There’s an army of volunteers across the UK encouraging people and businesses get online. I was delighted to help create the site where they meet and swap notes
Go ON UK is a charity founded by Baroness Martha Lane Fox to get the UK online. One in five adults lack basic digital skills, around 10 million people across the country. It’s bad for them and the UK as a whole.
The then CEO Graham Walker had a plan to fix this. At its heart was an ‘online marketplace’ where anyone interested in joining the push could meet and work together, sharing tips and useful resources.
Digitalskills.com was born. I was hired as a product manager to get the site to public beta and a launch in Newcastle only a few short months away.
When I joined, Go ON UK had already talked to potential users and identified three main needs. Users wanted links to the best resources, a place to get answers to questions and a map showing activity near them.
With those basic needs in mind, I set about finding an agency who could deliver something quickly on a limited budget. Because time was pressing, we looked at off the shelf systems like WordPress and Drupal.
After a speedy but robust selection process, we went for Southampton based Carswell Gould. They were great with Drupal, could handle all the design work in house and were keen to work in an agile way.
Putting users first
I wanted to get a prototype ‘alpha’ version in front of actual users ASAP to make sure we were on the right lines. After a busy few weeks it was ready and I boarded a plane to Newcastle for a intensive day of user research.
I talked to people of all ages and skill levels and, happily, they loved what we’d done. The only thing they didn’t warm to was the red and black colour of the site and that was easily fixed. So we pressed on with the beta version, safe in the knowledge that we were on course.
This is one of the huge benefits of agile. We were able to get feedback early on and that made the site we eventually launched so much better.
We wanted to keep on tweaking up to and after the launch, so planned the development work to get the most for our money. I flew up to Newcastle again to show the beta version and we made more changes based on user feedback.
The week before launch was hectic, but we got there. And users took to digitalskills.com straight away.
Award winning… almost
I’m not in this business for awards, but it’s always great to be nominated. Digitalskills.com was shortlisted for the Good Web Guide site of the year against tough competition.
The site continued to develop after I left Go ON UK. It now includes Groups functionality which was suggested in one of the user research sessions I ran. Over 50 groups are on board now – amazing work from a great team.
How I can help you
- Discovering what your users really need
- Product management of your projects
- Selecting the right agency for you and managing their work