A few weeks back I was asked for a list of decent apps that I’d recommend for comms people and that always gets me thinking.

Rather than a list of things that look great but never use here’s a list of apps that I do use on a regular basis and that I’d hate to delete from my phone.

Some I use to create content while others are for keeping tabs on things.

I’ve taken as a given the main social channels of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram. I’ve also taken it as read that if you are an android user you’re using things like Google sheets, docs and forms.

As I’m an android user, these apps are android. You may well find equivalents in the app store.

Capturing and storing

Screenshot Touch

Sometimes you find yourself scrolling through your timeline and see a tweet or a post that catches your eye.

If you do need and you need to capture it then this app is really handy.

Launch it and you’ll have a camera icon on the screen that you can use to take pictures that are saved to your gallery.

You can download it on android here.



Seen something handy posted online that you’d like to save for later?

The Pocket app is a really useful way to save things. Rather like a pocket library Pocket acts to save your links.

Aside from saving your own links, you can also use key words to search for content on a particular content. So, need a look at everything on Facebook advertising that’s been saved by Pocket subscribers you can dive in.

You can download Pocket on android here.




This app captures records what is on your screen at a particular moment in time.

You launch the app and then you hit record.

The video is saved as an mp4 clip in your gallery that you can use as a separate video later.  Useful for capturing a timeline or a Periscope live video.

Caution: it’s not great at recording sound and will record you coughing after you hit the red button.

You can download Mobizen here.


Creating content


GIF Maker Editor

The GIF is a firmly established way of looping a clip or a set of images.

GIF Maker Editor is a way to create your own GIFs that you take from someone else’s video or your own video.

This saves the GIF to your own device and allows you to repost.

So, that video of your brother or sister falling over a banana skin can have a life longer than just a quick guffaw.

You can download GIF Maker Editor for android here.


Zombodroid Meme generator

When Sean Bean dies the obituary may well say that the One Simple Does Not man has died.

An image that communicates a point through some of the raw materials of pop culture.

You can add text to the image to make the point you want to make.

This app allows you to access established memes as well as upload your own images for the meme treatment.

You can download the Zombodroid meme generator here.

meme generator


Adding images to the internet?

The Phonto app allows you to upload images and layer text on them.

Handy for events, posters and a way to add text to brighten up an image you are about to post.

Once created, the image is saved to your device as a jpg.

You can download the Phonto app for android here.




The kinemaster app is the flagship of the forest of editing apps. For this I doff my cap to my workshop colleague Steven Davies.

It can edit in portrait, landscape or square as well as add cutaways, music, text and sub-titles.

This is perfect for topping and tailing your content.

You can download the Kinemaster for android here.


Framelapse Pro

Clouds scudding across the sky and workmen building a bridge.

There is a way to capture video as a framelapse which allows you to capture 24-hours of activity as a 60-second clip.

The advantage of this app is that you can tailor how long the clip will last against how long the activity will take place.

You can download the Framelapse Pro app for android here.

framelapse pro

1 Second A Day

This app allows you to create a video diary capturing a second of every day.

Somewhere between a framelapse and a diary this app is a fun way to capture video content.

I love it. Credit to Sophie Ballinger for spotting this.

My children acting the goat? The view from the train? It’s in the movie.

You can download the 1 Second A Day for android here.

1 second



Maybe, you want to make it look like a pencil drawing in the manner of an A-ha video. Or perhaps a piece of pop art. This app allows you to do that.


You can create a clip that stands out hugely.

You can download the glitcho app for android here.



There is something glorious about looking back at old video footage.

If you were posh enough to own a VHS camera, you’ll have footage which jumps slightly and has tracking lines through them.

You can download VHS Cam for android here.


Twitter Video downloader

It’s tricky as heck getting an app that will rip a YouTube video. I’ve not seen anything that can really work.

However, this app works well in ripping video from Twitter. You can change the resolution from 1280 to a space-saving 320.

Of course, the usual rules apply of not breaching other people’s copyright. Don’t. On your head be it.

You can download the Twitter Video Downloader here.

twitter downloader





Snapseed hands down is marvellous.

You can edit with a comprehensive range of tools that a few years ago you’d have to pay serious money for.

There are 11 set template styles and 28 tools contained here.

About 10 years ago, the free Google product was still behind the paid-for platforms. That’s understandable. But this free Google product is an excellent way to edit images on the go.

You can download the snapseed for android here.





Instagram is a huge platform that focuses on images and video.

The Regrann app allows you in effect to retweet something that’s caught your eye which has been posted by someone else.

The app lets you to cut and paste while adding an acknowledgement to the author.

If you are running a corporate instagram account this is really handy as it allows you to share other people’s content.

You can download regrann for android here.






White Noise – calm concentrate

I spent years working in offices and find that being around people meant I got more done. It also meant I got less done with daft interruptions. 

So, the White Noise app is a happy medium between the idea of working in a work environment and not having to listen to people saying ‘if you’ve got a minute.’

Rain is the most productive part of this.

If only I could work in an open plan office on the top of Haystacks in the Lake District.

You can download the White Noise – calm, concentrate app here.

white noise




Slack has almost cultish devotees who use it to plan their lives and the lives of their team. 

I’m not quite at that stage of a relationship with the product but it is useful in working with people.

You can download Slack for android here.




It’s been 10 years almost since I started this blog and I’d be lost without it.

WordPress is the platform of choice. It’s hands-down the best platform for writing and chucking up content.

You can download wordpress for android here.


That’s my list. What’s yours?

Original source – The Dan Slee Blog » LOCAL SOCIAL: Is it time for a Local localgovcamp?

a mobile phone showing the GOV.UK Verify sign in page

GOV.UK Verify is a way to prove you are who you say you are online. By doing this, you can access government services, such as checking your income tax or state pension and viewing your driving licence information.  

