Tom Ward by Tom Ward

Week 222 - Basement dwellers

Mention the Open University and you might think of a few things. You might think of kipper ties and beards, Milton Keynes, or maybe one of the the 500+ courses they offer. Hopefully soon you’ll also think of Futurelearn, the company they’ve started to create the first ‘UK-led, multi-university platform for free, open, online courses’ - the company we started working with this week.

Starting a new project is always hard work, even when the team seem as friendly and nice as at Futurelearn. It takes time to get a good grip on things. There are people to meet, documents to read and a lot of other people’s thinking to absorb. In this project a lot of big ideas have already been mooted, and there are some grand plans. Our challenge is to cut-down and simplify these into small, manageable stories. We need to show that we’re reducing scope not because we want to do less - in fact the truth is opposite. Breaking large ideas into small, value-giving stories gives us the best chance of delivering the best possible product.

As James Adam is away on holiday somewhere with none of the life and buzz of London, it has been just James Mead, Chris and myself working on Futurelearn so far. Each day two of us have been travelling down to an Open University building in Camden, where the Futurelearn delivery team are housed in a basement. I think we’ve quickly shown that we like to question assumptions, but I hope we’re being seen as constructive not awkward.

gov.uk wins design of the year

Last week I congratulated GDS for gov.uk winning Digital Design of the Year. This week they went one better, winning the overall prize! I asked Ben Terrett for a list of those who’d worked on the design, but even whilst asking I realised it was an impossible task, there are too many. Everyone who worked on the project will have had some impact on the way it feels, reads and acts (even Go Free Range!). Jamie Arnold has a list of 144 people who contributed to the ‘smell of GOV.UK’, but even that list won’t include everyone. It won’t include all the people who gave feedback, be they members of the public or people in other parts of government. It won’t include everyone who has refined and advocated the agile way of building software without which gov.uk wouldn’t exist. And it won’t include all those who care about a responsive, accessible open web - ideals gov.uk is built on. This is a win for all of these people.

Until next time,

Tom

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