Category Archives: Uncategorized

Do you really want user feedback? Part 3

In this series of posts about feedback so far I have been talking about some external digital services.

What about internal services? Surely you want some feedback on those as well?

What kind of internal digital services could be relevant?

Well intranets jump to mind. So does your intranet allow colleagues to leave feedback on every page: or perhaps to allow reporting of broken links or factual inaccuracies. Even a simple rating system might help identify poorly performing content.

So that’s all very obvious but what other digital services to you have?

How about your procurement system? Can your users give feedback on how that works? Do you care, have you ever asked them. If you cannot build in an integrated form have you created a user forum?

There is probably a long list of applications such as travel booking, room booking, expenses, time sheets. Can you colleagues give feedback on how they work? Again would a user forum be helpful and appreciated?

Finally what about some of those hybrid systems such as recruitment portals. When you advertise a job and push your eager potential recruits to apply how do you know that they found applying a seamless process?

These are just some ideas and I am sure that you can think of many others.

The point is that we are all users of digital services in different roles whether they be government services, commercial organisations or our own work systems.

Normally we all like things to work easily for us and this will be helped if giving feedback, welcoming it and acting on it are taken as integral to digital services.

Is your Facebook account private from an employer? Should it be?

One question I was asked at the last Social Media Surgery was – could I say something about employers access to employees Facebook accounts. Yes I can.

There has been a trend in the US of employers asking to have access to employees Facebook accounts.

This has gone so far that Facebook have reacted to it by saying that they will not give out passwords to employers see this Wired article: Facebook takes on employers over forced access to staff accounts

Indeed concern has spread more widely as ComputerWord says Senators call for probe of employers seeking Facebook info

To be bang up to date there was a fascinating interview on the World Service this morning with Robert Collins in Maryland. He went for an interview to be re-employed by a correctional centre. At the interview he was asked to hand over his Facebook password and while he was there the interviewer accessed his account to ‘review’ it.

The result being – Maryland Lawmakers Ban Employers from Requesting Facebook Credentials from Employees or Interviewees

So what can we conclude from this. Well if you are an employer in the US its probably not a good idea to ask for employees passwords to their social media accounts.

Does anyone ask for passwords in the UK? I don’t know but it’s probably not a good idea to start.

Social media guidance part 1 – do you have a ‘private life’ any more?

I attended a fascinating discussion yesterday at #Teacamp (a monthly get together for digital geeks) about social media guidance for the public sector.

The Government Digital Service, on behalf of central government, are updating the existing social media guidance for civil servants which is now a few years old.

The overall thrust of the guidance, as before, is going to be follow the Civil Service Code – or as it is often summarised ‘don’t be a muppet’. For the other non-government organisations this typically means following their ‘Code of Conduct’ or equivalents. All pretty standard stuff.

What provoked some heated debate was when it was stated that as public servants we cannot have a private ‘digital life’ anymore.

It was argued that it is not very difficult from our digital footprint to know that we work in the public sector and for whom. So when we post to Facebook or use a ‘private’ Twitter account others can still make judgements about what we like and our behaviours.

It was suggested that as such activity can often be seen by those who make a slight effort to be nosey and therefore we could ‘have a problem Huston’.

This was one example – what if we are always seen reading Guardian articles online yet are supposed to be impartial civil servants? Will my policy advice then become suspect in the eyes of Ministers?

Someone protested – ‘but I have a right to a private life and I did not sign that away when I became a civil servant’.

However more agreed than disagreed with the growing lack of a private ‘digital life’.

What do you think?

Are you ‘always on’ and concious of who you work for in the public, or indeed private sector, whenever you use social media?

So you think you are up-to-date with social media? Take this test.

We all like to think that we are trendy hipsters (well some of us) and getting on down with the kids. No more cliches please (Ed.)

O.K. then how many of these social media sites do you use? Be honest, when I say use I actually mean use, not just that you have heard of them.

Give yourself 10 marks for each service:

  • Facebook
  • Getglue
  • Google+
  • LifeKraze
  • LinkedIn
  • Miso
  • Path
  • Pinterest
  • Quora
  • Twitter

Marking scale

10-40 marks – respectable

40-60 marks – respect

60-100 marks – please write the next quiz

Google custom URLs creation

I have mentioned previously that a great tip we received on our Google Analytics training was the use of the custom URL tool.

This is tool potentially has great power especially if you know how to use it properly. I am not convinced that I have worked out all the wrinkles yet but am slowly getting there.

The whole point is to create a URL via Google which allows you to track what actions take place on that URL once it is in circulation.

The steps are:

  • Cut and paste in your source URL
  • Choose some unique identifiers for the three fields with asterixs.
  • Create the URL

The genius here is to use at least one identifier that can link together different activities in one campaign.

So if you send out an email use this tool and include the word email plus the campaign name. It you post the same link on Facebook include the word Facebook instead of email. So the result should be that across all your channels, for one campaign, you can see at a glance which vistors came from where. 

My tips for the moment are:

  • test tool first with something innocuous. It can take a few tries to decide which combination of terms work well and show up clearly in GA.
  • as part of your trial make sure you know where your results show up in GA – it should be under the campaigns heading
  • as far as I can tell taking the custom URL and then putting it through Bitly corrupts the references
  • keep a spreadsheet to record the terms that you use, the original URL and the custom one.