As these are services that contain confidential data, we are committed to making sure our users’ digital identities are secure.

We work with a list of identity providers who will check your identity and confirm it to the government service you are using. This means the government service doesn’t know which identity provider you have chosen and the information is not stored in one place.

Our work protects user data and means criminals cannot masquerade online as someone they’re not. With identity fraud costing the government between £1 billion and £4 billion a year, we must continually evolve and grow our security measures to counter identity crime.

We are keeping GOV.UK Verify secure through cross-government collaboration and sharing knowledge with selected private sector organisations that are facing similar challenges.

Mitigating identity crimes  

We have written before about the kinds of fraud our identity standards prevent and how we keep data safe on GOV.UK Verify.

As more people sign up for digital identities and the GOV.UK Verify programme evolves, we need relationships with others facing the same challenges, to counter crime caused by identity misuse at the earliest stage possible.

The Counter-Fraud and Threat Intelligence team sits within the wider GOV.UK Verify team and specifically works to counter identity-enabled and identity-dependent crime and fraud.

Identity-enabled crime and fraud refers to traditional criminal activity which is exacerbated by the misuse of identity, for example identity theft. Identity-dependent crime can only be committed by the misuse of identity.   

Keeping GOV.UK Verify secure

Working with the cyber security community

We have formed an Identity Misuse Group on the National Cyber Security Centre’s Cyber Security Information Sharing Partnership (CiSP) platform. If you work in government or industry and are interested in preventing identity misuse, you can join the group via CiSP’s website and request to register your organisation if you’re not already a member.

Learning from academia

We have created an Identity Risks and Identity Standards Consortium, which is made up of leading UK academic institutions and chaired by Professor Tim Watson from the University of Warwick. We hold quarterly meetings to share knowledge and expertise.

Collaborating across government

It is important that we work across government to make sure we counter shared threats and ensure security information is shared with relevant departments.

Collaboration is done through workshops and meetings with teams in other organisations. We ran one such workshop earlier this month. Attendees included staff from central government departments and a wide range of public sector organisations.

Sharing our knowledge with the GOV.UK Verify programme  

As part of the GOV.UK Verify programme, we can gain insights from our colleagues working at GDS. And, our team of specialised identity crime and identity fraud experts can feed back information into the government’s identity standards, which helps make them as robust as possible.

Ongoing work

The use of digital identities will increase as GOV.UK Verify is opened up to the private sector.

This means we must keep working to counter identity crime and fraud. By spotting fraudulent transactions early, we save the government money and we protect our users.

All our work within government, and also with the wider private sector and academia, will help counter fraud and reduce the misuse of identity.

Don’t forget to sign up for updates.

Original source – Government Digital Service

A laptop on a desk

Working on the evaluation toolkit

Imagine you’re a product manager who works in public health. You lead a team in developing a digital health product for quitting smoking. The product has thousands of active users across the UK.

Your organisation wants to know what effect the product has had on people’s health, but there’s no budget available to evaluate it. The team did not build indicators in, so you’re unsure if it’s successful in achieving its intended health outcomes – primarily, quitting smoking.

Evaluation Toolkit

At Public Health England (PHE), we’re working on a project to enable PHE and the wider health system to better demonstrate the impact, cost-effectiveness and benefit of digital health products to public health.

We’re developing an evaluation toolkit, which supports product managers and the rest of their delivery team in building an evaluation strategy into their project from the start. The toolkit helps teams understand if their digital health product has achieved its intended health outcomes.

Proof of Concept

During the alpha phase of this project, we tested the value proposition behind the evaluation toolkit by supporting the PHE Couch to 5K team in building their own evaluation strategy for their Couch to 5K app. We used our discovery research to define how the evaluation service should work, and which steps are crucial to the evaluation process.

Based on our findings, we defined the stages of carrying out an evaluation as:

  • define health outcomes
  • identify success indicators
  • choose evaluation methods
  • analyse data

We tested this process with the Couch to 5K team over a series of workshops, with positive results. The team found that:

  • the tools and templates were useful
  • the evaluation process fitted in with their workflow
  • carrying out the evaluation activities as a team worked well
  • having evaluation experts present was beneficial

Logic Model

Four people add post-it notes to a board

Creating a logic model

A crucial part of defining your digital health product’s outcomes is creating a logic model. We tested the logic model template in the evaluation toolkit with:

  • the Couch to 5K team at PHE, who used it to kick-start their evaluation journey
  • the Health Checks team at PHE, who are working on prevention cardiovascular disease for 40 to 74 year olds, used it to understand their outcomes as a team
  • the Vitamins project at Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), who are carrying out a project on distributing vitamins to low income families, the logic model helped them to understand their intended health outcomes
  • Digital Health Intelligence team at PHE who used it to align their team around their outcomes
  • NHS Digital who used a logic model to create project specific indicators that measure the benefit of the NHS.UK platform in improving health literacy

These tests allow us to create a template that helps teams decide on the intended health outcomes of their digital health product, and how they’ll achieve them. As well as helping people define their outcomes, it also allowed teams and their wider stakeholders to align on their goals for their project. A Business Analyst in the Department of Health and Social Care shared that:

A logic model is a low risk high reward thing to do. It’s planning one session. It’s very little prep you print a bunch of words and get a bunch of people in a room. If you really don’t need it you’ll be done in 30 mins!

