https://insidegovuk.blog.gov.uk/2013/10/02/so-hows-this-inside-gov-uk-blog-thing-working-out-for-you/

So how’s this Inside GOV.UK blog thing working out for you?

It’s been a few months now since we started blogging here about how we’re making and improving the GOV.UK website .

So it’s high time we asked you whether you reckon we’re making a good job of it (the blogging, that is, rather than all the making-the-website stuff).

What we know

We’ve already picked up a few things from our analytics dashboard.

For example, we’ve noticed that most of our 4,000 monthly visitors are repeat visitors, and that our blogposts get roughly the number of pageviews we’d imagined they would (typically 300-800). Most of our posts get at least a couple of comments, which is nice.

You also seem to  like us writing about the tools we use, how we work, and major changes to the product - the most popular posts over the three months have been:

What we’d like to know

But we’ve not really asked you what you think yet.

Are we writing about the sort of stuff you’d like us to write about? Do we write too often? Is there anything you’d like to see more - or less - of? Are we responding to your comments in the way you'd like?

We thought of doing a Surveymonkey thing, but to be honest that just seemed too much of a faff all round, and we'd like to have a conversation about your comments anyway.

So if you could bung any thoughts in the  comments section below, that'd be fantastic.

27 comments

  1. Comment by Anne McClarnon posted on

    As we've yet to have any other specific contact from GDS on our transition to Gov.UK, these blogs and the monthly (roughly) Defra-network tele-conferences are the only way that we're keeping informed of changes, potential issues about how we'll need to formulate content, etc. We're not all in London so can't just "pop down" for ad hoc training sessions. So, please keep the blogs going so that we can stay informed. Thanks.

    • Replies to Anne McClarnon>

      Comment by Graham Francis posted on

      Thanks Anne. You might be interested to know that we'll very shortly be launching a new 'transition' blog site, which will give you loads more information about how the process works etc. Keep an eye on digital.cabinetoffice.gov.uk over the next day or so for the big unveiling. Look forward to hearing more from you soon!

    • Replies to Anne McClarnon>

      Comment by Alyson Fielding posted on

      Hi Anne, the transition blog is now live at http://transition.blog.gov.uk. We're using the blog to share more about the move to GOV.UK by the agencies and arm's length bodies. Let us know if you've got suggestions for things you'd like us to cover.

  2. Comment by Tom Ripley posted on

    I look at most of the posts when the email alerts come through; some posts are more interesting / relevant to me than others, but that'll always be the case.
    My one thought for improving the posts - or rather their email alerts - would be for the alerts to have more meaningful subjects than "Inside GOV.UK: New blog post".

    • Replies to Tom Ripley>

      Comment by Graham Francis posted on

      Good idea - I'll see what we can do to customise these alerts by including a flavour of the blogpost title in the email subject line.

  3. Comment by John Ploughman posted on

    I find that some of the most useful posts are the round-ups of what’s happening in the upcoming sprint. They’re a handy way of staying up to date with product developments if you don’t have time to keep dipping into PivotalTracker.

    I’d also like to see more on how product developments have changed how GOV.UK is used. Stuff like this is great: https://insidegovuk.blog.gov.uk/2013/08/13/redesigning-change-notes-and-measuring-the-result/

    I’ve also found that posts showcasing what other organisations have done on GOV.UK are helpful (eg https://insidegovuk.blog.gov.uk/2013/09/13/the-html-curriculum/). It can inspire us to go and do something similar, which might previously have seemed a daunting challenge because nobody has done something on that scale with GOV.UK to date.

    So more of those types of posts please.

    • Replies to John Ploughman>

      Comment by Graham Francis posted on

      Thanks John, really useful stuff. Your point about what other organisations are up to reminds me to emphasise: we don't just want this blog just to be a GDS thing. We'd really welcome posts from *anyone* who publishes on GOV.UK about how they've used different formats, evaluated their content, done stuff they're particularly pleased with, etc. We're always looking out for examples of best practice to share.

