Weeknotes Season 4 Episode 1

Posted Sat 19th Aug 2017 approx. 2 min read

Unplanned but focused

An unexpected job that came in this week that turned out to be quite enjoyable.

One of the system we have is to enable students to print off a PDF certificate that they can then take to a local council to get a discount off their council tax. It’s quite an important document, and thankfully it’s been an automatic process where students press a button once they’re logging in to our portal and get sent the document, replacing an old system where stacks of letters were manually printed off and the. Students had to come and collect the one with their name on.

The type of workflow that is ideal for ‘digital transformation’.

So this year the councils and our admin people have been in discussions and identified that it would be helpful to add some extra information to the certificates.

After some initial discussions it all went a bit quiet, and then was restarted when a word document came in with someone’s idea on how to fit all the information in. I couldn’t resist redesigning it since it was going out to not only students, but all the councils, and sending what was proposed would’ve give a poor impression and not worked as well as it should.

I set about redoing it first, using Word. I know that wouldn’t be the first choice of tool to redesign something, but the process is about making some good design decisions, and then implementing them. In this case Word was the right tool.

I did some basic cleaning up by putting the information in an order that made more sense for the administrative purpose of the document, and then made it all much more readable. Simple enough, but satisfying nonetheless.

Witn the basic design done, the next part was how to get it made and implemented into the system. It’s this kind of implementation that can be alternatively infuriating - when it’s all going wrong and you feel stupid, and satisfying - when you feel clever for having worked it out and see the results.

For this bit of work it involved working out how a gem that creates a PDF works and how to replicate the layout so that it can be automatically generated. It took me a while to learn how but it’s still pretty cool to have a system generate things and drop in dynamic data - never gets old.

So that was the majority of my week.