Beatrice Lucy from Citizen Advice Bureau

Beatrice is the chief digital officer for the Citizen Advice Bureau and had plenty to say on digital design. The presentation opened with a live webpage which was the first thing that they built for staff.

The dashboard is live and displays the amount of people on the website currently, what people are searching for on the website, searches coming from google and what’s trending on the website.

They found this particularly helpful to have up in reception to remind staff why they do what they do.  It led to some really interesting thoughts on content design as many times we have people from services using technical or policy speak which doesn’t always reflect the language the public use. Having this tool would go some way to helping us convince service’s to release their grip on ‘council speak’ and engage with the public in the language they use and on their terms.

With almost 800 pages a year being added there was a big temptation to just keep adding pages as it’s harder to comprehend the size of a website as it’s not a book! In the same light it’s not difficult to end up with a page that runs close to 5,000 words, no one is going to scroll down to read it all!

The most interesting part was recognising that there were a number of user groups for the website:

  • The public
  • Their own employees
  • External organisations such as DWP

Although these users will complete different actions on the website they may come with a very different state of mind i.e. a debt collector is knocking on their door while they are on the phone to citizen advice or on their website.

They ensured everything was tested with users before going live and got staff involved by offering incentives to do tasks and be interviewed.

Ok so what now? Thought from Sophie Payne (Head of Customer Experience and Communications)

Let’s not fall in to the trap of producing content solely for our website, we need to recognise that users are on other platforms be they money saving websites or on whatsapp discussing pot holes, is there a way we can prompt them to interact with the council where they are?

We really need to develop a deeper understanding of our users so we can truly help them by understanding their needs i.e. is a digital solution the right solution? Perhaps if we can make the website easier to use, we can free up advisors to do more face to face or telephone calls if it’s required.

The key to developing understanding for the website is the research. The digital team used guerrilla marketing where they sat in CAB waiting rooms to talk to customers and got their own staff to test drive the website with incentives in exchange for 4 hrs of time a month. This was complemented by a number of online tools such as Crazy Egg, eye tracking and recording behaviours from the website itself.

Atos Global Accessibility Awareness Day

19th May 2016 Triton Square                                                             Mike Muriss


We were welcomed into the very smart ATOS offices. There were many people with various disabilities, representatives from different Government departments, the new Welsh Government and private companies who have a relationship with ATOS.

This was an extremely informative and interesting day. Some of the speakers I found inspirational. There was a really positive focus on how reaching the widest possible audience and employing a diverse range of staff should be viewed as making commercial sense instead of just complying with legislation.

Below are some summaries of key points made by some of the speakers.

WorldLine Epayment

The first presentation was an interesting presentation by Worldline e-payment solutions.

They told a story about the mother of a colleague who was going blind and was worried about being able to shop and pay for things in the future.

We were shown a picture of a card reader being used, and asked to identify issues for a blind person.

Issues identified:

1: Where is the card slot? This varies between types of reader.

2: If using contactless, you can’t see where to hold the card.

3: You can’t see the screen so don’t know what the amount is, or have any knowledge of where the payment process is.

  • They started with simple solution: they used a speaker to read out the amount to pay. This worked, but had obvious privacy implications.
  • Secondly, they added an audio jack so the customer could plug in headphones. This solved the confidentiality problem but the customer still had to somehow find where to plug in the jack.
  • Finally, they built an app for transmitting information to user’s smartphones. They set up the ability for the card reader to wirelessly communicate with the user’s phone, which would transmit verbal instructions, payment amounts etc.

They added 2 special icons on payment terminal in a specific place so can always be found.

  • The first is by default on the lower left of the screen, to enable the functionality.
  • They also created a second touch area on the right to select language.

A blind man in the audience asked why the functionality had to be turned on when accessibility aids should be enabled by default. They said this was because they were adding to existing solutions and if they were starting again it would be enabled by default.

It wasn’t clear to me how the problem of finding the terminal and actually using the card reader was solved.

Leena Haque: Neurodiversity and the BBC

The next presentation was Leena Haque & Sean Gilroy her line manager from the BBC finance department, presenting about Neurodiversity

Leena is autistic. She said they will be talking about a project called CAPE (Creating A Positive Environment) which aims to attract and retain neurodiverse talent in the workplace at the BBC.

