I am writing a blog post every day from December 1st to December 24th, 2021, about a blogger whose writing or site I follow. My aim for this series is to help you discover new blogs and to help get the word out about content creators whose blogs I appreciate. You can read more about this series in the inaugural Day 1 post.
UK Government Digital Services Blog
I have lost track of the number of times I have spoken about the UK Government Digital Services (GDS) blog. The GDS is part of the Cabinet Office in the UK Government, tasked with building digital experiences for the government. The department works on gov.uk, the website through which the government conducts many essential online activities, from sharing press releases to documenting tax guidance.
I have come to associate the GDS with best-in-class knowledge and documentation on accessibility. I have read a few articles on their blog about accessibility and every time I learn something new. In one of their most recent posts, I learned about how the GDS added a "show password" feature to their site. It turns out this was not as easy as you may think. There were many accessibility considerations when making such a change to ensure the privacy of those using screen readers were protected. This is the sort of thing that I learn when I read the GDS blog. On that note, there is a great talk by a member of the GDS department that covers accessibility with form buttons that I would highly recommend.
The GDS is uniquely positioned to comment on accessibility in practice because there are strict guidelines around accessibility in government. I appreciate how the GDS not only documents what they have learned (and often what didn't work), but they share it with the world. This knowledge can then help other developers build user experiences to the standard that they have set. Getting accessibility right in particular is difficult but the GDS sets a great example about how you can build an accessible and functional site for a critical service.
The GDS often document how they work, too. I have only scratched the surface on these posts as there are many to read. The most recent post I read was about how the GDS built a Slack bot to remind them when documentation may need to be revisited. This bot helped them ensure that their documentation did not go stale as time passed. It got me thinking about how I could use a similar system to remind me to revisit old projects every now and again. In another post from this year, GDS documented their principles in a "what's next" post, outlining how technology helps serve the needs of the UK government. This sort of visibility gives a great insight into what matters to GDS and sets a good precedent for considering what principles matter most for your site, whether you are building a blog, a personal portfolio, a business site, or something else.
The GDS website itself has been well designed from many aspects. All content is easy to read and is clear. Navigation across the site is simple. There are no extraneous features that make it difficult to focus on the main content of the web page. There are skip links and appropriate focus and hover changes for accessibility. I'm sure there are many features on this site that I don't even know about but that help other people read and interact with the site.
If you are looking for a few posts to start reading, I would recommend:
- Why we use a ‘docs as code’ approach for technical documentation
- It's ok to say what's ok
- Say the dot
- Keeping tech docs up to date with Daniel the Manual Spaniel
That's it for this blog post. I shall see you tomorrow for the third-from-last post in this series!
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