Usability Testing

We carried out three rounds of usability testing with people from digital delivery teams at PHE, DHSC, charities and health start-ups. Based on our findings, we decided to focus on product managers as our primary users because they:

  • oversee the development of digital health products
  • need to understand if the products are successful
  • are responsible for facilitating evaluation within the delivery team

We learned that people were most trusting of evaluation advice which came from colleagues. As a result of this we set up online evaluation communities on Slack and KHub, to give people a space to share evaluation advice.

We also worked closely with partners at NICE, NHS Service Manual and apps library to ensure that the evaluation toolkit fits with their work and can be linked to from their platforms. This way, the evaluation advice will spread through the health system through colleagues.

In our first iterations of the prototype, we included a bank of common indicators. People could browse indicators in their subject area, to get a measure of how well they were meeting their intended health outcomes.

During our research we learned that people felt confident choosing indicators without the bank, and that indicators people chose were often very specific to their product. In the next rounds of testing we redesigned the indicators section so that it included some guidance and no bank of common indicators.

Accessibility testing

At this early stage in the design process, it was important to know whether the service would work for people with access needs. Static versions of the landing page and logic model wireframes from the evaluation toolkit were tested with users who had:

  • Asperger syndrome
  • partial eyesight
  • hearing impairments
  • learning disabilities

We learned a lot from these sessions, and made changes to the prototype:

  • short, succinct content with clear, descriptive headings
  • simpler language
  • written descriptions to support diagrams
  • the ability to print out templates

Academic support

We also carried out a number of testing sessions with academics from Edinburgh University, King’s College London and Imperial College London to get feedback on the evaluation process and understand if our explanation of evaluation is correct. The feedback we received was that we needed to define ‘evaluation’ and ‘evaluation methods’ more clearly, so we spent time tweaking these definitions until we reached an agreement. We also validated the process for evaluation, and added the ‘analyse your data’ page to the homepage, after hearing this was a key part of the evaluation process we had been missing.

Content sense checking

Throughout alpha, we worked on making the language around evaluation understandable to non-evaluation experts. We carried out sense checking sessions, where evaluation and non-evaluation experts gave feedback on the evaluation toolkit. Our findings from these exercises helped us to:

  • agree on definitions of our most important terms, before we started writing and building things for users
  • produce better prototypes earlier, and immediately respond to content-focused insights from early testing

Culture of evaluation

7 people standing up having a discussion in a meeting room

PHE hosted an evaluation event

Alongside the evaluation toolkit, we’re developing an evaluation culture at PHE. A culture that allows time for evaluation and fosters the skills needed to carry out evaluation is crucial in ensuring that evaluation is adopted.

Throughout the alpha phase, we researched and prototyped ways to build the evaluation culture at PHE. We created online channels for an evaluation community, which will continue to grow throughout the project. The Slack community immediately gained interest from people in the public health sector, with very little promotion.

We hosted an evaluation event that brought evaluators and those interested in evaluation together to share best practice. During the event, we encouraged people to share what they wanted out of an evaluation community. As the project continues, we’ll continue exploring what evaluation training could look like, building on the work done during the proof of concept.

We have held face-to-face testing sessions with delivery teams and have received positive feedback about these sessions. During usability sessions, people expressed a need to grow their evaluation skills.

For this reason, we’re further exploring the idea of evaluation training, where people can take part in a day long course on evaluation. The evaluation toolkit would support the training, which teams could continue to use after the training.

Evaluation may also form a part of DHSC’s spend controls, pipeline guidance and assurance process. We’re working to build it in to our approvals and spend control process, so that funding is distributed on the basis of health outcomes. This should incentivise teams to carry out evaluation.

Next steps

We’ll now move into private beta phase. We’ll continue working with a multidisciplinary team, bringing in academic experts in evaluation and developers to build the toolkit. Our team will continue to create an evaluation service that works for delivery teams, so they can understand the impact that their digital health product is having on users’ health outcomes.

Find out more about evaluating digital public health.

Original source – Stephen Hale

Going beyond digital

Sprint planning with Lianne at Stockport Council

Building on the work done by the Digital by Design team, we’re helping Stockport Council take human centred design approaches beyond digital, working together to design better end to end services for the citizens of Stockport.

During our time together we’ll be looking specifically at how money comes into the council from citizens, how it flows around and is managed internally. We’ll be starting within one discreet area — Waste services — to prototype customer experience improvements and identify new ways of working to eliminate the inefficiencies we know exist.

Why going beyond digital is important

‘Going beyond digital’ isn’t the title of a science fiction voyage into the unknown. We’re talking about how we use design to explore the wider experience of services beyond their digital parts. Together, we’re working to push at the edges of end to end service design, working with services across the council to truly develop empathy with citizens and the services they use.

Digital is only one part of a service. Users experience a variety of different situations and touch points beyond digital when interacting with a council service, like receiving letters or working with staff. It’s important we view service experiences for people as a whole, rather than individual pieces. We’re developing a holistic view of a service.

With a holistic view, based on good insights, we can take what we know and focus on areas where we can create the most valuable and impactful change. It’s a complicated thing to break down, but having everyone in the council on board with our goals, we can identify the right changes.

Working across the council

This is an exciting piece of work where we’re truly developing services across the council, from designing improved Finance services to Waste services. Through prototyping new ways of working across teams and the services they touch, we’re finding design patterns that can be applied to other parts of the council.

Working in these multidisciplinary teams that reach across different areas of the council, we are designing better experiences for staff and citizens. Having such a team is important because it enables us to understand a broad range from various perspectives. We need people with different ideas and perspectives to offer new ways of thinking about complicated problems. Having different minds working towards the same goals means it’s easier to take different ideas into the prototypes we test with people.

What’s next?

We’re currently entering an exciting phase of work where we’ll be looking at opportunities based on our research. We’ll start to look at ways of prototyping different ideas, so we can test our assumptions and learn even more about what users really need from the services Stockport Council delivers. This is the bit that always feels like someone switched on a light bulb. Where we come out from under the post-its and into a bright room filled with ideas for better services.

