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Quarterly update: what we've done since October, and what we'll do by April

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Here’s an update on what GOV.UK has been up to in the third quarter (Q3) of this financial year (October to December), and our plans for the last quarter (now until April).

This is a summary of our progress, priorities and plans. You can look at our roadmap for 2016 to 2017 at any time too.

GOV.UK showcase
GOV.UK quarterly showcase

What we did in Q3

In the 3 months before the New Year we made progress on a number of fronts, and our 3 main priorities continued to be:

Rebuilding the Publishing Platform

Our plans for the rebuild of our Publishing Platform are on track, and have evolved over time as we’ve learnt more about the benefits and complexities involved.

By the end of this financial year we aim to have all content formats (with a few minor exceptions) using our new publishing API. That wraps up the dedicated work stream to rebuild the Publishing Platform for the time being.

Reviewing the content operating model

Hopefully, you’ll have read blog posts from Trisha Doyle about the work we’ve been doing on the content operating model (if you haven’t, go and read them). As we go into Q4, we’ll complete the current work on education content and start preparatory work on the next content theme. We’re building an API that will provide analytics about a department’s content that’ll help with this work - we’ll be sharing more about that soon.

Building new navigation and a taxonomy of education

In Q3, the Finding Things team completed the education navigation alpha, and were busy testing the new education taxonomy. The team also made good strides into auditing all 13 education sub-themes and investigating how and if machine learning can be used for this task in future. The target for the end of Q4 is to complete the content audit and put the new taxonomy for education live.

Progress in other areas

In addition to these 3 pieces of work, we’ve also finished a discovery into the email subscription service on GOV.UK. We’ve learnt how users want to receive email and what we need to do technically to support the new education taxonomy that will be launched soon.

We also completed a discovery on our plans to consolidate our front-end architecture and design. In Q4 the team will be prototyping and testing new short and long text templates.

Invitations to join our user research panel passed through to public beta and are now being trialled on 3 pages on GOV.UK. In Q4 we’ll be looking at whether this can be reused by other departments.

Our campaigns platform moved into beta, and in Q4 we’ll be looking to move it into live. We’ve also made our blog platform more robust following a penetration test and next we’ll be starting work to improve the guidance around the platform.

The team working on Local Links Manager completed a second iteration of the tool in Q3 and drafted some designs for a third iteration. Those changes are on hold during Q4 while they take care of some other priorities. They’ll continue to monitor changes to the analytics in the meantime, before we decide if more work is necessary.

Alongside the work to rebuild the Publishing Platform, we’ve looked at other areas to improve tool maintenance on GOV.UK.

A good example of this is work on ‘smart answers’, such as ‘Getting married abroad’. We’ve tested ways to simplify the content for users and the process for updating country information.

The team developed new ways to visualise the logic and process changes. That means greater accuracy on GOV.UK and reduced development effort for each update.

The performance team have completed some important pieces of work in Q3. We’ve now mapped all the sources of data in GOV.UK and worked out the barriers to better use of data from all of our teams. We’ve continued to run site survey tests to learn more about our users, and we’ve also looked at using other tools for running surveys that give us greater control over where and when the survey is shown.

Q3 also saw the start of a collaboration with Citizens Advice so that across government we can use some of their data to create and change services.

As we do every October, we did 1 of our 2 annual benchmarking exercises.

Overall our progress in Q3 has been good and to plan. The continuing complexity associated with rebuilding our Publishing Platform has been challenging though. This underlines the importance of the work, and how useful it’s going to be when we come to make changes in future.

What we’re working on in Q4

Q4 will proceed according to our roadmap. In addition to the 3 main tasks outlined at the start of this post, new pieces of work we’ll be delivering in Q4 include:

  • ConCon 5 (the 5th cross-government content conference) in March
  • making a decision on if and how GOV.UK moves to the PaaS
  • beginning a benchmarking exercise on government publisher activity so that we can assess change over time and measure improvements
  • improving error reporting of the GOV.UK Publishing Platform and infrastructure
  • completing a second round of transition (archiving some legacy websites and meeting needs on GOV.UK)
  • supporting departments in publishing their Single Departmental Plans

Plans for 2017 to 2018

In addition to all of the work to improve GOV.UK now, we’ve been planning ahead for the 2017 to 2018 roadmap.

We’ve been talking to colleagues across government about their priorities, sharing our draft plans, and discussing this with teams across GOV.UK and GDS too. We’ll be publishing our plans for next year on this blog soon.

Jennifer Allum is GOV.UK's Lead Product Manager. You should follow Jen on Twitter.

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