Thinking about the Inside Government alpha feedback

There is alot to love in the latest bout of extreme transparency blogging from the GOVUK team. Sharing the results of the feedback and user testing for the Inside Government product gives a real insight into the challenges they are facing and how they intend to front up to them. It also lets those of us with no chance of running such extensive testing (let alone getting the level of feedback they received) some useful pointers and things to think about.

Given my preoccupations at the moment I was/am particularly interested in the feedback [PDF] around the custom CMS they built.

[aside: in the post Ross discusses the fact it is *two* products – a CMS and a front-end website. This is obviously correct but in my own projects we are constantly conflating the two and I need to work harder to make sure everyone understands the dividing lines.]

The task completion comparisons they have done against existing CMS are particularly interesting and I like the way they have stripped things down to a very straightforward task driven interface. I especially like the idea of this if/when there is a more distributed publishing model – something I think alot of organisations are revisiting at the moment.

I still don’t believe that using Markdown is an appropriate solution for when a product like this spreads beyond early adopters (and judging by the comments on the post I am not alone) and I wonder if a whole new CMS needed to be built or whether this kind of editing UI could have been built into a more common open source CMS so it could be more widely shared? That said I haven’t used it and given the people involved I have confidence that decisions were made for the right reasons so I’m not really concerned.

The fact that users felt that the Departments themselves needed to be more visible and were key navigation aids was interesting to me given some of the early thinking going on at the moment around the relationships between my organisations website and its sibling sites. It backs up our own findings nicely I think.

Also the fact that the design itself was well received is nice to hear as we are planning to be heavily ‘inspired’ by that design when we ‘refresh’ in early 2013🙂

All in all lots to think about again – and particularly timely as my own projects start to ramp up over the summer so thanks again guys!