It’s good to work with the talented team at Stockport and to have so many skills to hand. We’re used to working with people at the start of their transformation journey and it’s been great to join a team who’ve already started on this journey and who are keen to push their skills and knowledge to the limit. It’s exciting to think about where we’re going and what we’ll achieve with so many enthusiastic people on board for the voyage.

This post was first published on the Digital Stockport blog.

Beyond Digital was originally published in FutureGov on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Original source – FutureGov

Facebook connects more than 40 million people and still feels like an opportunity for communicators – but it’s one that is often hard to see how to get the most from with limited organic reach, more communication happening in Messenger and a suspicion that it’s those with a budget who can get the best results.

Perhaps you feel it’s a platform where ‘you have to be’ but you’re not quite sure it’s getting you the results you want, or maybe you’ve had good reach and engagement in the past but are seeing it dwindle with every algorithm change, or maybe you want to get better at customer service through the platform, or you’ve wondered how to reach the people who aren’t already engaged with you (as well as battling to be seen by those who do).

For just one platform communicators can have a lot of tactical questions about how to get the most from it – and while there’s loads of info out there it’s hard to put it all together and start working the plan before something new comes along.

Why Facebook is still a vital part of your comms mix

Dan Slee blogged recently on why Facebook is a platform you still need to take notice of. Yes, the data breaches and worries over privacy have caused a change in the way many view the platform but it hasn’t halted it’s reign online. In Dan’s post he pulls out how around 65% of the UK population is on the platform, how the number of users is growing, how it’s a good platform on which to reach the over 55s, and how it is vital in local communications and for local media.

But while user numbers and audiences look great for public and third sector engagement rates are low – a survey from RivalIQ showed that across all industries engagement on Facebook posts is down to an average of 0.9%. This is down from an average of around 3% just a few years ago and means that only a small fraction of people who’ve already engaged with you on the platform are engaging with your content now.

The people are on the platform, but reaching and engaging with them is harder than ever.

Do I have to pay to be seen on Facebook now?

Organic posts – those you don’t pay for – on Facebook make up the bulk of what public sector organisations do on the platform. From their page they’ll share links to content, videos, images and more – but more often than not the reach of these posts is a fraction of their audience and as the RivalHQ report shows the engagement is even lower. It feels to many as if Facebook has throttled performance on organic posts to push organisations toward paying for Ads to get the results they once achieved for free.

However, there’s still ways on the platform to get the results you want with organic content. This comes down to crafting content which connects with your audience, and joining the conversations where they’re happening. For this second part that is unlikely to be around your Page but more likely in the goldmine of Groups for your local area, or around a shared interest. How you find and join these conversations matters, and the content you put out on your own Page should support that activity.

Perhaps too some of the communication has moved to Messenger, and while this might again feel like a dead end for communicators there are ways to make use of ‘dark social’ to engage your audience, build your reputation, and deliver in areas like customer service.

But you might also want to consider paying – and if you’ve got a tiny budget you’ll want to make sure you’re getting the best result for your spend. This is unlikely to happen with in-page Boosted posts. While it’s the most obvious way to put a bit of money behind the post unless ‘awareness’ is your only outcome you’ll want to get to grips with the better options available through Ads Manager. Not only can putting a small amount of money on posts help you with Reach but it can help you find an elusive audience – those who haven’t already engaged with you.

Vital Facebook Skills workshops

To help you maximise the results of your efforts on Facebook Dan Slee and I have put together a new Vital Facebook Skills workshop which will take you through how you can best use content, Groups, Messenger, and Ads for your organisation.

There’s four opportunities to come along and get the insight and practical skills update – Manchester, London, Belfast, and Edinburgh – and you can get all the details here.

The workshops will help you understand what Facebook offers to your organisation and how to get the most of your activity as well as dispelling some of the myths around the lesser-used areas of Messenger and Ads. We’ll set you up so however you’re using the platform with your organisation your time and your money is well spent. Join us on one of the dates here.

Work with me

If you’d like to find out how I might be able to help you create communications which connect book in for a free, no obligation, 15-min phone call to talk through your current challenge or get in touch in one of the other ways. Want to find out more about who I’ve worked with recently? Head this way.

Original source – Sarah Lay

Six months ago the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) published their local digital declaration. The response to it since then has been really encouraging. One of the ambitions in the declaration that’s getting a lot of discussion is about “fixing the plumbing”. The challenges facing central and local government include being locked into large legacy systems. Sometimes the lock-in is because of contracts, but normally it’s because moving away from them is such a massive undertaking, an all-or-nothing affair.

It might be tempting to look back at the origins of that system to place blame, but often those systems did a decent job when they were first brought in. What they haven’t done between then and now is adapt to the changing context your organisation finds itself in. Doing one big procurement and one big migration to replace the whole system might fix things for now, but in a few years you’ll be staring down the same problem again.

What ‘fixing the plumbing’ really means

So when you hear about fixing the plumbing it’s about organisations using technology that can be upgraded and replaced one piece at a time, so they can respond more effectively and more efficiently to the needs of their users as they change. That means using technology that is interoperable, and is why open standards are so important.

Interoperability is as much about good communication and collaboration as it is better technology. It’s about designing, agreeing and using common standards that make it easier to substitute one piece of software for another. It’s about making it easy to write custom software for one piece of your service and use off-the-shelf, open-source or platform software for another part. Software built on open standards is why you can use whichever browser you want to access the web. And those standards can be as much about your processes as your technology. If you use the same process as a dozen other organisations, you’re better placed to use the software they’re using.

