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Case study

Communicating the Maternity & Early Years Strategy for West Wales

We helped three local authorities in West Wales to align on a shared strategy for Maternity & Early Years service provision in their region, and communicate it via a simple, user-friendly website.

Illustration showing children and parents in a school setting

Who wants to read a strategy?

I don’t have the stats in front of me, but I’d wager service strategy documents are rarely read by midwives, health visitors or nursery staff.

And who can blame them? These documents often combine corporate jargon with vague platitudes and offer little in terms of substance or inspiration.

And yet staff and stakeholders are deeply affected by the strategy for their service. They need to understand it and what it means for their work. And they should be able to query it, contribute to it and even change it when necessary.

But first they have to read it.

So how do you provide a strategy that’s actually useful to staff and stakeholders, that answers their questions, and that’s convenient for them to refer to?

This was the challenge Early Years managers in Carmarthenshire, Pembrokeshire and Ceredigion asked us to help them with.

Approach

Starting with user needs

We are primarily digital product designers. So we decided to think of this strategy as a digital product – a thing on the internet that helps people achieve their goals in a way that helps our clients achieve their goals. 

As usual, we began with users. Who ought to engage with this strategy? In what situations might they do that? How much time might they have? What might they hope to get from it? 

Alas, we didn’t have a budget for discovery research in this project because it wasn’t really conceived that way, so we had to rely on the experience of our client teams to generate some assumptive personas and needs in a workshop. But it was enough to get started.

We ran a workshop to capture what the organisation wanted to achieve by publishing the strategy, and what users/reader would need from it.

A responsive website felt like the right solution. Something that could be easily found through a Google search, then browsed on a smartphone in a parked car, or at a desk in the office. Something with content in chunks designed to address the specific user-needs we identified in our workshop. And something fully accessible – unlike a classic PDF.

We also resolved to be brutal with our copy editing. Time-poor users want clear, concise, jargon-free content that can be easily scanned, shared and returned to.

Designing a solution

In terms of raw materials, we had a draft strategy document our clients has written,  some data on outcomes and indicators, and policy documents from Welsh Government and elsewhere that related to Early Years services.

We quickly began an iterative drafting process. Giles Turnbull our content designer worked closely with Dr. Patricia Lucas our subject matter expert to draft a series of content chunks aligned to a sketched information architecture.

This process quickly highlighted gaps we needed to fill in order to meet user needs. For example, we decided we needed a ‘What the strategy means for me” page for each of the main user groups of the site – frontline staff, managers, families and children, and regional partners.

So we work-shopped new content with our stakeholders and settled on a simple strategy with 5 key themes.

  1. Integrate our services
  2. Take a person-centred approach to service design
  3. Develop technology infrastructure and systems to enable collaboration
  4. Develop our workforce
  5. Provide accessible information

We were rightly challenged to clarify our thinking and played an active role in the development of the strategy.

Noeline Thomas, Early Years and Prevention Service Manager, Carmarthenshire County Council

We then wrote the content under each of these themes in a consistent ‘what we need’, ‘why we need it’, ‘how we’ll get there’ structure, boiling things down to their essence. 

With the content agreed we commissioned Quinton Winter to produce illustrations to give it a friendly yet realistic feel, and James Allen built out the site using a simple WordPress template.

We even managed to squeeze in a round of guerrilla usability testing and UX tweaks to ensure it was working for users. Some testing is always better than no testing when budgets are tight!

Outcomes

The website presented on a laptop

The resulting website – earlyyearsstrategywest.wales – has just been through a public consultation process and is expected to be launched to staff and stakeholders in March 2023, so it’s too early know how well it’s been received by actual users. But anecdotal feedback so far has been great. And the team found the process of working back from user needs to be inspirational.

The experience of working with Panda on our Regional Mat & Early Years Strategy was inspirational and most importantly, achieved the outcome we were seeking. It was great to work with, and appreciate the different specialists within the Panda Team. This strong partnership approach has given us confidence in the final product and the feedback so far has been very positive.

Noeline Thomas, Early Years and Prevention Service Manager, Carmarthenshire County Council

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