Taking the opportunity to learn lessons

RAF website homepage

Every Armistice Day reminds me that another year has passed since we first started to work with the Royal Air Force in November 2015. Winning and running the Discovery phase for the main RAF website was a big deal in 2015 for a fledgling Lagom. It still is!

Because we mainly run Discovery phases we don’t always get the opportunity to stay involved beyond the handing over the Discovery report. And that’s ok. But sometimes we do get to hang on for the ride and see our early research and recommendations realised in a Live service.

After the RAF website Discovery we joined forces with Binary Vision and Helpful to progress through Alpha, then to a Beta, and onwards to Live.

A few months ago we were chuffed to be part of the winning consortium for Lagom to continue providing user research and content strategy support to the RAF Digital Team.

Personally I was delighted because working with the RAF to improve their website has given me some of my proudest and most satisfying professional moments.

Four years ago I spent many hours of my life auditing the then RAF website’s ‘evergreen’ content, page-by-page. There were over 10,000 pages back then. I learnt a lot about the RAF, and it helped me to come up with lots of ideas about how they could improve the website.

Our report really pushed them to introduce a model of structured content to better handle, relate, and present the site’s rich content. We demonstrated how recurring types of content like RAF stations (aka bases), or squadrons, or display teams could have their own custom content types and website templates.

And now it’s four years later and I’m reviewing the site again (with some help from the other Lagomers). The good news is we only have 500 pages to review because the project team only migrated content that met evidence-based, and prioritised user needs. That was another thrust of our recommendations!

By looking at every page of content you can really see what has worked, and more importantly, what hasn’t worked.

So far we’ve looked at all the RAF Stations and the 100+ Squadrons. The patterns are emerging and we can see where the outlier (but perfectly good) content breaks the structures we designed for it.

We’ve certainly built some square(ish) pegs for round holes.

Pleasingly, we’ve already started to feed those insights back to the wider team to iterate the content types and templates to work better for that content.

We’ve still got quite a few pages left to audit, but I’m grateful for the opportunity to revisit the site and learn how we can make it even better. Even if it means admitting we got some things wrong first-time round.

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