Organizing and preparing your team: Continuous improvement of web content
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Establish your team
Web content improvement projects usually require the participation of many people. Different roles are needed to ensure coordination, research, design and delivery.
There are different ways you can organize your team, and some people may have more than one role, but the following roles should be covered.
- project leadership and coordination
- user research and usability testing
- subject matter experts
- senior management and decision makers
Project leadership and coordination
The project lead:
- sees the project through to implementation
- ensures a measurement strategy is put in place
- understands and plans mitigation of the barriers that prevent implementation
- facilitates workshops and meetings to keep everyone working in the same direction
The project coordinator keeps the team organized, maintains spreadsheets, documentation and schedules meetings.
User research and usability testing
Research-driven improvement projects require impartial usability research specialists who can recruit participants and run replicable tests with multiple participants.
Design researchers understand and uncover user behaviours and expectations through various research methods.
This group of people could be in-house or through a third party.
Content designers focus on improvements to language and how content is structured or displayed to help people complete their tasks.
Interaction designers build prototypes and provide input on interactive approaches that may enhance the user’s experience.
Subject matter experts
Content improvement must be done with the involvement of subject matter experts, who understand the topic and what needs to be conveyed to the audience. These participants may differ, depending on the program area:
- program and policy experts, to ensure a thorough understanding of the context and purpose
- front-line service agents who can be an invaluable sources of information about customer needs and frustrations
- content developers / contributors
- web support team and relevant Canada.ca theme lead
Senior management and decision makers
You need to involve senior management to approve decisions on content, design and interactions. You need someone to champion implementation once research and recommendations are done. Designing web materials for task success may conflict with organizational pressures. It's critical that senior management be engaged early and often, to understand the methods, and to participate in crafting appropriate project goals.
Some of the greatest risks to project success are:
- a lack of organizational experience designing services from the client’s perspective
- situations where multiple groups in the organization may be impacted by changes to service delivery
- usability testing or analytics evidence contradicting approaches that support competing priorities (political, organizational, regulatory, etc.)
- overly long and complex approval processes
Some of the best ways to overcome these risks include:
- engaging senior management early and often
- we recommend engaging senior management early in the process, as well as on a frequent basis during the project
- keeping senior management up to date on human-centred service design, evidence gathering approaches and usability testing
- sharing user stories - especially when audiences struggle with current designs
- identifying likely obstacles in advance and tailoring discussions accordingly
Co-design with approvers at the table (blog post)
Set up your governance structure
Improving content for people often means significant change for organizations. To lead a successful improvement project, people working on it need to agree on the purpose, approach and objectives.
Everyone involved needs to be on board.
- a high-level agreement on what you want to accomplish with the improvement project
- buy-in on the people-centred and evidence-based approach for decision-making
- a project team with the right skills, ready to work together
- a project lead and well-defined roles and responsibilities
- a clear understanding of the potential barriers to implementation and how to address them
Resource: One page project alignment template (Google Docs)
Governance to address barriers
Effective and intentional governance can help address the barriers that may get in the way of project success.
These barriers include:
- challenging traditional decision-making and chains of command with new, research-based approaches to web content
- ensuring the right people with the right knowledge are involved
- understanding the relationships between design and technical implementation
Effective project governance removes ambiguity about who is accountable for which decisions.
Tips for good governance
- Structure your team to support the project’s objectives by ensuring there is awareness, acceptance and capacity to produce an outcome that supports what people need from you
- Make sure decision-makers can support approaches that have been tested and proven to work.
- To meet objectives, you will need people in roles to be accountable for:
- implementing the improved content
- using evidence to drive decisions
- engaging with stakeholders effectively
- understanding and mitigating risk
- ensuring there is a team-wide understanding of the subject
- ensuring acceptance of the evidence-based approach among subject matter experts
Example project governance model
|Role||Core task||Accountable for|
|Senior manager||Approval and oversight||Implementation of improvements|
|Project lead||Implementation of improvements||Key deliverables and timeline|
|Project coordinator||Contacts, meeting invitations, notes and records of decision||Keeping team consulted and informed|
|Design researcher||User research and usability testing||Providing the evidence to drive design decisions|
|Content designer||Evidence-based content improvements||Making design decisions based on the evidence|
|Interaction designer||Evidence-based designs and prototyping||Making design decisions based on the evidence|
|Subject matter experts||Review content for accuracy||Accuracy of content after improvements|
Plan for efficient approvals
Approval processes often take time. There are things you can do to make it better.
Involve approvers from the get go
Don’t wait until the end of the design process to seek input from people who will approve the content. Involve all stakeholders at the beginning of the process, and identify the approvers early on.
Make sure everyone who needs to know is aware of the objectives and timelines of the improvement project.
Design and prototype collaboratively
Don’t design and prototype all by yourself. Lead content design workshops that involve everyone that has a stake in the content: subject matter experts, policy people, communications, web advisors, etc.
Use demos to show the design to approvers
Instead of simply passing around a Word document asking for input, do regular presentations to people who will approve the content. Show the process, the research and the actual prototype, and demonstrate how this is an improvement.
The more carefully you prepare content before approvals, the less approvers will need to tweak it. Do the hard work to make it easy for them to give the ok to go live.
It’s up to the project team to:
- review text in both languages carefully
- verify code validity and accessibility
- review (QA) coded content for broken links, missing text, etc.
- prepare analytics tagging and performance reporting
Co-design with approvers at the table (blog post)
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