PAS website facelift: acid vs scalpel

After a stretch out in the National Programme Office wilderness at the IDeA – I’m happy to be back once again in the PAS fold working on our website again.

The PAS newsletter going out today flags the new ‘Guide to the Planning Advisory Service’ we’ve produced. The section on the PAS website says it will be getting a facelift mid-year – that’d be about now-ish then. I’ve got the scalpels ready and its probably going to be some brazil-style brutality

But in lots of ways the ‘facelift’ idea misses the point of what I’ll be up to over the next month or so…

Yes, the website is going to look different. Alas, I couldn’t get support for a wider roll-out of the psychedelic banner above and it will look a lot like a less grey version of the IDeA knowledge website. There are some basic good things about this:

  • liquid layouts – the site will fit your screen better
  • more options with the home page layout so we can more easily flag content you need to see
  • bigger, higher contrast text with a single-click option to increase size/contrast even more
  • we piggyback all the work the IDeA have done improving accessibility/fixing bugs

Not just a pretty face

But the biggest change will be in how we organise the content.  Our website has always got really positive feedback from site users.  Its really important to PAS that it works well and gives you what you need.  However, we are increasingly aware that it is difficult to find what you are looking for.  Sometimes its because its not there (you think we’ve done something we haven’t!) – but in a bunch of instances, it is there and its a matter of ‘how the hell do I find it?!?!?!’  so…  with that in mind, this is what we are thinking.  note: there is a comment box at the end.  please use it.  we’ll listen. 

First up, the ‘councillor’, ‘senior manager’,  ‘planning people’ homepages will go.  They were a time-consuming PITA for us to update and, whilst a nice idea 3 years ago, they don’t really make sense now – plus our stats show that folks didn’t use them a whole lot.

Following the IDeA knowledge lead, we’ll share the same ‘persistent navigation’ (those 5 tabs across the top):

  • Home
  • About us – who we are and what we do
  • Services – information about our services and programmes of work
  • Knowledge – the latest good practice we’ve gathered from the sector
  • Networking – online discussion forums and communities of practice

We think these headings make sense for what we do, too. However, where they organise the content below the ‘Services’ heading around type of service: peer reviews, guidance docs etc… Our current thinking is that we’ll organise our content under both ‘Services’ and ‘Knowledge’ around topic themes.  This is our list of themes at the moment:

  • Making plans
  • Delivering plans
  • Management and performance
  • Councillors (or?) Councillor involvement
  • Peer support
  • Money (or perhaps ‘Finance’ is more appropriate?)
  • Climate change
  • Minerals and Waste

How do these feel to you?  Obviously some content could fit under multiple headings.  eg/ spatial planning peer support is both peer support and also about plan making…  I’d say this fits best under peer support, but would be also linked from any content on plan-making… but hopefully they give a clear indication of what you’ll find when clicking through.

The other split is between ‘Knowledge’ and ‘Services’.  Alice, one of our programme managers here was quick to share her revulsion at the ‘Knowledge’ heading: “What does that mean anyway!?” But the information we get back says people in the planning sector are hungry for good practice from the sector and I think it makes sense to pull it together in one section.  But we need to know about the good and the bad  ‘not so good’ – anf this is the place we’ll put this ‘knowledge’. 

Already, after only a few days of going through site content I’m seeing where good practice examples are buried within larger reports on projects, the key recommendations either tucked into the end or spread throughout the document.  One of the things we’ll be trying to do when moving content across to the new platform is pull these examples out.  understand where they need updating and trying to ID where the gaps are in the best practice we’ve been collecting.  Going forward, we can keep this split in mind and think about what the best way is to get knowledge out of the specific programmes we are delivering – direct support, events, peer reviews – and onto the site in a format where you can get the learning you need, quicker and easier…

I’ll share some more about how i’m getting on as this progresses… in the meantime, comment below or get in touch (john.chantler@idea.gov.uk) if you want to get involved.

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One thought on “PAS website facelift: acid vs scalpel

  1. Pingback: Website content categories « Planning Advisory Service

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