Immigration project sprint 5 recap: applying for a visa outside the UK and document checklists
This 3-week sprint saw us finalising and testing financial requirements pages, creating content for applying for a visa outside the UK, and planning a new navigational structure.
Working with user stories
In this sprint we focused on two key areas of the applying for a visa section:
- applying for a visa outside the UK, which contains specific guidance for international students applying from another country
- the application document checklist, which explains the different documents students might need to apply for their Student visa
We also worked on a new navigational structure for the applying for a visa section (to be implemented in sprint 6), and finalised our content for financial requirements, which we began work on at the end of sprint 4.
Sample user stories
- “As an incoming student applying for a visa for the first time, I want to know the steps I need to follow for my visa application, so I can prepare for my visa application process.”
- “As an incoming student applying for a visa for the first time, I want to know what specific documents I need, so I can apply for a visa.”
What we did
Finalise financial requirements
Having created three separate page layouts for financial requirements at the end of sprint 4, we presented these to the Student Immigration Service (SIS) team for their feedback, then compiled aspects of each into one design.
As with previous content for the SIS site, we settled on a structure that would simplify a complex process by filtering different categories of applicants onto different pages, and setting out key tasks with clear step-by-step instructions.
During this sprint, we held two ideation and prototyping workshops to develop the content design for applying outside the UK and the document checklist. We also held a workshop to plan the navigational structure of the applying for a visa section.
Our workshop for applying for a visa outside the UK led to us – once again – settling on a step-by-step structure. Here, each step would be a required action in the visa application process, set out on its own page and linking through to the next via a button at the bottom of the page.
Our workshop for the application document checklist resulted in a plan for two distinct checklists: one for students applying inside the UK, the other for students applying outside the UK.
Content write-up and review
With new structures agreed upon, we moved onto the writing portion of the sprint. At this point, we separated the content between the four content designers on the team and got to work independently.
In keeping with best practice, we scheduled regular sessions with SIS over Microsoft Teams to review and edit our written content. We also discussed one another’s work in peer review sessions, which was vital for giving everyone on the team a more holistic understanding of the visa application process.
Despite the sprint being busy, we managed to make time for some additional content areas on the SIS site relevant to the visa application process, including International Check-in and the Biometric Residence Permit.
For both applying outside the UK and the document checklists, we agreed that – as with financial requirements – entirely new sections would be built in a test area of EdWeb. At the point of going live in sprint 6, we would migrate these pages over to the SIS site for publication.
We opted for this approach rather than publishing over existing pages, due to the complexity of our new structures and the addition of several new pages.
Having built our content in the test site, we were able to test two content areas at the end of sprint 5: financial requirements and applying outside the UK. We were particularly interested in the following questions:
- Would users make sense of the complex instructions associated with the financial aspect of the visa application process?
- Would users engage with our step-by-step guidance for applying outside the UK?
After devising testing scenarios and writing up testing scripts, we recruited University staff for 15-minute sessions, which we recorded and took notes on.
Select sessions were then played back to SIS staff. Following this playback, we implemented some final changes, which are detailed below.
One of our last tasks of the sprint was to publish our financial requirements content, having received final sign-off from the SIS team. We ran a successful “go live” session, QAing the content, moving the new pages from the test area into the SIS site, and clicking publish!
What we learned
Independent work is essential…
With the SIS project approaching its final weeks, sprint 5 came with a long list of tasks. Dividing the writing of this content between the four of us enabled us to get through the work far quicker.
…but collaboration is key
Although our independent work was essential for getting through the tasks in this sprint, there were occasions where a lack of communication within the team led to mistakes or contradictions in our content. Holding peer review sessions allowed us to knowledge-share and to make top-level decisions around messaging and styling.
We also found that our approach to building the structure for financial requirements (where three of us developed our own designs independently and then built them in EdWeb) wasn’t the best use of our time. Collaborating at an earlier point and combining our ideas before building in the test site would have ultimately been more efficient.
Usability testing throws up unexpected results
Going into our usability testing we felt confident about the content we had created for financial requirements and applying outside the UK. But, as always, there were some unexpected twists!
Overall, financial requirements tested well but there was still confusion around some of the key information and tasks. In our pilot test, a page helping users calculate how much money they needed to show for their application tested poorly. Luckily, we were able to remedy this with some simple changes to the text; in the remaining tests, the page performed much better.
Our content for applying outside the UK proved a little trickier. We found that testers engaged with the step-by-step flow through the pages, but that most only skim-read content and – as a result – failed to pick up on some key instructions relevant to the scenario they had been given.
It was directly as a result of this that we decided to implement further changes. With the approval of the SIS team, we separated out the guidance, creating one guide for European applicants and one for non-European applicants. This change allowed us to achieve a greater level of granularity – and therefore simplicity for the user – within the individual steps.
We finished this sprint with a new section for financial requirements live on the SIS site, as well as draft pages built for:
- applying for a visa outside the UK
- the application document checklists
We also finished the sprint with a new plan for the structure of the applying for a visa section, set out in a detailed spreadsheet.
How this sprint informed our future work
At the end of sprint 5, we carried out our review and retrospective sessions with the SIS team, to reflect on lessons learnt and to identify actions to carry forward.
Overall, we agreed that the sprint had been a success, but that – going into the final sprint – we would need to make sure peer review sessions were prioritised to allow for knowledge-sharing and constructive feedback, and to ensure consistency in messaging and styling.
With a large amount of content to finish writing and get signed off, we also agreed that we would need to schedule regular review sessions with the SIS team, and to stagger sign-off deadlines across the sprint.