Category Archives: My work

Recognition for the School Website Service

I am very pleased to hear that the New South Wales’ Department of Education and Training’s School Website Service won the Federal eGovernment Award for Online Service Delivery.

It is recognition of a lot of hard work by a lot of people (one of which for a period of time was me).

The award was hot on the heals of them announcing that over 1,000 schools in New South Wales are voluntarily using (and paying for) the service. This is a phenomenal achievement for all involved.

My involvement was leading the research to inform the initial design of the School Website Service, and then leading the subsequent design effort. My day-to-day engagement with the project has long since withered, but I am very chuffed for the recognition that Faruk Avdi, James Hunter and others in the team are now getting.

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Another day, another 30 sites

Glenquarry Public School | Home (20090611) Laurieton Public School | Home (20090611)

Having worked as a consultant for most of my career, I haven’t been on the ground in an organisation to see products/services launch very often. Obviously this can be a good and bad thing – and is one of the benefits/frustrations of the consulting life. But that’s not the subject of today’s post, so I’ll leave that for another day.

But fortune has it that I’m back working at the NSW Department of Education and Training just in time to see the project that took up all of my 2008 launch.

The School Website Service launched a couple of weeks ago and is available to all public schools in NSW. The service enables schools to create and maintain their own school website using an easy-to-use editing and management environment that is more ATM than the usual content management system cockpit.

It is an optional service and so far over 200 schools have gone live using the service, at a rate of around 30 sites per day. Of which Laurieton Public School and Glenquarry Public School are my personal favourites.

What’s most satisfying is that two weeks into the project zero issues have been reported to do with the usability of the service. A testament to the project’s user centred design process and extensive efforts and dedication of those involved in the project.

It is great to seewhat the schools are using the service for. Seeing schools quickly and easily publishing fairly inane features on things such as volcano sculptures even brought a tear to this cynical farts eyes!

The service is only available under limited release at the moment, but once the schools have access to the full range of tools we’ve designed, these sites are going to go off in all sorts of wonderful and crazy directions. I am looking forward to keeping an eye on these sites.

Iterative design alone can’t save us!

This was the subject of my slightly controversial presentation of this year’s OZ-IA conference. My talk wasn’t against iterative design, but definitely in favour of early stage contextual research to fully understand the user landscape in which you’re creating a solution for.

I am sure I’ll blog around many of the topics from the presentation in the coming weeks, but in the meantime my slides can be found at http://www.slideshare.net/iain.barker/context-is-everything-from-ozia-2008-presentation.

There is also a streaming video of the presentation. The visual quality isn’t the greatest (I’m the dot on the stage). But the mixture of slideshare and the video will make it like you were there yourself!

Video can be found at http://www.ustream.tv/channel/oz-ia2008 – you’ll have to dig around a bit, I can’t give a direct URL, but I’m far the right of the second row of videos.

True Local auto-suggest

I’ve recently been doing some work on the business listings site True Local. The site has just launched an auto-suggest feature for keywords and business listings.

To me this seems like a good way of funnelling users to information the site actually has – and thus reducing the chances of zero results. Obviously it is as reliant on the effective use of synonyms as any search engine, but I’m surprised that few (if any) other business listings sites seem to use this technology.

Are True Local innovating or are they (and I!) missing out on some logical reason for not doing this?