  4. Comment by Sophie posted on

    Really useful blog to keep up to date with the changes. I don't publish to .gov.uk but do maintain NDPB website so it does help to know what's happening on .gov.uk. Thanks

    • Replies to Sophie>

      Comment by Graham Francis posted on

      Cheers Sophie. Do shout if we can help out with anything - or if you reckon there's anything you're trying out on your website you think we might learn something from...

  5. Comment by Marisol posted on

    The volume of posts can be difficult to keep up with - and really major announcements are mixed in with more ephemeral, observational pieces which is a constant worry for me!

    • Replies to Marisol>

      Comment by Graham Francis posted on

      Cheers Marisol. That's something we've heard from a couple of other people too. You're right, there's a mix of content between things we think are generally interesting, things we think you should generally know are going on, and stuff you definitely need to be aware of.

      I guess we could respond only by publishing Important stuff - but our metrics show that most things we post are seen by a few hundred people at least. Alternatively, we could find another way to bring these things to your attention. Clearer email alert titles might help, as Tom suggests. But what else? A follow-up email to our single points of contact (SPOCs) in departments? Tweeting?

      • Replies to Graham Francis>

        Comment by Marisol posted on

        Yes clearer titles always good, plus maybe some sort of marker which shows it's absolutely business critical info in the post. Stars maybe? Or a "BUSINESS CRITICAL" kicker?

  6. Comment by ilse posted on

    Just started on a huge governmental rationalization project and I find this blog a great resource. We are still at the start of the project. We first must make clear to those within the organization they have to stop producing content and new websites. It's quite a challenge.

    I am wondering how much time your team already spent on creating awareness and knowledge by writing blog posts, courses, ... Do you feel you succeeded in these objectives and in convincing UK.gov staff of the advantages of this brand new platform. I guess some of them felt that their web-habitat was taken down, didn't it? Having built a huge site over the year, that has -maybe- been replaced by one page?

    Keep up the good work, find these blog posts quite inspiring.

    • Replies to ilse>

      Comment by Graham Francis posted on

      Hi Ilse, thanks for your nice comments. I think the good thing about using blogs to talk about what you're doing is it helps people come on the journey of change with you - it's hopefully not so much "here's what we've built, hey guys isn't it amazing?", but more "here's what evidence suggests our users need, and here are our proposals about how we could best meet these needs, what do you think?". And also, it helps us have dialogue about these changes in a public way, without needing to have dozens of individual email conversations with people about similar subjects.

      At the moment, the ONS digital blog is a really good example of this sort of open approach (http://digitalpublishing.ons.gov.uk), as is the National Archives recent use of their blog to share a beta of their new site (http://blog.nationalarchives.gov.uk/blog/our-website-a-design-journey/). It's also quite interesting now to look back at the beginnings of the conversation about what GOV.UK should look like, on the GDS blog (http://digital.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/2011/04/28/alpha-gov-uk-design-rules/).

  7. Comment by Andrew Robertson posted on

    Thanks for asking what we think. As a member of a project team getting our organisation ready to move to GOV.UK, I find this blog really useful. The number of posts is about right.

    I did first struggle to understand the difference between the GDS blog (not on this GOV.UK blog platform) and this inside gov blog. I should think the boundaries will blur further with the new transition blog, but I don't really see that as a problem.

    Some of the items posted are not as relevant or understandable to me (for example we're not yet publishing so don't understand some of the tweaks you make to publisher) but overall it's a good balance for the varied audience. It's really good hearing about the things you're looking at. It would be great if we had opportunity to get more invovled in those things and share our experience. It would be good to hear more experiences - perhaps for the transition blog - like have customer calls and email volume or type changed since on GOV.UK?

    I agree with earlier comments about importance of posts: I think the blog route is ok, although some things I've read were a bit of a surprise (like stopping detailed guidance for a time). Better titling or making the action in the first sentence really clear should help. I'm not sure relying on a chain of emails would make it much more efficient.

    It's great that you link to other stuff, but please remember many of us have much more restricted IT systems than GDS: we can't view Pivotal Tracker (times out), most of us can't view YouTube videos, etc.