Neurodiversity is an umbrella term for ASD, dyslexia, ADHD, dyspraxia etc. The aims of the CAPE project are to look at the positive attributes to these conditions.

The opposite term is neurotypical . They showed an image of cavemen challenging a dinosaur. Leena said that is what it is like to be neurodiverse in a neurotypical world. The neurodiverse one was the dinosaur.

Leena spoke about how much autistic people have to offer, although only 15% are currently employed. She talked about the struggle living on “Planet Neurodiverse”

Barriers: workplace design can cause fear and anxiety. Many UK workplaces don’t cater for the neurodiverse mind, for example the move to open plan working and hot desking.

They talked about changes to workplace design they have implemented in BBC Salford to make it more friendly to neurodiverse people. This doesn’t have to involve a lot of cost and can be just signposting where there may be issues, thinking about lighting etc.

Leena talked about recruitment and retention. She said the recruitment process is currently so unnecessarily complex and rigid that people on the autistic spectrum often just avoid it. In order to make the recruitment process fair to all, companies have created such a complex process that it is actually not inclusive. Panel interviews can be very difficult; Leena showed a film of Clint Eastwood in a showdown and said that was how interviews felt which meant you are not able to showcase what you can do and highlight your abilities.

Leena encouraged employers to actively seek neuorotypical people rather than wait for them to come along, as they have a huge amount to offer but might not be able to apply using usual routes.

They talked about accessible technology and the difficulties in enabling line managers to have an awareness of what is out there.

Leena said it is not about hidden disabilities it is about hidden talents. She said she would like the term disabled to be banned as she views someone in a wheelchair simply as somebody who moves differently, or someone who is blind or deaf as a person who processes information differently. She said that the term disabled labels people who just need a bit of support unnecessarily, and that in some ways, everyone on the planet was ‘disabled’. She was very inspirational.

Kiran Shah: Disability in the creative world

The next speaker was Kiran Shah; actor and stuntman. he talked about creativity. He applauded Leena for her comments about disability. He gave a very interesting talk about his career as a stunt man in the context of being disabled.

He said disabled actors used to always be in the background or played by able people, but more recently programs such as Silent Witness have been the ‘start of something good’.

Kevin Carey: Transforming braille

After a break, Kevin Carey, President of The Transforming Braille Group spoke. He started by talking about the history of braille. RNIB have been researching refreshable braille devices. The aim was to produce a refreshable braille display that would provide a cheap companion to the tablet and smart phone, providing blind people with the internet at their fingertips, not just in synthetic speech, and open up education for hundreds of thousands of blind children in developing countries.. He showed the Orbit reader which is capable of reading the internet and is £200, compared to previous £3,000 – £4,000 cost.

Kevin was asked if braille was likely to disappear with advances in technology of screen readers. He said a screen reader is fine for reading short segments of text but the thought of a whole novel being read to him by a synthetic voice would ‘drive him mad’.

Sean Smith HMRC: IT accessibility

Next up was Sean Smith from HMRC, talking about IT accessibility. He agreed with previous comments that the word disability is inappropriate and asked for suggestions for alternatives. He said this is an area that HMRC take very seriously, but that they can improve on. He talked about the public sector duty, but said they aim to be exemplar rather than just meeting the legal minimum.

They start from the perspective that everything should be accessible; accessibility should not be just another IT process rather than something bolted on at the end.

Research a few years ago found that the biggest issue disabled customers have is that they are frightened to use IT, so often they didn’t even get as far as using the system. They try to have as many channels as possible.

Lunch: virtual reality autism experience

At lunch there were various displays and demonstrations including the card payment system.

There was also an incredible virtual reality demonstration of a business meeting seen through the eyes of an autistic person (see below). I found this very enlightening and a little disturbing.


Neil Milliken: My Digital journey

Neil is the Head of accessibility and digital inclusion and a W3C invited expert for Cognitive accessibility

He talked about who people with disabilities are; friends, customers, families, but also consumers with spending power. Nearly 1 in 5 of the UK workforce will have a disability at some point in their life. It is therefore important to have inclusive user experiences that meet the needs of as many people as possible. He said the return on investment for accessibility is huge.

