Weeknotes 13: all about design, a brilliant snack vision and a job move*

Quite a week: really busy, but when isn’t it?


My first day back from a short break in the Netherlands (see weeknotes 12). As a team we discussed our approach to navigation on the new site — how do we make it as easy and accessible as possible, using GDS design patterns where we can and taking the best from other websites we think work really well such as Citizen’s Advice. I think we’ve come up with a good plan based on the feedback from our discovery and alpha which we will test in sprint 5 with users.



We had a great conversation with senior managers about content: how will we improve our internal processes and workflows so that we get better at commissioning, governing, designing and retiring content in the future. I’ve been working with our workplace policy team lead Gill Dix, and our new content design function to work out how best to do this at Acas.

Tuesday evening I had a baking disaster . . . probably because I was more focussed on catching up on the Code First Girls homework that I’d missed last week.



Started early with a quick trip to Lola’s bakery (see above re baking disaster) and then to my first One Team Gov breakfast. I met some really interesting people (and some familiar faces – Sam Villis) and had some good wide ranging discussions, which sparked lots of ideas in my head. I’ve been wanting to go for ages but somehow Wed mornings haven’t worked out. Huge thanks to James Arthur Cattell for organising it and welcoming us.

Back at work it was sprint review and sprint planning day. I can’t believe we’ve got to sprint 5 already — the team has made brilliant progress but there’s still lots to do before we go into public beta and before our assessment at the end of May.



We held our sprint 4 show and tell: Philippa had delegated the introducing of it to me as lots of the team were out at a design thinking course (run by the excellent Rebecca Kemp). We showed the results of some remote testing, the initial analysis of how the current website footer is performing (and based on that what we’re including in the new one for testing), and wireframes for landing page templates. Charlotte had a genuis snack vision: ice lollies. Perfect for a packed room on a hot day.**

Thursday evening was coding course session 3. Philippa, Cheryl and I are working together to build a simple website to help us advertise and manage bookings for our in house yoga. I think I’m starting to get the hang of it . . .


I woke up feeling really enthused about building the yoga website so started with a quick half hour starting to build the page I said I’d work on.

Later on we had a good conversation with our enterprise architecture colleagues about the beta website and how we’ll make sure we’re making the right decisions at the right time together.

What I’ve been reading:

I’ve been rereading the Kristina Halvorson book: content strategy for the web. Ace stuff, and very clear.

CSS Zen Garden was suggested as further reading on the Code First Girls course —amazing site with v useful styles and suggestions.

Richard McLean published this:

View at Medium.com

which articulated lots of things I’ve been thinking about recently about how to get the right governance at the right time and at the right level. I can’t wait for part 2. . .

In other news:

*I’m moving to Hackney LA to be the new Head of Delivery. I’m really excited about this move, and looking forward to joining Rob Miller Matthew Cain and the rest of the team in June.

View at Medium.com

**Our office does not react well to sudden changes in temperature. It has pretty amazing views though.

Weeknotes 12: Goede Dag from Groningen

It was another short week – I took a couple of days off to go to the Netherlands which is always fun*

I managed to pack a lot in to Mon-Wed though. . .


I met Richard McLean for a coffee. I was unforgivably late and he was both immensely forgiving and very helpful – sage advice about strategic transformation and making space for change away from business as usual activity. I’m hoping we’ll be able to catch up again soon to carry on the conversation.

At work we talked about KPIs – what are the best things we can measure and how can we do this most effectively? We’re building an open performance platform for our digital advice service but trying to decide what’s needed as MVP and what we’ll need as we grow the beta site. We don’t have to publish on the gov.uk platform but we’re committed to meeting the GDS standard in this area. So far ONS seems to have done lots of similar work that we can borrow from – but if anyone else has ideas it’d be great to catch up about it.

I did my coding for girls homework in the evening – and set up some lunchtime homework sessions for Philippa, Cheryl and I. I think it’s the only way I’m going to make sure I keep up.

