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https://digitalhealth.blog.gov.uk/2020/03/18/phe-talk-to-frank-live-assessment/

PHE Talk to Frank Live Assessment

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Assurance, Live, Service assessments

Text saying "Service Assessment" with DHSC approved brand colours

From: NHSX

Assessment date: 28th January 2020

Stage: Live

Result: Met

Service provider: PHE

Service description

Talk to Frank is a service that aims to reduce the harm caused by drugs by providing free, confidential information and advice.

1. Understand user needs

Decision

The team has met point 1 of the standard.

What the team has done well

  • The team has a good understanding of the different types of users, the scenarios in which they arrive at the service and the channels they use. For example, parents worried about their child usually calling on the phone.
  • They have classified different user types based on their information needs and what they come to the website to find. For example, considerers, safety seekers, concerned others, school project groups and stakeholders.
  • The team is using analytics data to understand patterns in when the website is being used most, journeys through the site and usage data for different types of users (including the online chat function).
  • In the usability testing, researchers started participants on Google to find out where else they are going for information and potential gaps in these sources e.g. finding trusted, reliable information.
  • Participants were recruited from groups who were both aware and unaware of the brand Frank.

What the team needs to explore

  • Keeping up to date with other channels users go to find information and surfacing content in these touchpoints instead of relying on users clicking on ‘frank’ website.
  • Making sure that the service works for everyone, not just people who are ‘tech savvy’. For example, more young people who maybe don’t have access to the internet by including these groups in the research.
  • Considering the need to remove/adapt certain features that are not being used by the intended audience. For example, the online chat function being available during daytime hours when the busiest times are later in the evening or keeping features being predominantly used by school students, when the aim of the site is to protect young people from harm. 
  • Explore how participants find the site who aren’t previously aware of the name ‘Frank’ including Google snippets and surfaced content.
  • It would be useful to map information needs to pieces of content on the site to show how these are being met.

2. Do ongoing user research

Decision

The team has met point 2 of the standard.

What the team has done well

  • The team has used a variety of research methods to capture insights from different user types. For example, usability testing, pop-up research in youth centres, analytics data, a feedback link on the website and reviewing data from the customer calls.
  • There were regular rounds of research and iterations throughout the project with different user groups.

What the team needs to explore

  • Where possible, continuing to conduct research in-context of where and when the website is being used (e.g. not limited to a lab).
  • Making sure there is a dedicated team to review the data on how the website is being used and can make changes to respond to these ongoing needs.
  • Having a plan for continuous usability testing and optimisation for the site beyond this specific project to keep it up to date and relevant for users. (To prevent needing another large refresh project in a few year’s time, for example).
  • An approach to regular research and testing that doesn’t rely on external suppliers.

3. Have a multidisciplinary team

Decision

The team has met point 3 of the Standard.

What the team has done well

  • The team had a multidisciplinary team of complementary roles.
  • Service owner and team came across as passionate and committed to making Talk to Frank better.
  • Team shared that colocation and stand-ups worked well.

What the team needs to explore

  • PHE senior management should have more trust and allow for more autonomy in the team who clearly know their service inside out and what is best for users.
  • PHE has invested in an agency to help build Talk to Frank. The agency is now on a “maintenance contract”. While this allows for iteration it does not meet the ideal of having a full team dedicated to improving the service with quick feedback loops day to day. We would recommend that PHE invests in Talk to Frank so they can maintain a more sustainable service.

4. Use agile methods

Decision

The team has met point 4 of the Standard.

What the team has done well

  •  Used all the agile, iterative and user-centred methods one would expect.

What the team needs to explore

  • Be more open and tell the world about what they have learned in reshaping Talk to Frank. The team have some blog posts but we encourage them to share more. Colleagues around the public sector could learn/reuse what they have done/created.

5. Iterate and improve frequently

Decision

The team has met point 5 of the Standard.

What the team has done well

  • The team showed evidence that they have iterated and improved the service.
  • The team was mature enough to look into areas of potential improvements and de-prioritise them if they deemed them not as valuable as first thought.
  • PHE has a team to keep the content and advice up to date (including panels to understand what slang words are being used by users).

What the team needs to explore

  • We would support making some of the data that Frank holds on treatment centres and drugs A-Z to be made more open moving forward.
  • If parts of the service are not valuable or are not working the team should iterate or get rid of them. For example, the web chat feature is only available between 2pm-6pm despite us knowing that peak times of using the service are late at night. We also heard the name of Talk to Frank is not as recognisable to younger audiences but no work planned to explore this area. There are constraints on the team which limit work but there appears plenty to iterate and improve that is not being invested in sufficiently.

6. Evaluate tools and systems

Decision

The team has met point 6 of the Standard.

What the team has done well

  • Adopted modern Continuous Integration practices and a proportionate tech stack, taking advantage of Public Health England’s shared platform

What the team needs to explore

  • If undertaking substantial work on the service in the future, consider migrating to a serverless architecture, to reduce the number of components that must be maintained and iterated

7. Understand security and privacy issues

Decision

The team has met point 7 of the Standard.

What the team has done well

  • Understood the main threats to security and privacy arising from the service.
  • Designed the service with separation of read and write functions making it easier to protect.
  • Used tooling keep on top of security updates.

What the team needs to explore

  • Ensuring that the service is fully maintained, even when there’s little or no feature work in progress.

8. Make all new source code open

Decision

The team has met point 8 of the Standard.

