Federal Provincial Territorial COVID-19 web management working group/June 9 2020

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1. Introductions
2. Objectives of the meeting and the working group
3. Roundtable discussion: current successes and challenges for COVID-19 web response
4. Next steps

Opening remarks

Objectives of the meeting:

  • Build bridges with other jurisdictions
  • Learn what other jurisdictions are doing for COVID-19
  • Determine if there’s interest in a working group to improve COVID-19 web content

Objectives of the working group:

  • Share information, research and experiences with COVID-19 web content
  • Improve web coordination between jurisdictions so we can provide a better user experience for COVID-19 content


  • SK – Carolyn Hamilton – lots of demand for information (insatiable), site has mushroomed, brought in extra resources
  • MB – Richard Cormier – DComms/Engagement (public health), demand has mushroomed and expanded. Moved it March 13th to centralize it
  • ON – Emily Tamfo (ODS), Spencer Daniels (ODS), Lauren Sugar (Cabinet Office), Sarah Brown (ODS), Marcella Young (TBS), David Cox (Cabinet Office) – Ontario.ca, COVID site, PPE procurement directory for businesses (connect with suppliers), reporting quarterly basis, best practices for web
  • QC – Martin Boucher (Exec Dir DComms), Quebec.ca (June 4, 2018) - Min of Health content already integrated into Quebec.ca so that helped with COVID info
  • NS – Kara McAllister (Dir Web strategy), Allan Lawlor (Mgr) – COVID presence mushroomed, looking for collaboration, novascotia.ca, data visualization, website for reopening plan, content grows and top content on website (most visited)
  • PEI – Vera Lynn Weeks (Corp comms web editor), Beth Doucette (IT side) – “renew PEI together” phase, no cases in PEI now, phase 4, reopening, seasonal visitors may be allowed as borders have been closed, supporting web forms for programs/services/online operations, business processes has changed through pandemic
  • NWT – Umesh, Christina – on Nwt website, covid info increased and needed to create a stand alone website (May 5), interest in covid itself/testing, now it is more about reopening, restricted borders, anyone who comes in needs to go into 14 day mandatory isolation, phase I reopening, phase 2 in the next couple of weeks, travel restrictions will remain until there is a vaccine
  • YK – Joanne (digital content team), able to build site out really quickly being on a new site (migrated 2 years ago), interested in developing from a user standpoint
  • GC - Melissa Teasdale, Debbie Laurin (Principal Publisher) - provide Canada.ca infrastructure
  • GC - Mary Beth Baker, Celeste Cote (PCO) - coordination, facilitating, bringing people together, looking at analytics data including call centres
  • GC - Rob Wiebe, Susan Harper (Health Canada) - Management of Canada.ca/Coronavirus
  • GC - Peter Smith, Laura Piper (TBS) - research and design for Canada.ca, GC web standards, 100% reoriented towards supporting pandemic response since mid-March


  • NWT: Challenge around amount of info beyond health, too much content for the existing IA structure to hold, moved to standardize and created a new site to handle this, would like to learn more about virtual assistants/chatbots from others
  • YK: Content type, outgrew that and embedded into main website which is working ok, need to do more UX testing, hard to do that with rate of content going out, uploading a bunch of .pdfs which isn’t ideal, need to look at better maintaining web standard
  • PEI: Overload of info, trying to maintain standards, mental state of employees at the pace of things, colourful content requests, posting guidance that often changes daily, not doing ux testing, but seeing (from social media feedback etc.) that people are frustrated with the constantly changing content
  • NS: Echo PEI, changing content and timeframes compressed, difficult to stick with content structure (IA), trying to line up IA with changing goals of site has been tough, more and more stakeholders at the table (started as public health) bringing lots of other objectives, challenge to coordinate coherent messaging
  • QC: Many requests to publish programs, in a hurry, difficult to remember the principles (accessibility/usability, etc.), often caught doing "digital rescue in realtime", social media - lots of announcements, but no answers to questions immediately. Blog about the experience: https://www.quebec.ca/a-propos/blogue/coulisses-communications-numeriques-pandemie-covid19/ (in French only)
  • ON: Similar challenges across the country, trying to keep up with the pace, trying to keep a good user experience, but needing to remediate after sometimes in order to get info up and out, 2 steps forward/1 step back, on-call around the clock - evenings and weekends, work/life balance doesn’t exist as COVID doesn’t sleep, trying to keep the enthusiasm as dealing with content demands. Self-assessment tool: up quick, MVP approach, in open source community, people using this code outside of GOV, user testing, shorter release cycles, how do you integrate with old school systems, challenges with COVID response overall, adjusting process and approval times (approval blockers coming back recently, GOV rate of change compared to the pace of the file has been a challenge – pushing boundaries), user research sessions kicked off today, asks for solutions from stakeholders (political, executives, etc.), seeing value from ux
  • MB: Same challenges in other jurisdictions, needed to put a central site together really quickly without being able to tackle plain language, usability testing, etc., pace of content development is really high, challenges re interpretation of public health content (what is guidance and what is an order), successful consultation w/ engageMB: asking businesses on what they need for reopening, how does the public health order apply to their business - this took pressure off call centre and social channels
  • SK: Echo everything. Phase 3 reopening is happening quite rapidly, looking for consistency across the site/pages, daily/weekly updates need to be applied across all appropriate pages, govt very sensitive to social media - adds pressure to fill content gaps, being pulled into non-COVID work now so capacity issues

Next steps

  • Federal members to take on the task of building infrastructure - Slack groups, wiki, etc.
  • Build agendas collaboratively
  • Meetings will be biweekly
  • Federal Gov to set up the meetings
  • Regions can take turn chairing once we get organized
  • Use email distribution to follow up with group
  • Possible side working groups (i.e. social media tools)

Closing remarks

  • Thank you for coming and for sharing your experiences.
  • If you think that you might not be the right person for this working group, please feel free to pass it along to another colleague.
  • Look forward to speaking with you next time!