Weeknote 5th August 2022

A little late, last week ended up packed and it was the weekend before I knew it.

Work wise last week was mainly focused on usability testing for GOV.UK Forms. Having done a lot of work on the question building side of the form builder, we’re now focusing on the features needed to get a form live on GOV.UK so that our partner organisations can get the forms they are making online for the public to start using. This week I was testing the page users navigate between the various tasks to complete with, and some of the tasks for providing information beyond the actual questions.

We’ve been building an understanding of how people navigate between the mindset of ‘form creator’ when using the tool and ‘form completer’ when previewing content they want the end users of their forms to see. Bearing in mind we’re designing for people who are less digitally confident, it’s really interesting to see how people switch between these. Particularly so when something in the tool is not clear to them and this results in confusion between which of these ‘hats’ they are wearing at the time. Must write more about this, it’s been a really clear illustration of what can happen when an interface requires too much of a user’s cognitive load.

I also did some follow up from our first workshop with our next partner department, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency. I played back what we’d learned from the workshop, leading to lots of discussion points about how to best approach the work with MCA to make sure both sides of the partnership can achieve what they need to from it.

Also did some thinking about how we capture the time and effort it takes to process forms so we can tell whether our tool reduced both of these costs. And some work with our Product Manager on modelling the time it takes when someone can’t access an accessible version of a form and either asks for support or abandons it.

I’m finding in this role I’m working on perhaps smaller pieces of research but with much quicker turnarounds than in my previous job, which is a pace I’m enjoying.

I also had a fascinating conversation with some colleagues who are working on a ‘hide this page‘ feature for the GOV.UK Design System. This is an element people can build into their page to allow people in danger to hide the page quickly in case that someone discovering they have been using it could get them into further difficulties. They’ve been doing research with people with lived experience of domestic violence to inform how they build the feature. There’s so many aspects to the work at GDS which have a huge amount of depth and nuance, it’s fascinating to learn about, although horribly unfortunate that this particular feature is needed. Learning from other researchers and colleagues was one of the things that drew me to this role at GDS, and my experience so far is there is so much to learn from these conversations with people doing research on different projects in the organisation.

In other projects, I managed to get a 24/7 live streaming ‘radio’ of my ambient music running on a Raspberry Pi and YouTube live streaming. In the world of YouTube music these live stations seem to get a lot of traction and lots of similar channels are running them so I’ve been experimenting for a while.

It’s not been practical to run OBS on my desktop the whole time, I need the full power of the machine for some projects, and I didn’t want to leave a powerful PC running all the time, especially with energy costing what it does these days. So I eventually worked out how to stream a playlist of music video from the command line on a Raspberry Pi. After a lot of messing around I realised that the hardware accelerated video encoding only seems to work with FFMPEG with the 64 bit version of the Raspbian OS. Raspberry Pi Trading are still recommending the 32 bit version as the default on their download page for some reason, so I struggled with that for a while before making a guess that it might be worth trying the 64 bit one. All seems to be working now, and you can tune in here if this last paragraph hasn’t put you off yet.

The weekend was mainly painting doors, with a couple of trips to local pubs to relax after painting doors. Not far off having all the small, finishing off jobs on our house renovation done, but the last push of things that always take longer than you think is ongoing.

This next week I’m pulling together the analysis and sharing of the usability testing from last week, and probably designing the next round so we can get all our ‘form live’ features ready and refined for developers to build into the product.


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