    So because of pivotal tracker problems (it sometimes works on my home PC but not all the time) the sprint updates are useful. A follow up on what happens next might be useful. For example you were looking at implenting organisational logos, but I've not noticed them appearing. Did it fail, is there more work....? Obvioulsy I wouldn't want you repeating the whole of your Pivotaltracker on here.

    The email alerts have recently stopped working for me, so I need to keep checking the blog and also check to see if a comment is responded to. Alerts would be nice, but might be my work computer?

    Hope thoughts help.

    • Replies to Andrew Robertson>

      Comment by Graham Francis posted on

      Thanks Andrew, glad you're finding it useful. A few responses to your points:

      1. Slightly concerned that your email updates from this blog have stopped - will investigate further. Has anyone else had this problem?

      2. I think I'd been underestimating the numbers of people who rely on email alerts to find out what's new on this blog- and the conseequent need for all posts to be absolutely clear about their purpose in the first couple of sentences (which are included in the alert text). We'll update our guidance around this.

      3. On confusion between different blogs - this is something we'd really, really like your continued feedback on. In our heads there's a separation between the purpose and audience of the GDS blog (for a wide audience about important things that GDS is doing); this blog (for people who contribute to GOV.UK); and the transition blog (for orgs moving to GOV.UK) etc - but if these multiple destinations are doing your head in, then please let us know.

      • Replies to Graham Francis>

        Comment by Andrew Robertson posted on

        Hi Graham. Thanks for the reply.
        Your point 1: Spookily the email alerts started working today for new posts, but hadn't for the last couple of weeks (I group into a daily digest that is sent at around 4pm). I've never had a notification of a reply to a comment. If that feature could be included, it would be very helpful.

      • Replies to Graham Francis>

        Comment by simonfj posted on

        "On confusion between different blogs"
        Graham,

        Can I just thank you (thx u, thx u). Your explanation of what each group was for - insidegov & gds - is the first time i've seen an attempt at explaining a logical categorization. It still makes little sense to someone coming in from https://www.gov.uk/government/get-involved ("Follow a blog or social media channel") because your blog is just one in a list of personal, departmental, topical (like Health) and "service-centric" blogs (like the GDS compilation blog).

        I got such a shock when DGS got dumped from the cabinetoffice domain. I was so sure I was across all the DGS teams - IA, engagement, transition, analytics, etc) even though they were never introduced or defined. I could track conversations because I had control of a WP dashboard, so I could track blog entries and their comments, and programme their delivery - daily, weekly, etc

        And then, as i said to Carrie. Vogons! https://gds.blog.gov.uk/2014/01/16/a-new-home-for-the-gds-blog/ Welcome to the dog's breakfast.

        I just can't see why it's so hard to think from a "get involved" (ie, user) perspective. If the context is "All gov blogs" rather than "gds.cabinetoffice" then fine. But one doesn't just pick up a departmental history and dump it in a bloggy social environment, where one is introduced to mish-mash of gov history, high officials, and the service team 'inside govuk', who have nothing to do with the gds, even though they work on the gov.uk front end. The gds team(s?) has been playing ping-pong with my remaining brain cell.

        So 2 suggestions.
        1. Could we have a standard placed on all the blogs https://blog.gov.uk/. They will be for either teams or important individuals; in order - top to bottom - of usage. If they are for departmental teams please write the whole name; no acronyms, and just link (so one knows they exist)

        If they are service teams, could we have an introduction about what they do, and maybe, who's in the team. The GDS blog needs to be separated into its various service teams, like Inside Gov.

        Could we have a "register for blogs", with a click box for choosing the ones a user wants to subscribe to, and their preferred delivery timing; daily, weekly. All received posts needs a brief header, maybe the first 20 words, and preferably delivered as a digest, not separately. Comments on a blog will refer to the blog's header, and be linked from the email to the comment.

