Hampshire Hub – a responsive approach

In my previous post, I explained that the emerging Hampshire Hub local information system is based on the ‘thinking aloud’ prototype you may have seen previously.

We are developing the interim hub using WordPress, which we intend to stick with until we have procured* the strategic hub platform. The strategic hub will have various bells & whistles for doing neat stuff with data. It’ll also have an Application Programming Interface (API), enabling developers to create apps using data and other content the Hampshire Hub Partnership makes available.

There have been lots of changes to the Hampshire Hub recently, and for the rest of this post I’m going to talk about some of the current features, and the approach we’re taking to future development. By the way, at some point soon, this site will become http://hampshirehub.net (which currently redirects to the site you are currently looking at).

Current features

Search Hampshire’s public web sites

Search Hampshire's public web sites (click to run full screen)

Search Hampshire’s public web sites (click to run full screen)

This custom search – embedded in the front page of the site – searches across all Hampshire’s local authority web sites, and displays results in a tabbed form.

We’re experimenting with ‘promoting’ some results to highlight web pages and sites we believe are good matches to key words searched for. It’s a bit like advertising, except that no one gets any money because you clicked a promoted link.

Example of a 'promoted' link

Example of a ‘promoted’ link

There is also a facility to Search non-Hampshire sites which we could include if you tell us that would be useful.

We’d really welcome your comments on usability, accuracy, and presentation for both searches; and, of course, any preference you might have for including or excluding the non-Hants search

Search Hampshire Hub

This dynamic search is for finding content within the Hampshire Hub web site. The search bar appears on the top-right of all pages and posts within the site. It should start suggesting content as soon as you have started typing a few characters.

Again, we’d welcome your comments on accuracy, speed, and presentation. (N.B. it doesn’t yet find specific data sets, but we are working on that).

Data

Data

Data on Hampshire Hub

We have started making data pack data available as open data on the Data page, currently at District and Lower Super Output Area (LSOA) level for the Hampshire geographic area. We will be adding more, and anticipate the next major batch to be Ward and Parish level for the county area, by the end of September.

There will be more to follow after that (including other geographies). We are also experimenting with different ways to group and present the data on the interim hub. (N.B. the strategic hub will contain a variety of tools which we won’t be able to emulate in the interim hub, but we will do the best we can with the tools currently available).

Maps

Maps

Maps on Hampshire Hub

The maps page currently contains thumbnail images which – once clicked – launches an interactive map in a full window. There are half a dozen of them so far, and we will be adding more in the coming weeks (probably administrative boundaries and OS Openspace postcode finder).

We are trying different types of web map, and would be very interested to hear if you prefer one type over another.

We also intend to include a static map gallery with maps available as images (JPEG) and documents (PDF). If there is a map you would particularly like included, please let us know and we will prioritise it if possible (but please note we have to respect licensing rules, and we have limited resources!)

Area Profiles

Area Profiles

Area Profiles on Hampshire Hub

We have made a first attempt at providing area profiles at Hampshire district and city level. At the moment we’re using a combination of methods to embed or preview existing content on a web page, for each district or city.

In the medium term we will be able to do much more in this area and are working closely with the DCLG and other partners to consume data directly from linked open data sources, such as Open Data Communities.

We intend to re-use functionality like the Local Authority Dashboard (tailored for Hampshire Hub users). For now, we would particularly welcome feedback from partners on their own areas, as we may well not yet be using the best or most current sources of local information.  We also welcome any suggestions on what other information should be included.

Collaboration

We are looking at tools we can use in the short term to help the Hub partners collaborate with each other. There are also great opportunities for us to collaborate with businesses, voluntary groups are the public. We really welcome suggestions on how best to go about this.

There is a mini-poll on the Collaboration page if you would like to suggest which – if any – tools you prefer. We also really welcome volunteers from partner organisations to work as part of a small team looking at this area in a bit more detail (Google Hangout anyone?).

Responsive Theme

Screenshot from post viewed on an iPhone

Screenshot from a post viewed on an iPhone

We have used a ‘responsive‘ theme for the site. This means that the site attempts to adapt according to the browser / screen size being used to access it.

In our testing so far, we have found that reading news items, web pages and blog posts on a variety of devices – including smartphones – is quite possible, as shown in the example screenshot.

There are obvious limitations – we don’t anticipate many people will want to download and manipulate data on mobile ‘phones, and embedded documents don’t display very well on small screens, but we are trying to recognise that the way people choose to access the web is changing.

We may tailor what is displayed by default on mobiles and would love to know if you have any views about this.

Old browsers

In theory the theme supports Internet Explorer 7 and above, but a modern browser is strongly recommended (IE9, recent versions of Chrome, Firefox & Safari should all be fine). Please let us know how you find moving around the site – we will try and address any usability issues if you let us know what they are.

General Feedback

Please let us know what you think about the site – good or bad. If it’s bad, we’ll try to fix it. If it’s good, we’ll be delighted. Once it’s good enough to go live, we intend continue to make improvements and add content, so the site will by no means be static until the strategic platform is ready.

Unless we receive feedback telling us otherwise, we think we are nearly at the point we could make the site ‘live’. Our current thinking is that this could be at the end of September. If you do have views about this, please let us know.

In our next couple of posts, we’ll talk in a bit more detail about what we’re doing with data and maps.

Notes

  • ‘bought’, or possibly ‘subscribed to’ – more on that to follow in a future post

About markbraggins

I’m interested in lots of things, in no particular order: society, politics, public services, open data, technology (and what you can do with it), wildlife, photography, the countryside, and long distance walking.
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