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Digital Skills

A new resource for Town Planners - Introducing the Digital Skills Portal

In this blog, we want to tell you about an exciting project involving a collaboration between the Royal Town Planning Institute and the Scottish Government. This project aims to provide a valuable resource to help new and existing planners reshape how they approach their work by hosting a space to share information, advice, guidance and case studies

How it started

To support the delivery of a digital skills development programme in 2023/24, the Scottish Government commissioned the RTPI to help develop the infrastructure needed

A key part of this work was to develop an Online Good Practice Portal that would showcase how digital technology and new ways of working could add value to the way planners work.

Giving planners confidence to embed digital approaches into their work, increase understanding, knowledge and skills to better use digital planning across the planning profession.

The approach to develop a Digital Skills Portal.

Supporting people to change their ways of working, particularly in a profession steeped in traditional practices and methods, would need an approach that involved the right people from the outset.

We went to market looking for a partner to support us in developing this work. We wanted a company that understood how to develop services with the users and would listen to them. Swansea-based company Perago were appointed.

Adopting a user-centred design approach to develop a platform to house content from various sources. The content would need to be presented in a consistent and easy-to-navigate package that resonated with its users and complemented and fit with the wider Scottish Government digital skills development programme.

What we've done so far…

Developed a User Testing Team.

From the outset, the Digital Skills portal has been shaped by the needs and preferences of real-life users  We engage with them weekly through a series of tasks, asking for questions and feedback on various aspects of the design of the portal. To date, we've asked for opinions on brand identity, design, sitemap, and navigation.

Thanks to the User Testing Team for some excellent feedback and insight that helped get us off to a great start.

Ways of working

We decided to deliver this project using Agile project management and have a good rhythm and routine of regular stand-ups and developing the service using 2-week 'sprints' to help make sure everyone is clear on what needs to be achieved. We're experimenting with tools like Slack, Mural and Trello to aid communication and manage tasks across the working groups, coupled with regular Teams meetings. It's been great to have representation from Pergo, Scottish Government and RTPI in the calls that allow us to raise any issues or ideas early and agree on what and when to engage our user testing group. We've also committed to accepting the feedback from the group as a core steer in developing the portal.

We're committed to working in the open from the outset.  We will share progress, feedback and insight through newsletters and blogging to keep you updated

Developed a brand identity.

We developed a new look and feel for the digital skills portal that aimed to look unique but also paid compliments to both organisations responsible for it. We designed a colour palette that adopted colours from both RTPI and the Scottish Government Digital Programme. Liam, Perago's designer, then built a custom logo. This simple 'house' icon used a pixelated feature to portray the digital nature of the site. We tested Liam's initial concepts with the User Testing Group. We incorporated their comments on both colour, accessibility and graphic design to form a final approved identity that really worked for our user panel.

Organising the content

The Scottish Government's digital skills development programme has comprehensive content. We have generated a 'site map' to provide a starting point for laying out the various components and content. You've probably guessed by now that we're about to say we have also tested this with our User Testing Group, who have once again provided a great perspective on wording layout to help us on to our next step…

Next Steps: Starting a wireframe

Now that we have a solid understanding of our brand, content map and layout, we've started developing a clickable wireframe/prototype to help us visualise and build templates and structures. We  will work closely with our User Testing Group so that we can make sure it follows a logical path in terms of content, works in terms of accessibility and delivers what users need; to enhance how they use digital in their daily lives.

We’ll blog again in a couple of weeks to show what our first few sprints have delivered. If you have any comments on any of this work or would like to get involved in our User Testing Group, please do let us know.

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