This is the third in a series of posts sharing progress on how we are tackling objective two of the single domain 'beta' project: specifically the creation and test of a unified publishing platform capable of replacing many of the websites which government organisations currently run across separate domains – like dh.gov.uk or bis.gov.uk – to provide information on who they are and what they do.
Having first defined the concept for this shared platform, then analysed users' needs, the next step in early September was to establish and communicate the product vision.
Here is an extract of that vision work - a set of 'wireframe' drawings of what, back then, I thought this product might need to end up looking like to the user.
If you're used to looking at wireframes, skip this paragraph. For everyone else, I should make clear that these drawings are by no means intended to give an impression of visual design. Website wireframes are outline sketches which aim to show the functional framework of a digital interface, and not the look and feel. The purpose in creating them was to get the ideas out of my head and into a shareable form in the most efficient way possible, to get the delivery team up and running quickly with a common understanding of the shape of the product, and to get buy-in and feedback from the product's users and stakeholders at the earliest possible stage.
It's also worth being clear that this was a jumping off point, and we jumped off a while since. Three sprints later, we're some way into the development of working code, and things already look a little different. The vision is now a live and daily-evolving thing, not a static set of slides; and quite rightly there's some stuff in this slide deck we know we will do differently, some things we might not do at all, and a good few things which we are already doing which weren't in this original vision.
All that aside, these drawings remain the most useful thing to share at this point to give you a sense of where we are heading. The product we release in beta, which will run in parallel alongside departments' existing sites in early 2012, will be recognisably 80% of the way towards delivering this vision - and, where it deviates, we should have interesting stories to tell about how our thinking and priorities evolved along the way.
More importantly, I want to put these out there to get your feedback now. I've workshopped them a bit with various domain experts inside and outside government, but the more feedback - from end users in particular - the better. Bring it on!
Neil Williams is product owner for the corporate departmental publishing platform in the single domain project, on loan to the Government Digital Service from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.