We've been rationalising government websites for almost as long as I can remember. But there are still lots of government websites, and at the Department of Health we're responsible for our fair share.
Last year, in the spirit of transparency, we published a list of all the website domains that DH is responsible for (excluding NHS websites). Changes to the Department and our public bodies have had an impact on this list, but we've closed more than 200 sites and inherited others, and we're now left with 75 open sites. We're committed to only retaining 4 of these domains beyond the transition that we're now going through at DH.
The public announcements this week about a single domain for government will take this process "to it's logical conclusion". I'm not part of the inner circle that have been working on this, but I am excited by what I've heard.
In every job I've had in government digital comms, it's seemed like a sensible thing to do to work towards a simpler, more integrated approach to managing web content. We know that we can't justify spending effort and money on multiple contracts with suppliers to provide lots of different websites in different ways. And we know that it's not helpful to have conflicting sources of government information or a confused user experience. So I welcome any acceleration of this process, or indeed a revolution.
But to do any of this we will need a different approach to creating, publishing and managing digital content at source. We've been thinking about how to do this within DH, and we've got some ideas for things we can do now to vastly simplify and improve our digital offer.
We hope that, with a more efficient digital offer, we will be able to spend less time worrying about managing our websites, and more time thinking about how to do genuinely useful digital engagement. Any change we make now of course, will have to be with a single domain in mind.
I'll post more in a bit about what we're planning to do.
Comment by my alter ego posted on
I think the key phrase here is "seems like a sensible thing to do", and in general simplicity is good, but it's not going to work, not in this domain. Look over direct.gov in detail and apart from a very few areas, say DVLA for example, you only tend to get a thin veneer of the information that used to be available on a specific website. So, you could argue that we've sacrificed information for simplicity under the guise of user experience. The user experience will obviously vary wildly, so are we trying to accommodate the lowest denominator only here? to the detriment of a (better ?) more informed experience?
Having also worked in govt, I think what will happen is that there will be a drive towards consolidation during these tight times, but there will inevitably be the realisation that there has been too much of a rationalisation of information and arguments will start to spring up for growing the presence, 'tweaking it' and we'll be headed back into multi-domain land. How many times have you heard in a meeting that the current system doesn't address the needs of the dept for now and the near future and therefore we need to do X.
Another possible misconception to consider is that, it's all very well having a single domain AND accommodating the wealth and varied types of information out there, but building something to manage all that and allow for future expansion into unknown ways of delivery via different media is not going to be small in terms of either time or money. Govt has enough trouble publishing the data it has in a usable format, so imagine the problems coming down the pipe to integrate all this into a coherent and usable quantum.
FWIW, I think they would be better off moving to having an underlying platform that can store / disseminate the varied types of data in an agnostic way so distribution can be achieved quickly in many forms - the forms that the customer needs at that time and in that context. It would also allow you to have disparate storage options that could be split amongst many various suppliers so you can really work the market in terms of cost of delivery / service, and not get screwed over by one of the big players continuously.
This obviously doesn't include all the politics associated with the changes in each dept affected, which will protract any work going forward.
I look forward to your post in 5 yrs hence proffering the opposing view to today 😉