Category Archives: Website

People before personas?

I went to a great Meet-up last week organised by @rosebotanic. It is part of a series that Rose has set up called People before Pixels

This particular event was a workshop organised around the theme of ‘How to make personas in the public sector?’

There were about 40 people there to contribute their views and knowledge about personas.

Personas workshop

Rose did a nice overview described the standard view of personas. We divided up into tables and were given a persona template to complete.

Personas template

We were then given an envelope with quantitative information from which to create a persona. This is where it got interesting. We only had skeleton information and therefore had to make a fair number of ‘semi-educated’ guesses. After this we had an envelope of qualitative information. So again more ‘guesses’.

This is what we ended up with plus a pretzel:

Personas final

The point of all this was to then have a debate about the value of personas. This led to lively discussion which was very productive.

Without wishing to generalise there was agreement that personas are very useful at the start of a project to generate a common view of which users we are talking about and their priorities. They have great value for team members who have not really thought about users before. They create a hook to start productive discussions.

Do personas though have a longer term value on a project once it is underway? There were more divergent opinions on this: some did keep their personas and refreshed them on a regular basis. A more common view was that they clearly are artificial constructs (which can be dangerous sometimes) which should then be superseded by more detailed work around more tight user groups of real people. In effect people before personas.

The whole meet up was excellent and a great format to get people talking and thinking. Here are Rose’s slides

If you are interested the GDS service design manual does not seem to mention personas but talks more about prototypes which for them could be appropriate in the context of what they are trying to achieve. Here is some US guidance and of course Wikipedia.

Is this how to migrate content to

I was asked recently if I could very quickly write a content migration plan for a website onto

This is what I came up with which is purely speculative in case I need to use it again:


Clarify what the deadline is – does all the content need to be live in one go or is the move being made over time

Create project plan

Arrange for TNA to archive the old website at an appropriate time

Take  own back up of website

Create an internal comms plan

Create an external comms plan

Do content audit

  • split between flat content and tools/transactions

Flat content

  • What do existing metrics show as most used content – it will help prioritise work – can any content be left behind?
  • Content will need to be written so buy in needed from internal specialists and their time bid for


  • GDS will probably want to redesign these which will involve user testing etc so plan this work early and carefully
  • will probably need to reassess what the key user task are

During move

Do a sample check of how long it takes to move or rewrite content – should help work out how long all the work will take

Sort out redirects

Content might need to be merged with existing content on on the same topic (if it exists)

Keep users up-to-date with progress on the move so there are no surprises

Training needed on how to write for

Training needed on the CMS

After move

Check redirects and monitor broken links

Do sampling to check that content can still be found by searching

Monitor feedback processes to make sure users are happy

I will add more points as they occur to me.

Creating a new website – legacy issues 2

Here is a question to think about.

If you switched off your webserver now what services would stop working?

Well probably your website, but what else?

What about all those other bits and pieces that seemed a good idea to squirrel away because, well, we have a server.

So this is the other issue that troubled me when we rebuilt our website in March ‘what would stop working’?

Here is my list:

  • SNAP surveys because we were not using a cloud based service – we moved our account onto SNAPs servers which involved talking out our survey team colleagues.
  • Two private log in areas to transfer business information – not quite an intranet but fiddly to recreate in a new environment especially when there were a lot of different URLs in circulation.
  • A private page for office use when the web might be our only communication channel with staff – being recreated in email alerting software.
  • A custom built database of report recommendations – built in .NET and which does not work in our new environment – we are linking to a National Archives copy until it can be rebuilt.
  • Other odd bits and pieces like our Contact form – we built a new one then had problems with emails from GSI addresses
  • A toolkit built in flash that was not value for money to rebuild as it has been custom built – we put it on a .NET server, tidied it up and linked across to it.

I suspect this is only a small amount of issues compared to other organisations however dealing with these ‘legacy issues’ all added to the workload.

Creating a new website – legacy issues

In the middle of March we launched a new version of our website in WordPress. The other key elements being that it is hosted on Amazon Web Services and the code is in Git. All fabulous stuff.

Though this was a major project, I tried not to make it a ‘major project’. However I did learn a few lessons so why not share some of them, painful blow by blow.

Legacy issues

Ah, that fateful word in IT circles – legacy.

Things that are easily overlooked are:

  • which bits of your infrastructure do you actually own – are they on your assets register?
  • how do you (or someone else) decommission them and when?
  • which contracts exist – when do they run out – how much notice do you need to give of non-renewal?

I will almost guarantee that your contracts have different lengths. How do you get them in synch so that any switch over can be co-ordinated? Will you have to pay extra money to extend a contract?

How do you avoid insulting your existing suppliers when you tell them that you have ‘found someone else’.

In particular what if you want an element of contingency if something goes wrong and you need to revert back to your existing suppliers? Or you need the old suppliers to work with the new ones? Tricky huh.

So relationship management skills come to the fore.