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Stephen Hale

Head of Engagement, Digital Diplomacy, London

FCO blogs refresh - show original item

Posted 01 April 2010 by Stephen Hale  

We've changed the way Foreign Office blogs look.

If you're reading this blog via the RSS feed and you want to know what we've done, click on "view in Safari", or "show original item", or whatever you need to do to see the blog in it's original context. 

This isn't a relaunch. And we haven't changed much beyond how the blogs look. Our design challenge was to bring our blogs into line with the main FCO site and our embassy sites whilst retaining a bloggy feel and improving the experience for our readers. So we're reusing the grid, the image sizes and the styles from our websites. But we've introduced a few bloggy features too to bring the conversation to the surface and to promote related content.

We have 38 Foreign Office bloggers now, so we've had to think about how we aggregate them, and how far we try to present them as a coherent whole. We've gone for a more editorial approach on the blogs homepage, but with multiple routes to access particular bloggers, as well as more effort promoting blogs locally. 

It's taken us a bit longer than expected because we've been doing lots of other things at the same time. And we're not finished yet - we'll transfer all our blogs over the new templates in the next few days. And there are couple of things that we still we still need to add, particularly to cross promote our content and change the way we deal with comments.

So have a look round and let me know what you think. As I write you can still do a compare and contrast between the old and new templates.

BTW, this was an internal piece of work, done by existing staff, it hasn't cost anything, blah blah blah.

Stephen Hale
01 April 2010

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Foreign Office blogs refresh

Posted 15 December 2009 by Stephen Hale  

I've mentioned before that we plan to refresh the look and feel of our blogs in line with our website.

There are a few things ahead of blogs in the queue (including our 250 embassy sites), but we've started the work.

If you're interested in this stuff, you can take a look at our initial wireframes (below). These are based on: some work we've done to identify and prioritise user goals, our evaluation of the impact of Foreign Office blogs, known issues with our current interface, and our own (me, Shane, Rob) personal prejudice.

We think we need 4 main templates:

  1. a homepage for individual bloggers, displaying the most recent blogs
  2. a blog entry, displaying comments and a form
  3. a homepage for
  4. an alternative homepage for themed blog aggregators (eg:

But we realise that we need to do a few other things differently, including:

  • improving the user journeys between our blogs and our other content
  • provide our users with alternative ways to find what they're after
  • integrate other relevant web content better, particularly for those bloggers who have wide social media profiles

This will be an iterative process. I expect lots of red pen on the wireframes before you see any changes on our blogs. We haven't tested any of this yet, and we won't have got it right first time. But my aim is for our blogs to have a facelift early in 2010. If you have a view please post a comment.

NB: we are not reviewing our technical blog platform as part of this work - we'll do that separately. And it's not about the impact and reach of our blogs - I'll post more on that soon. It's solely about branding and the user interface.

FCO blogs initial wireframes

Stephen Hale
15 December 2009

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New look Foreign Office website

Posted 26 October 2009 by Stephen Hale  

If you looked at the Foreign Office website over the weekend, you might have noticed that it didn't look quite the same as it used to, and that the content wasn't quite structured in the same way.

We've made some changes to design, information architecture and content. We've aimed for high impact pages - using bold imagery - that give us more scope for editorial flexibility. And we've tried to provide a much clearer hierarchy of stories, guiding readers to Foreign Office priorities, as well as serving our users needs better.

We applied the changes on Saturday, and there's still some work to do tidying up content in the new templates. But this is an iterative programme of improvements rather than a relaunch. We'll follow up the changes to our main site by doing the same thing for our social media content (including our blogs), and our country websites.

I'm really pleased with the changes, and excited by what we can do with our new pages, particularly in our new Global issues channel, which will be the focus for most of our campaigns and digital engagement work. But I'd be really interested to hear what you think. Have we achieved what we set out to?

BTW, none of this work cost any extra money - we've done it in house. We're fortunate to have some brilliant people working in digital diplomacy group including Rodney Zandbergs (design) Rob Pearson (IA) Alison Daniels (editorial) and Paul Hosking (implementation). I think they've done an impressive job. 

Stephen Hale
26 October 2009

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