When this website first arrived in 2020, we had a lot of ideas about what Data to Insight might do, and only a little clarity and which of those ideas would take flight. User research helped outline the shape that a D2I website should take, and gave us crucial insight into how colleagues in different LAs would like to see things organised, as well as how they would like things like security and collaboration to work.
In the 20 or so months since those user research sessions, we've learned a lot more about how we actually work as a community. It's perhaps telling that, of those original four key design principles, two have evolved enough that their original pages are no longer visible on the site, but we are still doing those things elsewhere. The community "knowledge base" evolved into shared Trello planning boards and Slack discussion spaces; the "hall of fame" became the "credits" page, focusing on organisations rather than individuals. The core function of the site is, of course, to host data tools, and that has also changed slightly, with the recent introduction of a GitHub code library, and a developing conversation about how we better host our benchmarking data and Python tools.
While we give that bigger conversation time to resolve into something approaching a plan, we've made some minor tweaks to the current site. This is largely because, as a team of four, we currently have much more expertise in content design than I was able to bring to the original project. So, while we think about what structural changes might be needed in the longer term, we've made a couple of short term fixes to the existing site so that it's a little more pleasant to navigate.
For long-form content, the nice curly typeface of the original site made reading on screen harder than it needed to be for some users. The fix for this was easy: we've switched to a sans serif typeface wherever text extends to a paragraph or longer. Many users may never notice; for some, it may make a significant difference to how easily the site reads.
On an average widescreen monitor, the old homepage looked like this:
Leaving aside the question of the "pumpkin" colour scheme, which generated much discussion in our original feedback meetings, there are some more seriously questionable elements here, which together fill the first screen without providing a great deal of information. The D2I logo is taking up a lot of space, once above and once below the top menu; the tag line is enormous, as is the second logo; there's no text actually saying what D2I is or why the visitor should care. Return visitors will know they can use the top menu to navigate, but newcomers will need to scroll down to find out whether they should bother. On a smaller laptop screen, even the bottom half of the tag line is lost.
The new homepage looks like this:
On a smaller laptop screen, the full green highlight bar and the beginning of the lower section remain visible, meaning new visitors immediately see both what D2I is, and the most common actions they might want to take on the site - downloading a data tool, or joining one of our community spaces.
The text further down the page is revised to match the range of work we now do, with images linking out to relevant places for further investigation, and of course everything is easily readable in that sans serif typeface.
We've also fixed a bug which was preventing colleagues from commenting on blogs - whether or not this was inhibiting much discussion is a question which will surely answer itself, but it's nice to know that people have the option again - and looked into an issue some LA colleagues have reported with password reset attempts. On this latter, the site appears to be functioning correctly, so we suspect local IT policies may be blocking password reset emails. To workaround this, colleagues can email us to perform a reset on their behalf.
That's it! If you have thoughts on that wider question of where we go with websites and hosting in the long term, do get in touch, and of course also let us know if you spot anything amiss with the current site. Many hands make light work, after all.