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Portal 2.0

by on February 23, 2009

Hello again. As I’ve mentioned in a couple of earlier posts the site is currently undergoing a major update of supporting IT (who cares? I hear you shout) – you should, I retort, because without it we can’t deal with the growing traffic and service improvements you need.

More visible, though, will be the redesign that follows a little later so I thought I’d keep you in the loop with progress as we go.

More on that later, first though is news of a forthcoming interview with Steve Quartermain – The Chief Planner no less. So as not to be accused of being biased we’re asking you to ask the questions. All you need do is write to the editorial team at ( and we’ll select the best.

We’d like to follow that with interviews with other key figures, so you’ve guessed it, let us know who you’d like to hear from and we’ll ask them nicely. Anyhow back to today’s main topic: the redesign. This will be the most significant work on the site since we launched, so as we’ve always tried to put the user at the centre of all our content and product development I thought I’d outline how we’re going about it and how we intend to involve users. First things first – why are we having a redesign? The main drivers are:

  • To improve the presentation of content to our wide user base offering personalisation and customisation.
  • To improve usability and accessibility to reflect the Department’s inclusion and community engagement agenda.
  • To improve take-up of e-planning by making electronic transacting even easier.
  • …and finally it would be a shame to have a Ferrari engine with the driveability of an Austin Princess.

We have lots of ideas for how we can improve the information and services we provide in a clearer and more engaging fashion. Some have come directly from your feedback and I’ll be asking for your opinions as we go.

We are involving users in the development of initial designs and navigation and are working with a usability company as we have on all significant product developments since early 2003.

This is a big project so we plan to test ideas and designs at five different stages throughout the project. We’ll be testing with seven different users each time and validating the work done at each stage before moving on to the next one. As for accessibility, we’re still not as good as we think we can be. The Office for Disability Issues has produced a guidance document for the Civil Service on the importance of accessible information, which we have taken to heart. It’s an excellent and short document and highly recommended. We will be involving disabled people from the outset to ensure we build in accessibility from the inside out and don’t simply pay lip service to the issues. Two out of the seven users that we engage with at each testing stage will be disabled people.

I don’t need to tell you folks that planning is built on the principles of inclusion and community engagement and we want to make sure the Portal can support those principles as effectively as possible. If you’ve sent feedback to me over the last couple of months rest assured it will be seriously considered in the redesign process. Keep sending your ideas and opinions on how we might improve. One thing we will be doing in the future is to publish a list of change requests giving you a say in deciding their priority.

That’s all for now other than to say I plan to turn this slot into a proper blog shortly – shorter, sharper and more frequent, with the opportunity for you to offer direct feedback and discourse on relevant topics.

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