Caseworking meetup notes, design system uptake, writing is hard, soft skills are hard

Caseworking meetup, agile programming for families, design system humble brag, article updates and soft skills.

Cross-government caseworking meetup

On Wednesday, I went to the third cross-government caseworking meetup run by Chris Taylor. I went to the first one a couple years ago, but unfortunately missed the second one.

There were 3 workshops in the morning and an unconference in the afternoon. It was great and I had a lot of fun. The workshops got me thinking lots and I met a lot of nice people.

In one of the workshops we split off into small groups and within 5-10 mins we had to write some principles for designing case working systems.

Here’s what my group came up with:

  • Repeat users first but remember first-time users too
  • Start with existing (GOV.UK) patterns
  • One thing per page can still work
  • Structured data first
  • Accessible technology still matters

While I’m sure the principles can be honed, they’re quite useful and practical for case working systems.

Amy wrote a thread about some of the things she learned from the day which resonates with me too.

Agile families

When our first born, Danny, was about a year old, I stumbled on a Ted Talk about agile programming for families by Bruce Feiler.

Now Danny is 5, and now Tali, almost 2—with all the manic in our home, we’ve decided to try it out.

We’ve done one “sprint” including a family meeting at the end (the retro). And I can definitely say that we’ve all got a lot out of it.

Talking on a regular basis, listening to what people feel and rewarding good behaviour. Turns out this stuff is good for us. Maybe we should do this at work :).

I’ve started reading Bruce Feiler’s book, The Secret to Happy Families on the subject. And David Starr’s white paper is a great free, to the point alternative.

Several departments are using the HMCTS Design System

A number of different people across departments have told me they have been using the HMCTS Design System to prototype and design their services to varying degrees:

  • Some install HMCTS Frontend directly
  • Some copy the components into their own project
  • Some reskin the components which is what NHS do

I just want to remember how bloody cool this is and that’s all I have to say about that.

Writing about graceful degradation has been hard work

Amy and I have been pair writing an article on graceful degradation. It’s been really really really hard work.

I’m trying to make it clear what the difference between graceful degradation and progressive enhancement. Specifically without saying “graceful degradation is x and progressive is the opposite of x”.

That’s because they are not really opposites at all. They are different things that help us create interfaces that work for everyone, no matter their choice of browser.

While it’s been really hard going, it’s also been really good for me. Amy’s taught me indirectly that it’s totally okay to sweat this stuff. To take your time. To rethink your position, again and again.

Soft skills are bloody hard

I’ve been thinking about soft skills and hard skills recently. Triggered by watching talented, friendly people run the sessions at the case working meetup.

While we need hard skills to design screens and build software, it’s the soft skills that get the best out of everyone and make sure the right thing gets built.

And that’s bloody hard work, at least for me. It’s constant effort because everyone is different. Every team is different. And every day is different.

I’m in awe of people who do this constantly, making your team work better and making it look easy in the process.