What the team has done well

  • Published the code for the service under an appropriate open source licence.
  • Adopted a workflow where changes are made in the open, maximising the value of the open code.

What the team needs to explore

  • Ideally the public and archivists would have access to all current and historic versions of content as this has all been produced using public money. Currently, historic content is locked away in the content management system. The National Archives may be able to help with this.

9. Use open standards and common platforms

Decision

The team has met point 9 of the Standard.

What the team has done well

  • The service runs on a shared Public Health England infrastructure platform on a public cloud provider.

What the team needs to explore

  • There may be potential to converge the tech and operations for this service with other Public Health England services, i.e. moving from operating on a shared infrastructure platform to a shared content/publishing platform, reducing duplication of effort in maintaining these services.

10. Test the end-to-end service

Decision

The team has met point 10 of the Standard.

What the team has done well

  • Tested the service with the major browsers on a regular basis.

What the team needs to explore

  • Reducing the risk of browser/device specific issues slipping through by introducing automated regular testing e.g. as part of the CI/CD pipeline or on a repeating schedule.

11. Make a plan for being offline

Decision

The team has met point 11 of the Standard.

What the team has done well

  • Assessed the impact of the site being offline for a period of time.

What the team needs to explore

  • Investigate and dry run signposting to other channels in the event that the site goes down or has to be taken down.

12. Make sure users succeed first time

Decision

The team has met point 12 of the standard.

What the team has done well

  • It’s clear that the team has made iterations to prototypes after testing with users, to make sure they can find what they need to easily. 
  • There is a function on the website collecting feedback from users on what they came to the site to find, and how easy it was to find this. 

What the team needs to explore

  • If possible, the team could capture analytics on how many people using the website went to click the contact number or live chat.
  • Analysing where people go to next after they have left the site. These could help to understand if the user found what they were looking for first time.

13. Make the user experience consistent with GOV.UK design patterns

Decision

The team has met point 13 of the Standard.

What the team has done well

  • It was identified in the research that users did not trust government-style websites so the site has purposely been designed not to look like a government website.
  • Where possible, the team has followed the standard by providing clear information that is easy to read and accessible. 
  • They have used simple interaction design patterns which makes it easy to browse on different devices.
  • The language has been adapted to meet the needs of users, using words that they typically would use, for example, specific terms for drugs.

What the team needs to explore

  • Approach for keeping up to date with relevant terminology that users use, as this is constantly changing. 

14. Encourage everyone to use the digital service

Decision

The team has met point 14 of the standard.

What the team has done well

  • The team recruited participants who were aware (and unaware) of the brand Frank, to make sure the research wasn’t limited to those who were familiar with the brand.

What the team needs to explore

  • The team mentioned most young people being tech savvy. It’d be good to include more participants who aren’t using the internet to see how they are finding information and making sure there is a way to give them honest, reliable information and protect them from harm.
  • The website is considered to be a separate part of the service and could be integrated better with the rest of the service.

15. Collect performance data

Decision

The team has met point 15 of the standard.

What the team has done well

  • The team is collecting data from analytics and a feedback link on the website.
  • The website has the highest traffic of drug information websites in the UK which is evidence that it is being used frequently.

What the team needs to explore

  • Monitor areas of the website to see if they are being used. E.g. news section
  • Make sure there’s a team who can act on this performance data should it highlight any problems. 
  • In this subject area, it’s difficult to measure the outcome of whether the website has performed as intended to and measuring the direct impact on protecting people from harm. The team could carry out research beyond the website about how people find information on drugs, whether they can find what they’re looking for and the impact that then has on them taking the drug.

16. Identify performance indicators

Decision

The team has met point 16 of the Standard.

What the team has done well

  • The team seems very competent in measuring performance and use it to make decisions.

What the team needs to explore

17. Report performance data on the Performance Platform

Decision

The team has met point 17 of the Standard.

What the team has done well

  • The team is investigating this.
  • It does share it’s performance with internal stakeholders on a routine basis.

18. Test with the minister

Decision

The team has met point 18 of the Standard.

What the team has done well

  • The team included senior management before going live.

Recommendations

  • Invest time in evaluating the outcomes that Talk to Frank wants to affect.
  • “Go where the users are” - we were interested about discussions around social media and other sites. If there is justifiable evidence then we recommend that the team experiment with interventions on other platforms (e.g. team knows 14 year olds go on youtube to watch videos about drugs then we should not rule out providing safe quality advice on other platforms).
  • We would support making some of the data that Frank holds on treatment centres and drugs A-Z to be made more open. There are similar registers already online.
  • Try get more funding for the service - PHE should understand that Frank provides an important public service and without appropriate funding will deteriorate in its relevance and value.
  • Ideally PHE would grow an internal multidisciplinary team that can continually improve the service. 
  • More varied and regular feedback loops - don’t be too reliant on google analytics and try use PHE user researchers to get other input on how the site is performing and what needs extra investment.
  • There was some repeated mentions that users are “tech savvy” - we trust the team knows more than us about their users but be conscious of other users that might not fit this profile and how the design of the service affects them.
  • If parts of the site aren’t meeting needs then iterate them or phase them out.
  • We heard about some of the bureaucratic steps needed for content to make it on the site. We also heard that policymakers are the main content creators for the site. We encourage those writing for the web get the relevant training and support to do so.
  • Look into more signposting to Frank from other sites - this might improve traffic but also makes the site more resilient if the site goes down (e.g. your telephone number and site is signposted to on relevant pages from NHS.UK).

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