He spoke about AXSChat (access chat) on social media.

Neil has dyslexia and showed a demo of how text appears to dyslexic people. He said to keep language clear, left justify, don’t use cursive fonts; all basic things that should be second nature. He talked a lot about his own experiences which were interesting; difficulty with short term memory, linear thinking, forms, returning to tasks after being interrupted.

Neil spoke about user interfaces confounding him. Making things more beautiful, cleaner, can lead to real struggles with navigation. He said an important thing online is to make things obvious. He pointed out that this will help everyone, not just disabled people.

Neil stressed how neurodiverse people like Leena and him can add value to a workforce.

He showed an example of a really busy website, but also of the opposite problem where a site was so minimal it was difficult to see what to do.

The current trend for a lot of white space is problematic for people with dyslexia, as is high contrast, although these may be better for partially sighted people. The lesson is to give people the choice. Different things work for different people.

Susanna Laurin: WCAG is just the baseline

Susanna talked about how WCAG is ‘just a baseline’. She works for Funka, a Swedish company founded by Swedish disability organisations. She is on the Board of the International Association of Accessibility Professionals.

Susanna said she was here to talk about issues, so would not be as positive as the other speakers. She particularly spoke about WCAG 2.0 (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) and how problematic it could be. She believes that standards are key, but that WCAG is not enough. It is usually the case that a legal standard is seen as a goal rather than a minimum guideline. Currently there is much more work done in Sweden than Norway to make technology accessible, even though there has not been legislation in Sweden. She claimed that accessibility legislation can actually be counterproductive because people try to meet legislation instead of looking to find what works.

Some points Susanne made.

WCAG 2.0 issues

  • Very technical language. Not accessible in itself.
  • Very focussed on visual impairment; can ‘forget’ other issues.
  • Mobile, touch screen etc. not covered in depth so doesn’t reflect the reality of life.
  • Interaction isn’t covered in depth
  • Cognitive issues aren’t really covered.

Example of a WCAG 2.0 issue;

Guideline 1.1 says to use text alternatives to assist people with sight difficulties, but there is very little focus on users with other difficulties.

Text alternatives for graphics are fine, BUT there is no requirement for the opposite solution. 25% of users have problems reading & understanding text, but text is viewed as the baseline.

User reach when using visually interesting sites

Text only content is understood by 50-60% of users. Adding images and film can add another 30% of users to those that understand the message.

David Caldwell (Barclays Bank): personas

  • There is a perception that accessibility = screen readers the reality is far more complex.
  • There is a move towards user centred design / personas, so they developed personas with a disability.
  • Barclays developed personas via interviews, surveys, Wikipedia etc.
  • These have been used by many organisations; Sainsbury’s, ATOS, Lloyds.
  • The Barclays Personas have now been released under a creative commons licence so they can be used as people see fit.

The Personas are available to download below:

Accessibility Personas Issue 1 (PDF)

Diverse Personas Issue 1 (plain text)

Diverse Personas Issue 2 (PDF)

Diverse Personas Issue 2 (plain text)

Untangling a web of content

HQ Digital has an ambition (well, we have many ambitions), one of which is to redesign the Bucks CC website, starting with the top user needs.

This task will not be easy and it will take some time.  It requires careful planning and a lot of consideration.  After making a good start, we needed some help.

Where it began

Not long after I joined the Digital team at Bucks, I started looking at the website in its entirety.  Not only was I looking at the pages, the content and the structure, I looked into the analytics of the pages and typical user journeys.  It became clear that there were many areas which had room for improvement.

Not only is there a need to ensure the text and content on the pages is clear, it is also important that the look and feel of the web pages is meeting user needs.  This is when templates for web pages need to be carefully designed.  At the moment we have two templates for the whole website, which is not meeting requirements. We are therefore also in the process of several having templates designed, to meet the specific needs of a topic area or element of a page.

Tasks, not pages

Instead of picking areas at random to improve, as there are so many, we needed some way to sort content areas.  I established the tasks that a user was trying to achieve while looking at the website.

