose ‘Date last reviewed / updated’ metadata
  • Subscribing to site updates via RSS / Email

Several other comments focused on some very specific quick ‘technical’ fixes, some of which have already been implemented.

Usability / IA Suggestions

Several participants expressed their frustration with locating content on the site in a manner that matched their needs, suggesting that the site / page structure reflect their roles, rather than a hierarchy of topics. This information architecture refinement could allow for quick answers to questions like:

“I’m a content author wanting to put my agency’s publications online - what are the minimum requirements I need to meet?” “I’m a technical developer – after I’ve met the minimum requirements, what else might I consider implementing?” “I’m in charge of managing a new government website project. What’s the first thing I need to know?”

Community Support

Participants from smaller agencies shared that they often have very few internal resources to draw on when attempting to solve web-related problems. The website was seen as both a reference document and a potential starting point for a community of practice for APS employees working on the web. Several tools were suggested as a means of facilitating this community of practice, including:

  • Mailing Lists
  • GovDex community (Wiki, Forum, Issue Tracker)

In addition to a community of practice, participants sought to remain informed of developments occurring between (and during) major releases of the guide (via RSS, twitter, blog, email, forum, wiki, etc.). Participants also expressed a desire to offer feedback / comments on current content via the website.

What Next?

Now that we’ve heard you (or think we’ve heard you), we’ll be progressing to the next stage of the project: design and implementation. Over the next few weeks, you'll see on this blog some of our ongoing work to address the issues you've told us about. If you’ve spotted a major omission in the summary above, sound off in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you.

Thanks!

Thanks must be extended to the agencies who have participated so far, including :

  • Attorney-General's Department
  • Australian Bureau of Statistics
  • Bureau of Rural Sciences (Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry)
  • Centrelink
  • Civil Aviation Services Authority
  • Commonwealth Ombudsman
  • CSIRO
  • Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry
  • Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy
  • Department of Defence
  • Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations
  • Department of Health and Ageing
  • Department of Immigration and Citizenship
  • IP Australia
  • Medicare Australia
  • Murray Darling Basin Authority

Comments (4)

I would second the requests for making "standards" rather than "guidelines". In our work on writing several of the Better Practice Checklists, as well as the whole-of-gov work with NSW Government, we heard this consistently from web managers in agencies.

One of the greatest challenges for web teams is getting the required resources to do what they know needs to be done. At present, everything from AGIMO could be seen as optional, and there is no auditing (as far as I'm aware).

As highlighted in your post, I think web managers would like be able to go to their bosses and say "AGIMO says we *must* do this, so can I please have the money?". This would be a huge benefit to agencies, and would help them to be leading lights for the broader web community.

Thanks for setting up the blog, great to see this type of engagement in action!

Regards, James

I'll also agree with James and others who have already said that it would make our work lives so much easier if we can say to executives and content owners and that we *must* do things in a particular way.

It would save us a lot of time, energy and sometimes even tears!

It might also be useful to develop website and webpage templates that implement the guidelines/standards that agencies can use as the basis for their sites, or even drop into place as a first draft.

Example code, layouts, and information architectures can be useful to illustrate guidelines/standards - and provide a starting point and point of comparison for developers (in particular less experienced or those with tight time frames and/or budgets).

Sadly, of course, they can also become a quick and easy replacement for 'proper' development.

Mandating a particular process is OK, so long as there is systemic and systematic processes in place to ensure that the whole thing doesn't simply become a mechanical jack-in-the-box. Education and training are important, as are active support for, and political approval of, the processes by management at *all* levels. Getting management on board is crucial - as previous commenters have suggested.

Buy-in and ownership are at least as important as any technical specifications or processes.

Comments on this post are now closed. Please let us know if you would like to discuss this post.

Last updated: 27 July 2016