Investing more in the short term to get a longer term pay-off

Having services based on standards makes it easier to reuse work from other organisations, and to replace parts of the system when they’re no longer fit for purpose. It can reduce the long term cost of ownership, and it can make it cheaper for other people in the future. But it doesn’t make it quicker to build things. Building to standards can take more work in the short term, especially when those standards are new and less stable. Working in this way pays off only in the long term, and only for the wider community.

A single organisation doesn’t have much incentive to work like this unless their mandate is enormous – big enough that interoperability within only their own organisation is worthwhile, even without adoption from the wider community. That’s often the case for central government, like the Department for Education delivering a set of national services for teachers and schools. But it’s less often the case for local government, for example, delivering local services for social housing tenants and constrained by tight budgets.

Why the local digital fund is good

Given that, the way MHCLG are approaching this is good: they’re providing £7.5m of central funding to encourage organisations to build in a way that helps everyone in the long term. It allows local government organisations to focus on the problems they’re trying to solve, whilst recognising that they need extra support to make interoperability a reality.

I’m really optimistic about the effect MHCLG’s approach will have across local government, but to repeat myself: this work will pay off in the long term, and for the wider community. Local government still has to deliver services right now through increasing demand and decreased funding.

Some final pieces of advice for local government organisations

Given all this, my advice is to be pragmatic and take things step by step:

  • Dogmatic adherence to standards is more likely to hurt you than help you, particularly as an early adopter. Use and contribute to standards where they make sense for you, but focus first on solving your organisation’s problems and only second on solving common problems.
  • Be realistic in what you’re trying to solve – you’ll be much more successful if you aim for (and accept!) incremental progress rather than trying to rebuild entire services.
  • Some of that progress, even if only incremental, will involve tearing apart your existing silos and processes. The organisational turbulence will be very real, and you need to help your people through it.

I’m always happy to hear from other people thinking about these type of things, so if you’re interested in talking about it over a coffee please get in touch.

The post Fixing the plumbing appeared first on dxw digital.

Original source – dxw digital

A slow week of illness and reflection…

#weeknotes S03 W08 – week ending 14 April 2019

Working on

This week was mainly a write-off after I came down with a viral chest infection and spent most of the week in bed sleeping.

However, before succumbing Bronte-like to illness, I did head up to Manchester for my first time hosting Classic Album Sundays at 33 Oldham Street. I love the community building around this listening experience event and it was a beautiful thing to talk about Amy Winehouse’s Back To Black and listen to the album in full.

There are a couple of things which struck me – first, those of us who fully give ourselves to music and specifically listen are probably among a minority now and music is far more often the background to another activity or at the very least to scrolling a screen; and secondly there is far more to Back To Black than the tragedy of Amy’s personal life.

Putting phones away and sitting in a room of strangers while an album plays can feel disconcerting at first – what do I do with my hands? Where do I look? – but it gives great rewards. The experience is the experience, not diluted or missed in the moment through sharing, and this gives us a chance to really notice things and to connect on a personal level afterwards. There’s a huge amount of creativity and connection which can come from these deep listening and single-focus moments and whether it’s listening to an album (while doing NOTHING else) or staring out the window building in time to let the mind wander is refreshing and more productive than you might first assume.

Vic Turnbull will host the next event on 5 May where she’ll be talking London Calling by The Clash and playing the album in full, before I’m back on 2 June with a very special album indeed (keep an eye out for the announcement soon). Classic Album Sundays is a worldwide network of listening experiences – delve into the website here

I’ve also been working on some new workshops with Dan Slee – somewhat crazily it’s ten years since I first met Dan at LocalGovCamp in 2009 and we enthusiastically looked over what the other was doing with our respective local authority employers as we lead the vanguard of introducing social media to the public sector. We’ve drawn on all that experience – and more as communicators – to put together a Vital Facebook Skills workshop.

Far from losing traction following data scandals Facebook is still proving a force to be reckoned with in communications and while lots of skills are transferable between platforms and channels this workshop focuses in on the things you need to know about content for posts and Pages, engagement in Groups, what Messenger means for your customer service and comms, and how to get the most bang for your buck through doing Ads right.

If you’re a public, or third sector organisation, and you’re using Facebook as part of your comms, marketing and engagement work you need to head along to this workshop and find how to maximise what you do on the platform. There’s four workshops happening in June in Manchester, London, Belfast and Edinburgh and you can find out more as well as get some great insight from Dan’s recent post here.


My professional reading is still focused online in short-form at the moment. I have a stack of books To Be Read but I’m finding the real gems in blogs, particularly from individuals working in and sharing their experience in certain areas.

Otherwise I fell deeply in love with Margaret Atwood’s The Blind Assassin and devoured the gorgeous prose of this novel and the bittersweet love it contained in just a few days.

At the start of the year I tentatively set my GoodReads reading challenge at a book a month but I’ve already hit that target and have upped my challenge to 20 books by the end of the year. It’s not about the number but the outcome – I’m so pleased I’m making time to read and explore the world’s created in other writer’s heads and through them find a better understanding of myself and of the work I have to do as an author. Find me on GoodReads here.

Listening to

As it was release week at Reckless Yes there wasn’t much else to listen to apart from the debut EP from Panic Pocket, Never Gonna Happen. I’ve said elsewhere that not only is this a great musical release from the band but they are really inspiring too. Two years ago neither Nat or Sophie had picked up instruments or been in a band and now, here they are, with some wonderful press and a CD run which will sell out during release week.

They encapsulate the spirit of Reckless Yes: of taking the challenge which sits just outside your comfort zone, of creating something from nothing, and not letting other’s ideas of what needs to be in place stop you doing the thing you want to do. You can check out the release here.

