Digital by default

Another kind of journey of Discovery (WORK 25/244)

Another kind of journey of Discovery (WORK 25/244)

A few weeks ago myself and a couple of colleagues (Aleks, a technical architect and Gwyn, a web designer/developer) presented our beta version of Discovery, our catalogue, to an expert panel in the hope of meeting the Government Digital Service’s Digital by Default standard.  The National Archives doesn’t deliver its web services through GOV.UK. However, we were keen to make sure we aligned with other government digital services and decided it would be worthwhile to be assessed against the standard.

After a demonstration of the online service and three hours of rigorous questioning, we crossed our fingers and hoped we’d got across the value of the upgraded service as well as all of the hard work that has gone into it. We were delighted when we heard that we had passed the assessment, and even more delighted when we read the glowing endorsement in the newly published report:

‘The presentation was strong and demonstrated a clear understanding of what the business aim was. There was a clear understanding of the 26 points of the standard, other services should aspire to comprehend and apply this into their development. GDS was very impressed with the passion across the whole team to deliver the new Discovery service.’

Colleagues have written previous posts about Discovery and the Finding Archives project so I won’t go over old ground, but I did want to take this opportunity to thank all of those people who have offered their time to test and feedback on the new service.

After designing a prototype to test, based on feedback from the user centred design process as highlighted in Paul’s recent blog post, we have carried out 16 workshops with users (including staff and the public) and have gathered 465 comments! We’ve been working through the comments and have, where appropriate, made changes to Discovery.

Because of the wide ranging needs of our users we’ve found the feedback to be very varied.  To quote a couple of real comments: ‘I like the fact that, once refined by other archives, you can then filter by other individual archives’, and, on the other hand: ‘do not need filters’.

These quotes are one of many examples of contrasting feedback.  People use Discovery in different ways for different reasons.  It’s worth noting that, in coming to any decision, we need to consider not just the competing user groups but competing business priorities and technical and usability issues too.

And, one final comment from the workshops: ‘The 3 databases (4 including Discovery) NRA, ARCHON and A2A are confusing separately so good to have them in one place’. We hope you find the same.

So, work continues.  We’ve adopted a continuous improvement cycle and are always open to user feedback, so please get in touch with us via the comments section if you want to share your thoughts with us. Thanks again to all who have already been involved.

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