https://blog-digitalparliament.scot/2020-helping-the-web-project-from-visitor-services

2020: Helping the web project from Visitor Services

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2020 has changed how we work and interact with people in almost every way.

My role at parliament is a Visitor Services Officer. Visitor Services revolves around public interaction. We answer questions over the phone and face to face every day. This has given me a good idea of the needs of visitors who come to the Parliament.

So, while I spend most of my (normal) days telling people about the Parliament and giving them information, I’d never tried to do it online.

An opportunity

When the pandemic hit, the Parliament building closed to the public. Without my normal activities, I was looking for ways I could help other teams. The Web Project were offering the opportunity to learn about content design and help out with the new website, and it seemed like good timing. It became great timing when I learned they were just beginning work on the Visit section of the new beta website.

Training

The project had already been underway for some time when I joined, and initially it felt like a lot to catch up on. However, they had organised a few weeks of training sessions. These covered many project areas, from making accessible content to an introduction to agile working.

It was particularly interesting to learn about the user centred design process that is shaping the Beta site. I learned how user needs are identified - these needs form the basis of the content, resulting in a user centred design. I started to think about the website from the point of view of a user rather than someone who worked at the Parliament. From my background it was cool to see how information gathered from real users was used as part of the design process.

The training helped me see beyond the overall objectives of the project, into the actual work that is going on day to day.

Working on the project

I have been helping the project 2-3 days a week while continuing to work with Visitor Services. Being able to split my time between these tasks has been ideal as it helps keep working from home varied.

It can be difficult working on something new whilst also being at home by yourself. But everyone on the project has been great at making themselves available for meetings and catch ups throughout.

I have been working on the new Visit section. Part of that has involved “content discovery”, which has helped me look at our content from a different point of view.

Using tools like Google Analytics, I could find out exactly what our visitors were looking at. I’m enjoying taking a user-centred approach and look forward to seeing how the pages shape up.

It’s been a great chance to meet other staff members, although not in person yet! Initially it seemed very different to the role I’ve been used to. But by focusing on user needs it became clear we were answering questions that visitors often ask in person. It’s therefore been a great chance to make use of my skillset and apply it online during these very different times.