        Run an RIP blog (really important pieces) where any TEAM, get so many entries/month Mandatory rego.
        Events, because they are cross-departmental, might be aggregated into a calender.
        Of course, you could just have teams share a Moodle.
        2. Run a weekly teleconference. Agenda based on the week's comments.

        I've yet to find any discussions about the network development going on. So that would be welcome. Particularly relating to this kind of sharing (of services, like blogs). http://www.surf.nl/en/services-and-products/surfconext/what-is-surfconext/index.html

        • Replies to simonfj>

          Comment by Graham Francis posted on

          Hi Simon - thanks for your feedback. Yup, well aware that our index page for blogs leaves a lot to be desired. We're working on replacing this with a new version that lets you filter blogs by organisation and theme, and which highlights particularly interesting blogposts. Also looking at how we can promote blogs in places other than the 'get involved page.

    • Replies to Andrew Robertson>

      Comment by Alyson Fielding posted on

      Hi Andrew, good suggestion. I'd love for colleagues from agencies and ALBs who are moving to GOV.UK to share to share what they learn. If you're keen to write something, let me know. You can also leave a comment on the transition blog (http://transition.blog.gov.uk), or chat to your transition manager.

  8. Comment by Anais Reding posted on

    Thanks for reaching out. A couple of thoughts from me:

    Have you thought of producing a straightforward FAQ that can be fixed content as opposed to a blog post that, at some point, makes it to the bottom of the page? It could link to previous blog posts, or just address some of the logistical, administrative, or 'basic facts' about the move. For example, when will Department X move onto Gov.UK, what to do if you have a question about this, what Gov.UK will allow you to do or not etc.

    I'd also be interested in a summary of how to best use analytics on Gov.UK - have you written about this yet?

    • Replies to Anais Reding>

      Comment by Graham Francis posted on

      Thanks Anais.

      I'll pass your comments on to the manager of the new transition blog (now live at transition.blog.gov.uk). But I do wonder if there's a place perhaps on this site for a permanent 'facts and figures' about GOV.UK, which you can use in your internal comms - for example, "x million users a week, x many organisations on the site".

      'How to best use analytics' is potentially a massive area - I'll pass this on to our analytics team for a response.

      • Replies to Graham Francis>

        Comment by Andrew Robertson posted on

        Hi Graham
        I'd find the stats, facts, figures, even quotes, very useful. I've pulled out some figures from previous blog posts and it generated a bit of interest internally.

    • Replies to Anais Reding>

      Comment by Peter Jordan posted on

      Hi Anais

      We're veery keen to encourage content and service owners to use data to meet user needs and improve their offering. Three things:

      1. Keep following this blog - there are already and will continue to be posts about how analysis has helped us understand what is going on and where action is needed.
      2. Join the Digital Analytics community (https://gcn.civilservice.gov.uk/) on the GCN Network. You need to join GCN an then ask to be a member.
      3. We're exploring with Transition Managers how best to support transitioning organisations with regard to analytics data.

  9. Comment by Si Stephens posted on

    The blog's great, I'd just echo what everyone else has said about the email alerts.

    Might be cool to categorise them or something, so every time you roll out a new feature the subject begins 'New feature', or 'Upcoming features', I don't know. Point is every week I intend to look at the blog for a while, but inevitably other pressures mean I'm only prompted to do so when I get the email!

  10. Comment by Alan posted on

    I find the blog an excellent method of keeping up with changes in GOV.UK, SPOCs are sometimes just too busy to pass on information.

  11. Comment by Gillian posted on

    Like Ilse, I am not directly affected by the GDS's work but we are also embarking on a govt web transition project, so this blog is really helpful. I've been closely monitoring from the beginning and it's refreshing to hear about everything that you're doing (both when you get it right and when you get it wrong).

    It would be interesting to hear lessons learned from the content team about the issues they've had to address when dealing with policy teams. How you go about such a radical change in content, the process for identifying and limiting 'policies', how many writers you assign per topic, the negotiation process and how you set and meet deadlines.

    It's amazing the speed you're getting through this stuff, so thanks for sharing.