When I first started working for Government, I found flexi-time awkward. Until this point, my entire career had been fixed working patterns and strict start times. If I was 1 minute late, my boss would dock my wages by 15 minutes. So, it seemed alien to me to have any flexibility at all.
Because bad organisations had conditioned me for over a decade, I thought there must be a catch. I assumed it was one of those things where people say one thing but mean another. I thought if I came in 30 minutes late people would act fine to my face, but there would be a secret strike against my name. If I chalked up enough strikes I’d get disciplined. The last place I worked loved this secret strike system!
The plugin went down well. At least, it did, until the GOVUK frontend styles got updated. Since then, a dozen or so people have tried to use the plugin but found it doesn’t work anymore. It’s been sat in my Trello board of to-do’s for the best part of a year.
The thing is, I thought I built the plugin off the back of a user need, and I was happy when people praised my work. But in reality, I think I missed the point. As did everybody that used it.
In Government our digital services get assessed at each stage of their journey. From Discovery into Alpha. Alpha through Beta. And Beta into Live. Every service that ends up on GOVUK will have to go through this. Each one assessed against the service standard for Government.
A panel of trained assessors will conduct the assessment. Each panel member from a different discipline within digital. The panel will cover the team setup. Their design and research, and their chosen technology stack.
From my time as an assessor, I’ve noticed teams don’t always conduct Alphas correctly.
As designers, we always like to put our stamp on things. We like to make things fancy and show off our full range of talents. Then when we come to code them up, we float things right. We use absolute positioning. We style links to look like buttons. We use fancy hover states and chuck in break tags in to create whitespace. Then we marvel at how pretty our designs look. After all, as long as it looks good, that’s all that matters. Right?
On my iPhone, I don’t have automatic updates turned on. I’m that guy that likes to read the release notes. Or, at least, I was.
Release notes used to be interesting. They’d tell you what the developers had been up to. What features they were adding, or removing. But the most important thing they brought was the ability to make an informed decision. They gave you the chance to decide whether you actually wanted to install it.
Companies such as Slack and Monzo have fun with their release notes. They’re proud to show you the new features they’ve been working hard on. But these two companies are becoming part of a minority. A small group of companies that actually bother to write anything.
Recently, I took a leaf out of Medium’s book and decided to add the estimated reading time to my blog posts. This was so that people could decide whether they had enough time to commit to the post before reading it.
When I tweeted about it, I got a request to write an explanation of the code. So here it goes!
Design and art go hand in hand. But they’re not the same thing.
When I was younger, I identified as a graphic designer. I’d design logos and flyers for nightclubs in Newcastle. When you’re doing this kind of thing, the lines between art and design blur a lot. I didn’t know the difference.
I’d combine art with principles such as the golden ratio, irradiation phenomenon and overshoot. I’d pick typefaces to best represent the brand of the company I was designing for. There was some science to it, but it was still open to opinion. Somebody could still decide they didn’t like my work. And clients often did.
As a designer, it’s not my job to design the things people want. It’s my job to design the things they need.
When you work in Government, you see a lot of legacy systems. These are ancient beasts, built off the back of corporate I.T contracts decades ago.
They’re clunky, and we’re unable to make changes. UX wasn’t even a thing back then. The interfaces range from what looks like Teletext to an Excel spreadsheet. The font size is about 6px, because any screen resolution over 640px was unheard of when they were built.
There’s a lot these systems have to answer for. But one of my biggest gripes is the culture of ‘note-box enthusiasts’ these systems have created.