App-etite for Design

Voting is one of the key parts of Parliament. On business days, MSPs gather in the Chamber at Decision Time to vote on the issues of that day. Covid has created many challenges for how the Parliament works, but voting was one of the biggest.

Enabling MSPs to vote from somewhere other than the Chamber meant a temporary change to “standing orders” – the rules and procedures that govern how the Parliament works. But it also needed a technological fix so that MSPs could vote in a way that was secure and simple. And, like many things in 2020, we needed a solution quickly.

Work began on an app that lets MSPs login and vote from wherever they are, removing the need for them to travel to the Parliament. Digital voting was now a possibility, and Parliament business could continue no matter what restrictions were in place.

So what does this have to do with the web project?

Design of the Digital Voting app

One of the aims of the Web Project was to bring a consistent approach to design and user experience on the Parliament’s website and digital channels. Part of the work we’ve done is to create a design system. A design system is a series of elements, or designs, that we can re-use across different channels. They should look and behave in the same way, no matter where the user finds them, and they work consistently across mobile and desktop screens.

Each aspect of our design system has gone through user testing and is in use on the Beta site, so we know it works for users.

When the rapid project was set up to facilitate digital voting, we had our design system ready, tested and available for use. 

So it made sense to re-use these design patterns, which allowed the app build to progress rapidly using approaches that were already tried and tested.

Why did we create a design system?

Over the years the Parliament’s online presence has grown organically. It now presents a patchwork of different approaches to Parliament content, each with its own design. This creates problems for users who have to learn new ways to engage with each site or service. Each different microsite requires users to take time to understand how that particular site works before they can complete the task they came to do.

A design system is an online resource with tools and guidance to help teams build user-centred services and products to reflect best practice. The system sets out what components and design patterns should be used on Scottish Parliament sites, and what rules should be followed to ensure a consistent look and feel and an accessible product.

What next

The digital voting app is in use and the team supporting it work with Members to make sure it’s as good as it can be.

For the design system, we are really pleased that it’s now supporting digital projects beyond the direct remit of the web project. The system was intended to provide a fast delivery mechanism delivering quality digital products and we are pleased this is exactly what it is doing.

Our design system is also in use on the Festival of Politics and the Business in Parliament sites which both use our design system and follow a consistent code base. You can read more about those sites on a previous post.

And as we move forward with developing our beta website, we are retiring many of the microsites set up over the years and bringing others into our new beta site. But where consolidation isn’t possible, it is good to know we have our design system that we can put to good use to bring a consistent experience to our online channels.