Case Study

GovWatch Ltd

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Project Overview

The core objective of GovWatch was to measure the progress of government policy, and display it in a simple and accessible way.

GovWatch Homepage Screenshot

Key Challenges

Screenshot of GovWatch Content Management System

Size and Scalability

In order to measure and compare government policy, the website needed to handle thousands of individual policies, each of which had a separate description, quote, criteria, and multiple update notes.

The policies would also need to be able to be created, edited, and deleted on demand, without developer support.

To achieve this, we utilised the Umbraco content management system, with the site now boasting over a thousand individual pages all controlled by the GovWatch team. 

Screenshot of GovWatch Overview Page

Data Storage and Processing

Perhaps the largest challenge of the entire project was knowing how best to store the government and policy data, whilst also generating the needed statistics in an efficient way.

Although relatively easy to get working on a per-user basis, in order to maximise efficiency we settled on processing the data only once a day, and then storing it in a cache, to be accessed much faster by anyone viewing the site.

This kept server resources needed minimal, improved user load-times, and means the site can handle many more simultaneous requests than it could with the other design.

Screenshot of GovWatch website on mobile and desktop

Mobile Responsiveness

The GovWatch website, unlike most websites, does not focus on text-based content, and instead has a lot of visual data, such as charts, timelines, and category displays. This can easily be displayed on desktop, where there is a lot more room to work with, but possed a considerable challenge on mobile devices.

This was solved with some clever design solutions, which has made the data displayed on some pages change quite considerably depending on what device is used to view it. For example, rather than using a horizontal timeline that would be hard to see on smaller screens, for mobile, the entire timeline is flipped vertically, all using CSS styling.

Step by Step

Screenshot of early GovWatch design

Discovery & Design

The discovery phase of the GovWatch project largely began with defining the key goals of the project, and during this phase numerous features and possibilities were discussed for the website.

In order to begin solidifying this core concept, the next step was to begin prototyping these features in the simplest way possible - by using pictures.

As part of this step, we worked with an independent designer, Pete Borlace, to create the branding, colour scheme, and to consult on the various layout designs.

Image of comparing two solutions for GovWatch

Refining the Design

After creating the initial designs, the next step for us was to break the suggested pages and features down into individual tasks, and estimate the amount of time they would all take to create.

This step is crucial to helping us work within a client's budget, and as part of this phase, working with the GovWatch team, we went through all the proposed features to see what was actually required for the release of the project, and what could be added afterwards.

One of the biggest innovations in this particular project was changing the on-demand nature of the data to being calculated once per day, massively reducing the usage of server resources, and making the site run much faster.

Screenshot of GovWatch git repository

Development, Testing & Review

As GovWatch was a particularly large project (requiring over 1000+ pages), development took many months, but importantly, we had a private dev and staging version of the website created within 14 days of development.

This meant the GovWatch team were able to see and test pages and features in private, as soon as we were creating them. As a bonus, this meant not only were we testing the features as developers, but that we were getting near instant feedback directly from the client, which helped us adapt our work to better suit their requirements.

Because of this, everyone had a clear understanding of the project's progress, and it helped us make a better end product.

Screenshot of GovWatch homepage

Website Launch

The launch process began once all the features required for a minimum viable product were finished, and the GovWatch team had finished populating the website with content.

Although we had been testing features as we had been creating them, we rigorous tested the full website, and then fixed any remaining issues found. After both we and the client were happy, the GovWatch website went live - happily without any bugs!

However, our work was not finished, as we then supported the website by ensure the SEO was being used correctly, and helping provide advice and support with Google Analytics and Google's Search Console.  

Screenshot of GovWatch Beta launch article

Maintain & Upgrade

Since the successful launch of the GovWatch site, we have continued to provide minor fixes and changes to the site, as well as helped advise on the best usage of the Umbraco CMS system.

There are also plenty of potential larger upgrades and changes that are on the list too, which can all be created without affecting the live site until the GovWatch team are happy for us to deploy them. 

Project Summary

A Successful Launch

From the very start, the GovWatch website posed significant challenges, both in terms of initial design, and then development. It is without doubt a complex mix of both back-end and front-end challenges, all of which we had to overcome.

It simply would not have been possible without a custom built, CMS-enabled website.

However, regardless of the challenges, a minimum viable product was launched into Beta in June 2022.

Since then we have continued to support and maintain the GovWatch website, with there being many potential plans for further expansion currently in the works.

Please take a look at the live site! https://www.govwatch.uk

Technology's We Used

Back-End Technologies

Front-End Technologies

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