After looking at analytics from Google Analytics as well as SiteImprove, I was able to build up a picture of what the top tasks were for the website. I started by looking at the order of the top pages, and then grouped these into areas and tasks.  This required the use of a spreadsheet.   From approximately 250 webpages, I ended up with a stripped back list of 25 top tasks.

blog - Excel and GA

In order to work out a plan to redesign the top user needs on our website, we needed a little help.

Introducing… Sarah Richards

Sarah Richards

Sarah Richards

The HQ Digital Content Team gathered together on Monday with a purpose.  Matthew had invited Sarah Richards to spend the day with us.  Sarah previously product managed the GOV.UK style guide, and also led digital transformation at Citizens Advice.  To find out more about Sarah and read her blog visit

Sarah talked us through how best to approach this project.  We walked through the top 25 user tasks; starting with those we had deemed the least complex.  We considered whether or not a task would require a Discovery session, and how long we estimated a redesign on a section would take.

In the afternoon we went onto the more complex tasks.  These required more consideration, of what would need to be done differently in order to redesign these areas.

Our Plan


In a truly agile fashion, we were using sticky notes to document our tasks and findings.  Once we had each of the tasks on a sticky note, we put them down on paper, into a timeline.

The top row were small, bite sized areas which could be picked up at any possible time.

The second row were the big areas.  Often these would require a Discovery session, to find out more about user needs and service requirements.  These areas would take longer to do, and so had larger spaces between them.

The pink notes were items that we needed to go away and find out, or where we were relying on other tasks such as designs of new templates.

By the end of the day we had the beginnings of a six month plan in place.  The once seemingly mammoth task suddenly didn’t look quite so big.  It became achievable and it was doable.

What’s next?

We are going to be pretty busy for the next six months, making the website better.    We will be in touch with the services who will be involved with the first stages of this plan.

If you’d like to support us, we are looking for users to help us test the website.  You can sign up to test our digital services online.

We are committed to continual improvement of our website and intranet.  If you find any page that requires updating or improving, please click the ‘Is there anything wrong with this page?’ link at the end of the web page.

If you’d like to know more about what we’re up to, please do get in touch with the HQ Digital team,


Matthew Taylor Chief Executive of RSA

Matthew TaylorMatthew was a rather different speaker from the others that attended our Innovation Month of talks. Rather than coming from a business background accompanied by practical examples, here was sociologist steeped in governmental policy and theory. Needless to say it was a thought provoking and challenging talk that will take many of us some time to digest.

Matthew talked about some of the societal changes and world views that are surfacing all over England.

As a nation we have been happy to be governed but things are changing, there is a desire to be governed less and to take more control for ourselves but still not yet wanting to govern ourselves.

In addition there is a shift from the old world to the new world and the diversity of people and culture that’s brought as part of the global village.

Lastly there was an interesting application of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs where as a nation we have come to expect our basic needs to have been met but as an individualistic society we want to be creators of our own solutions.

This set the scene for a slightly different take on innovation, rather than smaller changes that can be quickly tested and implemented the challenge was for larger systemic change. He challenged us to look at change as a system and try to understand the equilibrium that keeps things together currently and develop reasonable theories of how things could be done better, always understanding that small changes will have cause and effects.

No mean task then! So where do we find these people that come up with ‘reasonable theories’? Are these people further up the evolution scale than us, with a mutant ability to see in the round? No because it’s not a top down approach we need, but a bottom up approach, we need people that have lived and breathed in a broken system to connect the dots. This means social workers, contact centre staff, carers, those working on the front line who understands the broken systems they work in and what holds them together.

The next step is to act like an entrepreneur so be dynamic, move quickly and embrace failure as part of the process. We need to test the theory quickly and measure the cause and effect it has when the equilibrium moves, we need to react to it so the system changes but doesn’t fail completely.