Hacker Coding GIF by Monstercat - Find & Share on GIPHY


I had great conversations with the team about the project and how it’s going, and a good discussion with the submit a notification team about plans for beta. We have some great feedback from our alpha assessment that we want to work on before we start the beta project with contractors. That way we’ll start in the best place possible in June, once we’ve procured a team to help us.

And I caught up with Paul and Joanne Brown from our technology team to talk about governance and how we’ll manage IT change projects more effectively in the future. I shared with them the blog James Abley shared with me about documenting architecture decisions.



Was mainly taken up with meetings – our transformation board and the weekly get together of senior managers with our CEO. At the transformation board we had two of our change champions sitting in and participating – I find the best way to get the most out of a meeting is to involve the right people from across the organisation in it, so that we get the most value out of meeting together.

DILBERT © 2011 Scott Adams. Used By permission of ANDREWS MCMEEL SYNDICATION. All rights reserved.

What have I learnt this week?


This – from Leonard Cohen via a cafe in Groningen sums up what I’ve been thinking about taking on new challenges, trying new things and imposter syndrome (but see Gavin Elliott for really good work on this if you haven’t come across him already).

@jukesie wrote a great piece on digital being about people – and tech. Really well articulated.

Amazon knows me better than I know myself — apparently my life consists mainly of Sharpies and chilli sauce. Not far off tbh.

*being in the Netherlands is a mix of love and frustration. It’s a great place, and in another life maybe I’d have made my home here but I don’t speak Dutch as well as I used to** which is frustrating.

**I have a degree in Dutch. It’s a long (and quite interesting) story.

#weeknotes 10 and 11: lots (and lots) of learning

I’m combining a couple of weeks here because of two short weeks at work with Easter in the middle — it’s been a fortnight full of learning, all of which has been really valuable.

Learning more about scrum and agile

Last week I spent two days on a course with Tobias Mayer learning more about what makes a great scrum master, and revisiting the core agile principles. It was an excellent two days — made even better by having people from a wide range of sectors participating. It was valuable hearing experiences from start ups, the financial sector and commercial sector— and being able to compare them to the public sector. I came away buzzing with ideas to take back to the office and try.


Learning more about the beta phase (and GDS assessments)

I’ve been working with our submit a notification team helping them prepare and last week we had our GDS alpha assessment. I am so impressed by the team and the work they’ve done*. Now we’re planning out the beta phase in more detail so we can submit our spend control request to GDS, and then go out to procure a team to help us deliver the work.

On our digital advice service we’re (almost)halfway through the private beta and starting to tackle our next advice topic, redundancy. We think this topic will help us break the templates we’ve designed so far so that we can improve them. We know that redundancy is a more complex and emotional topic for our users so it’s going to give us really valuable feedback and insight to help us improve our content and design overall.

At our show and tell we had cake (of course) and Luka Alexander demoed our new component library that they’ve built at our sprint 3 show and tell — it’s looking great, really clear and easy for us to use.

Lemon and almond cake

Learning more about coding

Philippa, Cheryl and I started our Codefirstgirls course this week — and it was ace. We’ve all committed to learning how to code a static website in 8 weeks alongside other professional women from a variety of . So far we’ve learnt how the basics of HTML, CSS and Javascript and how they work together. And a brilliant but simple hack which amused us all:

I used a @mysadcat tweet as my inspiration . . .

Am looking forward to learning more as we go. There is homework though . . .

Learning from others

This week I read some great weeknotes from Sam Villis, Jenny Vass, Dan Barrett and Matt Jukes. 5 beta lessons from Carl Burton was really useful. I also liked this from Greg Satell on building an innovative culture.

and finally . . .

*Ace news this week for the team — we passed the alpha assessment, it’s the first GDS assessment on a transactional service for Acas, and we are super proud of ourselves! Go team!