29 May 2017
Salsa Digital

Victorian Budget website

Last year Salsa Digital created a new, interactive website for the release of the 2016/2017 Victorian Budget. Working with the Department of Premier Cabinet (DPC) and the Department of Treasury and Finance (DTF), we converted the site from an outdated, PDF-based experience to a new website with an interactive map overlay. You can view our case study for more information.

This year Salsa was engaged to develop enhancements for the 2017/2018 Budget website. The improvements were largely based on user feedback, demonstrating the DPC’s and DTF’s commitment to creating a user-friendly site driven by citizens’ needs.

New features

Most of the enhancements for the 2017/2018 Budget focused on creating a better user experience for the Budget map. Some of the additional features in this interactive map include:

  • Ability to toggle between this year’s and last year’s projects (displayed as two tabs at the top)
  • Ability to display projects spanning multiple locations
  • Ability to show suburb-based projects
  • A new town/suburb map filter
  • User location detection to pre-fill the town/suburb filter
  • Autocomplete suburb/postcode to the homepage and map
  • Revised map design that incorporated feedback from user research/testing
  • Inclusion of a region map to highlight key regions in Victoria, with linked pages for each area

In addition to these map enhancements we also updated the search feature, allowing users to filter by content type and Council, and enhanced search results to show the content type with each result.

Another key upgrade was linking pages to the Victorian Government’s priorities, including the priority colour in the header to create an easy-to-see visual link.

Finally, we also implemented several visual design improvements, including: reducing the white space, updating the headings (header size was reduced) and updating the style to include priorities.

Addressing our client’s pain points

Many of the above enhancements were implemented to address ‘pain points’. As always, Salsa Digital started with the pain points and then worked out solutions with our client to address the issues and improve the overall user experience.

For example, in the map it was difficult to discover all the content if there were multiple projects mapped to a single location. The solution was simple: offset the pins slightly so that if multiple projects existed for the same suburb or latitude/longitude, all projects were clearly visible.

In general, the map enhancements refined the experience and addressed any pain points. Features such as the town/suburb filter, the locate me button, labelling fields for increased usability, and a clearer connection between map pins and the side bar added value to the map feature.

Project data was another pain point for DPC. While there is still ongoing work with datasets (currently out of Salsa Digital’s control) we provided support working with the DPC to eliminate data issues caused by manual handling.

Delivering in agile

Agile methodology provides many advantages and is a great way to go in government (see our blog on agile delivery in government).

Budget enhancements were delivered using Salsa Digital's mature agile software development methodology:

  • One-week discovery phase to put together a backlog of requirements in the form of user stories with measurable and validated acceptance criteria.
  • During discovery user stories were groomed and requirements and solutions evolved through the collaborative effort of cross-functioning teams.
  • User stories were then prioritised and allocated to build sprints as part of our sprint-planning exercise.
  • The build phase was made up of two two-week sprints, which included delivering requirements that followed a workflow of development covering: code review, quality assurance testing, user acceptance testing (by client) and finally release.

From SaaS to PaaS

One of the other changes we needed to make to the 2017/2018 Budget website was to bring it from a SaaS (Software as a Service) environment to a PaaS (Platform as a Service) environment so that we had control over the platform to make all the changes. SaaS provides a managed platform so clients can focus on content, whereas PaaS is a dedicated cloud environment that allows for complete customisation. Bringing the site from SaaS to PaaS was a collaborative exercise between Salsa Digital and the Department of Finance (DoF).

Now that the site’s live and we’ve finished some additional enhancements, we’ll be working with DPC and DoF to move the site back to the SaaS platform. This will hand the site back over to DoF and removes the burden of DPC managing its own software, licensing, security and infrastructure.

Going live

Going live with any site (let alone such an important site that needs to go live at an exact time to coincide with a government announcement) is always exciting...and nerve-wracking! For the Budget website, we organised stand-by support with DoF and Acquia, so we had all the necessary support lined up to ensure the site went live with the Treasurer’s announcement. The launch was smooth, with the site going live on time.

Open data and the Budget website

Open data is big news in government and the IT industry in general. (See some of our blogs on open data, Data 61, DataVic policy and CKAN.) The 2017/2018 Budget site sources data from data.vic and uses govCMS modules that integrate with CKAN to manage and publish the data. A data-intensive site, it’s a great example of bringing multiple datasets together to provide useful information to the end user — in a visually appealing and easy-to-understand manner.

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