The keenest dh.gov.uk watchers amongst you might have noticed that we've started to publish a few bits of official DH content that sit slightly apart from our main corporate website.
We started with a sub-site for the Dilnot Commission - a site for the review of the funding system for care and support in England.
And Kate Billingham's blog about the Family Nurse Partnership - and indeed this blog - fit into the same category.
These examples have one thing in common - they all use same DH WordPress theme.
The Department has actually been publishing commentable docs for a while - we've just widened what we can do with WordPress, and made it more systematic.
We're now benefiting from a few days work we commissioned at the end of last year to enhance our WordPress capabilty. We wanted: a theme we could use to build and manage DH sub-sites for campaigns and our public bodies, a theme for our blogs, something we could use for the communities we intend to create around our email bulletins, something we could use to publish rich editorial features, a blog aggregator, and commentable documents. And although this was expressly not a design project, we wanted something that was on-brand, a step towards a cleaner layout, and something that was neutral enough and flexible enough to work for a changing Department ...so pretty much the moon on a stick.
Fortunately for us we managed to find a young up-and-coming developer who wasn't daunted by the task, was happy to interpret our shifting requirements and suggest better ideas, and who, in the end, managed to deliver a single flexible theme that does everything we wanted, and a bit more.
The work isn't quite finished. Our need to meet new communication requirements quickly, and our own impatience and optimism once we'd seen the prototype, meant that we started using the theme when it was good enough, but before it was really ready.
There are some things that we still need to solve - we know we need to do more to fully integrate the sub-sites with our corporate website, sort out the way search works, and tidy up branding and the way we're using sub-domains. But we've not published recklessly, and I don't think the quality has suffered – the reverse in fact. And it's satisfying to work in this way, learning and improving the way we do it as we go. Much credit to Francis, Sarah and Rosie in particular for making it all possible whilst ensuring that we didn’t drop our standards.
I think our theme will exceed our expectations for it. I don't need to tell you that using a straightforward publishing tool like WordPress is fairly pleasing. Having dipped a toe in, it's tempting to go a bit further than we originally planned. I'll share what we do with it here. And I'd be interested to hear what you think.