Sometimes you want us to improve bits of GovernorHub (of course you do)…. but what happens to those “feature requests”, as we call them – and why do some, not all, make the cut?
It’s time to shine a light, quite literally, on a member of the team we affectionately call ‘The Night Coder’.
GovernorHub users (can we call you fans?), please meet the enigmatic Kyle Selman.
Software developer Kyle is not dissimilar in many respects to Ortoo The Owl, our mascot – both can be quiet .. both prefer the absolute darkness of nightfall to carry out their key tasks, be that coding GovernorHub or hunting prey. Importantly, both Kyle and Ortoo are integral to GovernorHub.
We wanted to tell you the story of Kyle’s latest piece of work, My Hub – the new one-stop-shop-dashboard page for clerks on GovernorHub. But really, the story of My Hub is more than that – it’s the story of what happens to any feature request at GovernorHub. The story of the inner workings of GovernorHub.
We’re trying to remember exactly how the idea for My Hub came about …and it’s all a bit hazy to be honest…(we blame lockdown) but it’s likely to have been a mix of us chatting to clerks on the help desk and someone on the team having a lightbulb moment. Jo from GovernorHub has been asking Kyle all about it (whilst desperately trying to keep up!).
So Kyle, when did you first get asked to produce My Hub, a dashboard for clerks and what were you asked to do?
Well, James (GovernorHub founder and Kyle’s boss) sent me a document in July which basically summarised what the problem is, in this case – it’s a bit of a faff for clerks to move between their different boards on GovernorHub, and he also outlined some ideas for a solution.
So I take the problem, take James’ ideas for a solution – mess around and do things until we start hitting the problem points.
Ah, what’s a problem point Kyle?
A problem point is an issue that crops up. An example of a problem point for My Hub turned out to be posting one message to multiple noticeboards at once. It’s difficult – and we ran into a lot of issues.
So it’s like a sub-problem of the main problem?
Yes, that’s right – it’s hard to know what the right solution is until you’ve started addressing all of the problems.
So you never really know what the solution will be at the beginning?
We have a very basic outline. We know what we want it to look like – we wanted a list of upcoming events, we wanted a way for clerks to easily search through all of their groups or boards – and have quick access links to them.
So we have very basic plans, but the work around them and the little issues that crop up in between – that’s where the bulk of work is, the problem points. With My Hub at the moment, when you post a message to multiple groups, the message is repeated on the main Hub page for each group it is sent to. I would have liked to have it just display the message once. It’s a problem I spotted quite early on and would have been nice to resolve for the launch, but it wasn’t quite in the original scope and would take quite some time to get right, so we had to drop it.
There are a few things we had to drop – and a few things we had to add in because we didn’t think about them at the start. Essentially the revamped news feed is an example of this.
Ah yes – you revamped the news feed as part of My Hub?
(The news feed here is what you see when you first log into GovernorHub)
That’s right – the way we work in GovernorHub in particular, we work in six week cycles – with a two week cool-down period to fix bugs and look at other things. Before I started the work on My Hub, I had a few weeks of cool down and we’d been talking about the news page needing a revamp.
I realised the upcoming events feed – which is on the news feed – was something I’d need to add and update for My Hub too, so I started writing the new newsfeed page and the upcoming events in this period.
When I began work on My Hub, I brought over all of the work I’d already done on the news feed and finished it off together.
When did you ask clerks to start trialling My Hub?
We brought people in to trial it towards the end of the piece of work – some clerks and users spent about a month trying it out for us. It was essentially finished at this stage – but we used that testing period to see how people felt about it and we then made a few more changes following some of their suggestions.
What was the main feedback?
Well we ended up changing how we displayed upcoming events. Originally we showed events for the next 30 days but that was misleading as it looked like people had no events as their events were across a longer time frame.
First off I added filters, so people could set the time frame themselves – but that needed further work. We settled on showing the clerk their next five events, regardless of the time frame.
“The new “Hub” for Clerks looks really good – brilliant for Trust Governance Advisors too! Thanks”
“The first observation is I love the layout, everything filling the one page is great! I have 6 MAT schools so this is really useful.”
“I love the boards and groups page – found this very user friendly and liked the ease of going straight to the right link within the school from the group facility.”
We’ve had some quite good feedback so far but there’s a few things you still want to improve?
Yes there are definitely things to work on and expand upon.
The big thing that’s actually missing, which was part of the original plan, is the ability to ‘pin’ icons to your washing line (that’s what we call the line of hanging icons at the top of a GovernorHub page where you can switch between different boards or groups). We wanted to allow clerks to pin boards or groups in order of importance in the groups section of My Hub, which would in turn change how icons are displayed on their washing line.
We cut that bit purely because of time constraints but it will still happen.
This is how we work at GovernorHub, we like to get something working, get people using it and from there we can build on it.
What I’ve learnt while working at GovernorHub, as a non-techie, is that what might seem an easy change to implement, can be much harder than you think?
Yes that’s right and what I’ve learnt as a software developer is that what I consider to be something that looks good and is easy-to-use is wildly different to what the average person might think and I’ve been writing software for a good chunk of my life!
An example of this is icons, like the folder or video icon we have on GovernorHub. Certain icons aren’t always obvious to people and yet you can’t resolve it by adding lots more text to the screen as that can make it harder to use. It’s a real balance.
You have a reputation at GovernorHub of working through the night Kyle – how much of My Hub was coded at 3am?
….Hmmm I don’t know. I’d rather get the work done so I can get it off my mind.
A common issue amongst people who write code is that if you can’t find the right solution – you always have the problems whirring around in your head which is really frustrating. If you can’t think about anything else but the problem at hand, sometimes it’s a lot more useful just to get on with it.