I am still testing this tool but it certainly looks handy .

This is how the interface looks:


Click here to view full size

The ten new people I spoke to at GovCamp 2012 #UKGC12

Last year I kicked myself after Govcamp because I tended to talk to the people I already knew.

This year I decided that I would make the effort to be sociable and talk to ten new people – my ten new people challenge!

Here is the list:

1) Phil McAllister from Ofqual communications team who I sat next to right at the begining of the first day. We had a quick chat about publishing in education.

2) Layla Davidson from Southwalk Council. We were sitting on the top of a cabinet in a break-out room discussing data visualisation in local government. I took a picture of the mini cake she was eating. She also mentioned that she had a number of ex-NAO staff working with her.

3) Lydia Tar who was pressing one of the buttons to open the doors to let us out into a corridor. Lydia was a temp whose ‘day job’ is as a personal trainer with people in the expensive parts of London. She had just come back from Cuba hence the nice tan.

4) Chris Osborne @osbornec formerly of ITO world now of ESRI UK I had seen Chris talk at the last Opentech about his data visualisations so it was good to hear about what is was now working on.

5) Helen Olsen the managing director at UKAuthority TV. I cannot say I had heard of this company before so it was useful to find out more from Helen.

6) Ross Lyon @ly0nsd3n from the Scottish Government. We had a great chat over lunch about various bits and pieces. I was particularly fascinated by his description of how they used Yammer – extensively

7) Stuart Bruce and independent consultant who had worked in the past on a couple of Sure Start digital projects.

8) Lauren Lucas from the Local Government Unit – a colleague of Rob Dale. Lauren used to work in local government in east London and we spoke about how councillors wanted to control stuff especially social media.

9) Liane Farrer a strategic communications adviser in the Cabinet Office. Liane new people I knew such as Robin Riley who she used to work with at the Mod.

10) Ade Oshineye from Google+. We had a fascinating chat about how Google+ works, some current developments and of course about the fact the NAO had an account.

I was really pleased because at the end of the day (no the real end of the day not the cliche) I had managed to get to know ten new people, some new stuff and felt slightly smug.

It turned out to be a pretty good icebreaker to say to people ‘I said I would talk to ten new people today – tell me about yourself’

So if I can do it pretty well anyone can.

Remote user testing – or what I learnt from Michele Ide-Smith

I was tipped off that I should talk to Michele about remote user testing at the recent UK Govcamp 2012.

I was lucky enough to meet Michele who very kindly gave up a fair amount of time to cover some of the basics.

Some of us have probably seen some kind of user testing that either involved a facilitated discussion or maybe one to one script testing watched by a one way mirror. This is always fun and revealing.

But what do you do if you don’t have much time, budget or you want to test a very specific point? This is where remote testing might help and compliment other approaches.

If you want to film what users do generally you use a tool such as Gotomeeting to start the initial log in. You then use one of the filming tools below to track what users actually do. Of course there is a bit more to it than that which is why you might need to approach an expert like Michele.

So here are some tools or sites that you might want to have a look at:

Camtasia – if you want to film online what a users does with your content.

Silverback – Guerrilla usability testing software for designers and developers (of course)

Chalkmark – screenshot testing with heatmaps

Crazyegg – heatmap tracking

Treejack – to test your IA – lots of advice

UXdesign.smashingmagazine – even more advice

You can also read the article by Nick Breeze on the Government Digital Service site with a useful slidedeck.  

I have also used Clicktale to log what users do on my other blog.

Q. So what was the one key message from Michele?

A. Keep testing on a regular basis – all those small improvements add up. 


Recommended book – Rocket surgery made easy by Steve Krug of course.

If you have any sense you might also want to follow Michele @micheleidesmith




Tracking social media sharing with Google event tracking

I mentioned a while ago some great training we had with Andrew Hood on Google Analytics.

The one big thing that we have followed up is setting up some event tracking. These are actions that involve some kind of interaction with a site usually involving clicking on something.

Helpfully the new version of Google Analytics has, under Content, an Events option.

So what have we done?

Recently, and much later than we should, we have put some share buttons on our website. We did not what to use Sharethis and similar tools as they are not as accessible as we would have liked.

So now we have buttons for Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter and Google+ with Delicious and Stumbleupon to follow shortly.

We also have sign-ups on each page to our email alerting system which we imaginatively called NAOdirect; plus a collated RSS feed.

We then added event tracking to each of these buttons, the email sign up and the RSS feed.

Now the amazing bit. If you go into event tracking there is an overview of how often each of these tools have been used. Which is nice.

There is another view by page so you can see how much and by which tool the content on a page has been shared.

So what are the scores on the doors?

Click here to view full size

The good news is that the email sign-up is extremely popular followed by Twitter with lesser amounts of Facebook and RSS.

So what does this tell us?

Well it helps indicate which channels are more popular with our users. Also it gives a bit of a feel as to the relative level of popularity of content.

Click here to view full size

So how useful is that! Very I would say.