How do we build the right team to deliver this? Matthew cited the London Challenge team which has documented success in changing the quality of schooling in London and then laid out his own Coordination theory that ensures that the team has the right characteristics

  1. Hierarchal – believes in systems, leadership and strategy
  2. Solidarity – believes we should galvanise around a cause, having a common driver for change
  3. Individualism – wants to maximise the scope for people to do their own thing and come up with solutions that fit them best
  4. Fatalism –nothing we can do that will have a significant impact, ultimately we are governed by factors outside of our control


To develop innovation and change we need a leadership team of people that are strong on the characteristics above, particularly the first three with tan acceptance of the last. This type of leadership team combined with a team of people who have experience of working in the broken system should be able to develop insights and solutions along with a team to deliver that change!

Sounds simple doesn’t it! I like the theory but I suspect that human desire to find people just like themselves would ensure this isn’t a long term situation but a possible project team that can be created. In all it lends itself very well to AGILE working and how we select the right teams to deliver these projects, there probably are more thoughts I have but this blog post is long already and I will link you back to Matthew’s blog which outlines his theory


Managing Director of Commerce at o2 comes to visit

Robert Franks o2

Robert Franks Managing Director o2 Commerce

The fast talking director of o2 Commerce came to our offices this week to discuss how his team innovate.

He discussed key waves of innovation with the development of multiple tariffs and mobile phone packages to being the first UK provider to ‘gamble’ on the iPhone, something other providers did not think the public would pay for.

As a telecoms provider they have access to a wealth of customer data but as with all Big Data the challenge is how to develop insight and actual innovation from it.

It was pleasing to hear that they still use classic ethnography as well as Time and Motion studies to augment their data collection. Add this to the Social Media Intelligence they collect, then they are in a position to start to make assumptions and begin the innovation process.

On a side note the recruitment of ‘innovators’ seemed to be an under developed area, they had recruited an innovation team made up of sales people and business developers but there was no ‘silver bullet’ to find that elusive innovation gene! This has always interested me, how do we recognise those people that can look at data and draw workable/testable solutions to problems or unperceived needs? Perhaps for another blog!

The next step is to test those assumptions and Robert emphasised the importance of establishing a control group to validate experiments. What they also do is run a lot of tests/experiments at the same time, why? Because if you run 30 experiments a number will fail but with this amount of experiments one might be successful! By having so many experiments that will ultimately fail it sets the right tone across the organisation, failure is part of the innovation process.

I also like the language of experiment over test. Test implies pass or fail, win or loss but experiment is just that, ‘we’re trying something out’ it’s a process that will give us findings we can learn from.

Ultimately this process gives permission to fail but he does admit it’s a struggle to do!

I will leave you with the questions they ask all would be innovators

Real: Is there a genuine customer need for this?

Win: If we bring this to market will we be the best at this?

Worth it: Overall is this going to be profitable to the company

Seeing the world in a different way

In one year 3,283 patients died through preventable error, in England alone

1 in 10 patients suffer some form of unintended harm

1 in 300 hospital admissions will die as a direct result of error

(Data from Parliamentary enquiry into Patient Safety 2009 and DH/NAO publications 2005-2009)Martin Bromiley

Yes I know this is difficult to believe but these facts set the tone for Martin Bromileys presentation on seeing the world in a different way.

This was part of a series of talks for the Innovation Month the council has been running throughout May.

Martin explained how the death of his wife at the hands of caring, highly qualified and experienced medical professionals led him to eventually found the Clinical Human Factors Group.

Their raison d’etre is the investigation of accidents in healthcare, how they happen and why, but most importantly not the ‘who’

Challenges within the NHS

You are 33,000 times more likely to die from clinical error than an airplane crash

This is because the aviation industry has been able to embrace error and create a feedback loop that improves safety. This has inevitably led to a culture shift of accepting human error as a factor in accidents and learning from those errors to provide better and safer systems.

Embracing error is difficult in the NHS as it has a very hierarchal setup due to the high levels of technical skills to be senior within the organisation. This presents difficulty for those less senior to challenge and those who are senior, to accept error on their part.

Learnings for the Council

We need to be more open about failure, not the who but the how and why.

If there is a failing i.e. in social care or children services, don’t wait till we receive a complaint, an FOI or are being sued, investigate because we want to understand and learn from the failing

Help people with the language to challenge colleagues and those more senior. This act alone gives permission to do so.

In turn help those more senior to develop the skills to listen to challenge