What we’re doing about content debt

This is a post by Kate Ho, our Head of Product.

Understanding content debt

In software development, there’s a term technical debt: it’s a metaphor used to describe the amount of work required to tidy up a system in order to keep the code clean. Cleaner code means it’s easier to make changes and updates.

Code debt becomes a problem as a system gets bigger and matures. For example, over time you’ll have parts of code which might have been written a long time ago (legacy code), and may not reflect the current requirements of the system.

Why does no one talk about content debt?

Doing a quick search on Google for technical debt throws up a lot of articles, but do the same for content debt, and you’ll see that it’s a hardly-used phrase with nowhere near the same popularity. With a big site like mygov.scot, we’re constantly adding more and more information about how to access information… but one of the biggest issues is how to make sure that we keep our information up to date and relevant.

Content debt can look like:

  • broken links
  • changes in policy, and not reflected in the information
  • changes required as a result of user feedback
  • inconsistent content across multiple pages
  • badly designed/poorly linked content

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Making improvements: evolving our content based on your feedback

This is a post by Jono Ellis, our Social Media Manager

As part of our commitment to meeting the needs of our users we have three different ways for users to give us feedback – a feedback area at the bottom of all of our article and guide pages, an email inbox and our Twitter account, @mygovscot.

Over the past few weeks we have received feedback on and improved upon a few different content items on our site:

  • We were asked to clarify the eligibility for the home owners support fund page. This page deals with a fairly complex subject; supporting citizens who are at risk of having their homes repossessed and are requesting either a partial or complete purchase of their home through a government fund. The work here was to provide further clarity by reworking the wording, especially around the complex set of clauses as to who may be entitled to apply.
  • We were asked to clarify wording regarding the advice for private landlords who rent property, specifically whether the text should read Care Inspectorate or Care Commission. This was updated to reference the Care Inspectorate as the appropriate organisation.
  • For the transport help for older or disabled people page we were asked to simplify the content around what people are entitled to when they get a National Entitlement Card. Here we looked at really clarifying the wording of the exemptions, such as how card holders are generally entitled to ride on any bus for free but not on a night bus (midnight to 4am – as this is a premier bus service), and the conditions around Citylink cross country coach services.
  • On our apply for or renew a disabled parking permit (Blue Badge) page we were asked how you track a Blue Badge application. We have updated this content with a new section, explaining what information you need to be able to track an application and which website to go to take this action.

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Second 100 day drive – what did we achieve?

We’ve been quietly chipping things off our to-do list and today marks the end of our second 100 Day Drive. It’s a time where we reflect on what we have achieved over the period. When the 100 Day Drive kicked off we set ourselves some ambitious goals. We are proud to say that we have met quite a few of these (and more, including a migration to Amazon Web Services).

A core part of this was moving www.mygov.scot from beta to live. This follows the increasing availability of information from across the Justice and Business sectors and the closure of the Scottish Business Portal – in which business support content and tools moved onto the www.mygov.scot site. It also included the development of content aimed at victims and witnesses going through the Scottish justice system – both helping us make the decision to drop the ‘beta’ label.

“There is real momentum building with mygov.scot and hitting these milestones helps us show confidence in our ability to deliver”

Colin Cook – Deputy Director – Digital Public Services and Business Transform, Scottish Government

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What we’ve been working on: Tuesday 25th August

This is a post by Jono Ellis, our Social Media Manager

We’re pretty excited about a few things that we’ve been working on recently for www.mygov.scot, the publishing platform and it’s accompanying tools. This morning these fixes, features and improvements have been made available to users through our latest release. We wanted to share a summary of these through our regular ‘What we’re been working on’ blog posts.

Our ambition, as always, is to learn from how people respond to these changes – through feedback, analytics and testing.

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Programme performance measures – doing the right things

This is a post by Calum Shepherd, our Head of Digital Strategy.

We should be providing assurance that the strategic decisions we make are correct. We can do this by making sure that the things we do, create or build are all measurable and realise a series of benefits.

We’ve called these performance measures; they will be used by our team to assure everything from our direction of travel, through to individual features that are made available through released products or services.

Our programme level performance measures cover:

  • iterating on products (www.mygov.scot)
  • moving websites through transitioning (www.directscot.org)
  • future transactional services
  • future performance platform data sets

The programme performance measures are linked to our policy objectives within the measurement and benefits framework of “Scotland’s Digital Future: Delivery of Public Services”. This helps us ensure we are in sync with national objectives.

Individual performance measures are then linked to benefits contained within our business case – helping to ensure we are realising the specific benefits of the programme.

Our performance measures contain goals, KPIs, metrics, baselines, targets, target periods, review dates and list data sources.

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Team’s feedback on the first 100-day drive

This is a post by Jono Ellis, our Social Media Manager

We posted an update during our first 100-day drive to let people about how things were progressing. As we progress into the second 100-day drive, it seems like a good time to reflect on how people felt about both the approach and what we delivered over the period.

The drive was set up with four main areas;

  • deliver with the Justice cluster, using user-centric research methods and beginning to build upon our relationship
  • establish a more radical and dynamic approach to content, surfacing priority services from across the public sector
  • establish partnerships and assessing opportunities for reuse
  • moving to using a lean kanban method for managing flow

This focus on four key workstreams was to provide the teams with a clear set of objectives. In order to understand just how well things worked we gathered feedback from the team by asking what they thought.

100-day drive word cloud

We’ve collated some of most interesting comments.


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When I went to visit GOVT.NZ

This is a post by Rachel Jane Patrick, our departing Digital Designer

During March and April I was lucky enough to find myself in New Zealand visiting friends and family. I volunteered to go in and say hello to the team in New Zealand, who are working on similar website to our own, www.govt.nz. I was keen to pick their brains about the project. Volunteering turned out to be a great idea as the team were so welcoming and open, sharing information about their processes.

Day 1 started with me observing as User Researcher, Annika, fed back on a recent user testing session which was both incredible and insightful. The focus on the test had been to compare the new and old information architecture and design of the site and for this they had used some eye-tracking software to see which aspects of the site people focused their attention on.

It was interesting to see from the results of the eye-tracking analysis that users kept going back to look at the brand imagery. The use of imagery on www.mygov.scot is a much-debated topic – as I’m in favour of introducing images it was good to see evidence that supported their use. During the task-driven exercises, the behaviour of users highlighted that it’s more important to get an answer than the right answer.

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