What’s next?

A quieter couple of weeks coming up as I recover from illness and spend time with the family while the children are on the Easter break.

This point in the year is also our major planning time for Reckless Yes where we look at how things have gone in the last 12 months and look ahead to make short, medium and longer term plans. As ever I’m really excited by the ideas we have and the journey we’ll be going on to get there but I’m also more confident than ever in our vision and our ability to build a label which fits the modern music scene and which operates ethically in favour of the artist.

Original source – Sarah Lay

Offender Management in Custody (OMiC) is a new policy being introduced to support a rehabilitative culture in prisons. One aspect of the policy is the introduction of the Key Worker role which is well underway across Wales and England.

Our focus has been on the next phase of policy implementation – case management. Since summer last year we’ve been researching the users of potential services to support OMiC case management.

Offenders in prison who’ve committed serious crimes currently have an Offender Manager based in the community who manages them throughout their time in custody and during their time on licence after release.

This Offender Manager is responsible for the person’s risk assessment and rehabilitation including deciding what interventions the person must complete, evaluating them ahead of any parole hearing, and working with the victim liaison officer where applicable.

By the end of this year, this will instead be done by someone in prison – so there’s lots of recruitment, secondments and training going on in prisons to support this significant change.

So how have we done user research without users?

We’ve used a variety of approaches so far including:

Researching existing processes that are closely comparable to new processes
Our first challenge was to find out how an offender will be allocated to an appropriate Offender Manager with the right skills for the case. Offender Management Units in prisons currently allocate Offender Supervisors to the majority of their sentenced prisoners, so we’ve researched how that’s done, reviewed the new policy and tried to extrapolate from that to identify what our users will need.

Asking our users to get creative
The new policy will see responsibility for an offender transfer from prison to a community-based Offender Manager before their release. To understand needs regarding this handover process we got our future users to design a product for us. Workshop participants came up with some great product ideas in the form of cereal boxes which gave us important insight into the main concerns and what the value of a digital service would be.

Product ideas in the form of cereal boxes providing important insight into the main concerns and what the value of a digital service would be.

Talking to people!
Lots of meetings with subject matter experts in the policy team, research interviews with staff, and attending stakeholder meetings continue to help build our understanding of our future users.

What challenges have we faced?

In the early days, our preamble to the research session was often the first time our participants were hearing the detail of the future policy they’ll be working to. Having a member of the policy team working alongside us has been invaluable to make sure we’re providing correct information.

Despite the fact that OMiC is new, we’re not working in a greenfield site. There are existing information systems used by many different groups of professionals across numerous settings. We’re working increasingly closely with other product teams to coordinate our work and ensure that the future user experience is cohesive.

User research in prisons takes time. The current limitations of technology for staff in prisons means we have to physically travel to conduct research sessions. When there’s only one potential participant in each prison for some research topics, that equates to a lot of elapsed time on each round of research, or fewer participants than we’d like.

The challenges ahead

Evaluating the service with real users and real tasks
We’ll shortly be piloting our first digital offering – an allocation service – at two prisons in Wales. This will be critical to understand how well the service works for users. Up to now its been straightforward to test the completion of individual tasks in the service prototype. But in reality users will be doing many different tasks concurrently, for different offenders all at different stages in their sentence.

Keeping up the pace
The first release of our service will inevitably have issues and we’ll need to continue to learn about our users as they settle in to their new roles and responsibilities. But equally the pressure is on to build more services for our users to facilitate further offender management tasks.

We’re looking forward to seeing how the service works for users at our pilot prisons in Wales, and acting on their feedback to improve it before we roll out to more establishments.

Original source – MOJ Digital & Technology

The report from the private beta assessment for NICE’s comment collection service.


Assessment by: Department of Health and Social Care

Assessment date: 3 April 2019

Stage: Private beta

Result: Met

Service provider: NICE

Service description

‘Comment collection’ provides a way for NICE stakeholders (people who the guidance effects) to comment directly on the documents produced when developing guidance. It also provides a way for teams within NICE to request these comments, set up the consultations, and collate the comments for response in a way that avoids repetitive manual handling.

Service users

Primary user groups are NICE guidance producers, coordinators and external commenters (organisations and the public).

1. Understand user needs


The team met point 1 of the Standard.

What the team has done well

The panel was impressed that:

  • The team understand the needs of internal and external users of the service.
  • They are capturing insights from users in a variety of ways, including usability testing, survey responses, hotjar recordings and calls from the enquiry handling team.

What the team needs to explore

Before their next assessment, the team needs to:

  • Carry out usability testing more regularly and split this into rounds. For example, test with a group of participants, analyse and iterate (Round 1). Then test the iterated journey with a group of different participants (Round 2).
  • Conduct observations and test usability with internal users who receive and respond to comments (NICE staff) and those who modify the guidance based on comments (Advisory Committee Members).
  • There needs to be a robust way of capturing and responding to internal feedback, making sure issues are logged, analysed and prioritised in the UX and design work.
  • Make sure that public and external users are not deprioritised against internal users. Particularly those who may find it hard to influence NICE guidance because of lack of easy access or digital ability.
  • Consider paying incentives and / or using a recruitment agency to recruit user groups that meet your criteria and aren’t already familiar with the concept of NICE guidance. This has the added benefit of saving the user researcher’s time spent on recruitment, will encourage participation and make sure they get the right people.

2. Do ongoing user research


The team met point 2 of the Standard.

What the team has done well

The panel was impressed that:

  • The user researcher acknowledged the need to do more focused usability testing going forward and they are looking at better approaches to analysis.
  • The whole team have been involved in user research, observing and taking notes.
  • The team plan to test more things they are aware need fixing, such as navigating from the overview page to the main content.
  • There is another accessibility audit coming up.

What the team needs to explore

Before their next assessment, the team needs to:

  • Conduct more accessibility testing with representative users who have hearing, motor and cognitive impairments such as dyslexia.
  • Work out how to capture survey feedback from external users earlier on in the journey. The survey has a small number of responses and is only available once the user has completed a comment. This could mean it is only capturing responses from those who have been successful.
  • In usability testing, provide each user group with relevant tasks/scenarios. For example, for a first-time user it would be good to explore how they arrive at the correct place, as opposed to starting all users from the overview page. What would they type in and where would this take them to? Different scenarios will help test this.
  • Do more contextual user research with internal users and observe them using the service.

3. Have a multidisciplinary team


The team met point 3 of the Standard.

What the team has done well

The panel was impressed that:

  • There is one service manager who leads multiple teams working on different parts of a service and/or code base.
  • Team were able to respond to ad-hoc requests with mock-ups and quick testing or by working closely with users, demonstrating to senior people they were happy with the service.
  • The team are co-located and pair up across disciplines, for example developers with user researchers. It’s good that developers observe user research sessions.
  • There appeared to be a representative mix of genders in the team.

What the team needs to explore

Before their next assessment, the team needs to:

  • Review whether it’s a good idea for content to be covered by a user researcher. Are there other content designers in NICE who could support?

4. Use agile methods


The team met point 4 of the Standard.

What the team has done well

The panel was impressed that:

  • The team work well together pairing up to approach problems across User Research, UX, Design, Testing and Development.
  • User research revealed findings that the team didn’t expect, which challenged their initial assumptions. One example was the use of icons, they thought these would help users but during usability testing participants didn’t understand what they meant. The team have responded by replacing icons in future iterations.
  • The team have regular show and tells, sharing their work with the rest of the team.

What the team needs to explore

Before their next assessment, the team needs to:

  • Consider ways of capturing issues from different sources in a centralised place. This will provide a holistic view of the service and help to prioritise what should be worked on when. For example, the user researcher has kept a thorough log from usability testing. When issues arise from survey responses and the inquiry handling calls etc. the team could combine these into one place to see the impact and frequency of issues across multiple sources.

5. Iterate and improve frequently


The team met point 5 of the Standard.

What the team has done well

The panel was impressed that:

  • The service manager was able to explain the lifecycle from user research through to design and development.
  • The team are internal staff and work closely together in the same space.
  • The prototype has undergone various iterations throughout beta, responding to needs from user research.

What the team needs to explore

Before their next assessment, the team needs to:

  • Make sure user research is happening in some capacity during every sprint.
  • Once something has been tested, analyse, iterate and test again. Try to avoid iterating during testing, this is what the next round can be used for.
  • Do mobile testing on different devices to understand the look and feel, page layout and usability. From the script, it looks like mobile was tested via a computer screen. This means the usability on a mobile device (for example, selecting text and leaving comments) may not have been accurately represented. If the participant has an iPhone or iPad, they can record their own screen or using Lookback, Reflector or Quicktime player the screen can be projected to a computer whilst they interact with the mobile device itself.

6. Evaluate tools and systems


The team met point 6 of the Standard.

What the team has done well

The panel was impressed that:

  • There was a detailed justification for each technology choice.
  • Monitoring was in place.
  • Sensible and mature technology has been chosen.

What the team needs to explore

Before their next assessment, the team needs to:

  • Ensure they have explored how they plan to upgrade components when new releases are available.

7. Understand security and privacy issues


The team met point 7 of the Standard.

What the team has done well

The panel was impressed that:

  • There was a strong emphasis on privacy and user security.

What the team needs to explore

Before their next assessment, the team needs to:

  • Consider whether personal information needs to be in the (internal) XLSX download.
  • Look at whether automated tools could be used to reduce spam and remove sensitive personal details.

8. Make all new source code open


The team met point 8 of the Standard.

What the team has done well

The panel was impressed that:

  • All the code was available on GitHub.
  • A suitable license had been chosen.
  • Security of API keys was well managed

What the team needs to explore

Before their next assessment, the team needs to:

  • Understand how they can open up other internal components that they used.

9. Use open standards and common platforms


The team met point 9 of the Standard.

What the team has done well

The panel was impressed that:

  • Site is in HTML5 and works across all modern browsers

What the team needs to explore

Before their next assessment, the team needs to:

  • Consider the reliance on closed formats like DOCX and XLSX. Even though they are for internal use only, it still restricts the technology choices available to you.
  • Ensure that all PDFs comply with PDF/A – or republish them as HTML5 as set out in GDS guidance.

10. Test the end-to-end service


The team met point 10 of the Standard.

What the team has done well

The panel was impressed that:

  • There are a good range of pre-prod environments.
  • The service was well tested across multiple devices – including automated testing.

11. Make a plan for being offline


The team met point 11 of the Standard.

What the team has done well

The panel was impressed that:

  • The team had a sensible backup strategy.
  • There are good business processes for dealing with unexpected extensions.
  • There is an external facing helpdesk able to directly raise issues in JIRA.

What the team needs to explore

Before their next assessment, the team needs to:

  • Test their backups – and perform a recovery exercise.
  • Consider whether teams other than ops need to get alerts.

12. Make sure users succeed first time


The team met point 12 of the Standard.

What the team has done well

The panel was impressed that:

  • In usability testing, the team found that there was little difference between the first time users and experienced users in being able to complete tasks.
  • There is assisted digital support in place via the enquiry handling team who are trained and experienced.
  • The team recognise the need for more complex features to be tested, such as the need for larger tables and different types of consultation.

What the team needs to explore

Before their next assessment, the team needs to:

  • Ensure the HTML editor is accessibility tested.
  • Test on different screen sizes and devices themselves (see point 5).
  • Test the guidance teams uploading different types of document.
  • Test all edge cases in the journey, so when the user submits an error, uploads something of the wrong format, tries to login with the wrong account etc. to make sure the experience works in all scenarios.

13. Make the user experience consistent with GOV.UK


The team met point 13 of the Standard.

What the team has done well

The panel was impressed that:

  • NICE has a design system that is based on existing GDS components.
  • There is a team who own the design system, but the service teams are responsible for designing and testing new components.

14. Encourage everyone to use the digital service


The team met point 14 of the Standard.

What the team has done well

The panel was impressed that:

  • The team are working with internal users in private beta to make sure the service works for their needs and they can use it.
  • Sponsors from internal users’ teams come to showcases and report back.

What the team needs to explore

Before their next assessment, the team needs to:

  • Explore how external users (the public) with low digital access and ability can use the service.

15. Collect performance data


The team met point 15 of the Standard.

What the team has done well

The panel was impressed that:

  • The team has goals set up for full user journey and can track drop off at different stages.

What the team needs to explore

Before their next assessment, the team needs to:

  • Track user journeys across all parts of NICE domain (team have this on their roadmap), so that an exit to another NICE site is not treated as an ‘exit’.
  • Track how people use the service over multiple sessions.
  • Make sure there is someone in the team who can access and report on analytics regularly. This can be the responsibility of someone already in the team.

16. Identify performance indicators


The team met point 16 of the Standard.

What the team has done well

The panel was impressed that:

  • Team have used creative methods, such as a time-motion study, to benchmark current performance.
  • There is a sponsorship group who have agreed KPIs.

What the team needs to explore

Before their next assessment, the team needs to:

  • Look at whether a cost/benefit analysis on potential new features will help them prioritise the roadmap.

17. Report performance data on the Performance Platform


The team met point 17 of the Standard.

18. Test with the minister


The team met point 18 of the Standard.

What the team has done well

The panel was impressed that:

  • The team will be demoing the service to their board on multiple occasions.

Conditions before the next assessment

  • Do further rounds of usability testing with external users and iterate the service.
  • Test service with internal and external users who have access needs.
  • Test on different devices and screen sizes.


Original source – Stephen Hale

Liz talking to a colleague at a meeting

I’m a delivery manager in Technology Services. It’s a relatively new role for me which has been challenging and a steep learning curve. I’m achieving results and continuing to build my experience, but it’s not the only role I do in DWP.

I’m also volunteer with the Government Access Point (GAP) project, part of Civil Service Local (CSL). The project is led by a team of around 20 people who make a real difference by supporting some of the most vulnerable citizens in our community – a team I’m proud to work with.

What are Civil Service Local and GAP?

CSL is a cross-departmental team bringing together departments and agencies to work together.

It’s a programme for colleagues to engage with the community and help people build capability working in real and meaningful projects, GAP being just one of many in the North West.

GAP is a cross-government network of people with professional expertise from different departments, including DWP, Land Registry, HM Revenue and Customs, Ministry Of Defence and the Lancashire Wellbeing Services, working collaboratively to provide a friendly face-to-face service, practical information and joined-up advice. And from time-to-time just chat, listen and provide support to those in need.

Why I got involved

I’ve been a part of CSL North West for 3 years now. I got involved because I wanted to develop myself, give something worthwhile back to the community and make a difference. I can honestly say that I have accomplished this on more than one occasion.

Volunteering is also an alternative approach to learning and development and benefits me. Working with like-minded people I’ve been provided with opportunities to share ideas and best practices. It’s enabled me to see the views of others, find out about different ways of working and learn how we can work together with combined skills to solve issues.

 Helping terminally ill patients with practical support

I work in local hospices with terminally ill patients to signpost them to benefit advice services and help them to deal with their personal affairs.

One of the hospices I work at is the Trinity Hospice in Blackpool. The unit offers a 16-week programme to their patients. It has a day therapy unit that gives patients the chance to enjoy a wide variety of therapies and activities and a change of environment and scenery, promoting physical, psychological and spiritual well-being. GAP volunteers provide face-to-face practical information and support to both patients and their families.

Expanding knowledge and helping vulnerable people

Being part of GAP has increased my knowledge on government information, the wider civil service and helped me to build links with wider organisations.

The project is a great opportunity to use the skills I’ve gained working in various roles throughout my career. It also enables me to use my personal experiences, expand my knowledge of what support and services are available and to promote the digital agenda with claimants. It’s helped me to improve my team working skills and – most importantly – support vulnerable citizens in an environment they feel comfortable in, at a difficult time in their lives.

Although we do what we do ultimately to help people, I was particularly proud when the team was nominated for a Brilliant Civil Service Award in 2018. The awards, open to all civil servants, celebrate outstanding examples of the Civil Service Vision in action. And although we didn’t win we were delighted to be highly commended for our work.

A group of around 20 GAP colleague with their highly commended award certificate

GAP colleague with their highly commended award certificate

An important commitment

Being part of GAP can be emotional but it’s also very rewarding. I’ve met some great people – both patients and colleagues – heard some fantastic life stories, and feel privileged to have joined such a positive and committed team.

I’ve been able to take part because I have the support of my line management. My managers understand that offering unique opportunities and inspiring people to be active in delivering the Civil Service Vision is an investment and helps their employees to be the best they can be.

If you’re interested in finding out about the work we do throughout Lancashire and Cumbria, drop me a message in the comments box below and I’ll be in touch. If you’re interested in working at DWP Digital check out the latest vacancies on our careers site.


Original source – DWP Digital