Content on the Department of Health website will move to GOV.UK in the morning. If you visit tomorrow, you’ll see some new content, some old content and some content that has been retro-fitted to new formats.
It’s been quite a process to get here. I’ve been writing blogs about how it feels to be on the fringes of the GOV.UK project for the last 2 years, and in DH we’ve been working towards a smaller, clearer and better digital presence for longer that that.
For that reason, I suspect that we’ve found the transition a bit easier, and been a bit more relaxed about it, than our peers in other departments. We've certainly benefited from having other departments move first, solving all the problems before we arrived.
Alice, Rob, Charlotte, Francis, Dean and Stephen in DH and Will in GDS in particular, and lots of others have done a brilliant job getting us to this point. They may or may not agree with me about how relaxing it's been.
One of the useful things that the drive towards GOV.UK has forced us all to do is really think about why we produce, publish and retain all of this digital content. The result of all the migration projects across government will be a slimline collection of government content on GOV.UK, and a much fatter collection of content in the National Archives. It turns out that we didn’t need all of that content in the first place.
Last week I published a note on our Digital health site about how and why we publish digital content:
We’ll refine this, and we’ll have more to say about it as we go, but it describes the 3 main reasons that we publish digital content in DH (to explain policy, for policy engagement, and for transparency). And it describes the formats and channels we will use to do each of these things.
Over time, GOV.UK will provide all of the formats we need to explain policy and publish for the purpose of transparency. DH content on Inside Government will be closely managed and controlled, with most of the content published by specialist editors in the digital team.
Inside government won’t ever provide all of the methods we use for policy engagement however. To do that we will need to produce and publish digital content for other platforms, partners and social media.
The content we need for policy engagement will be produced and published by a much wider set of authors. Our emphasis will be on providing content from named individuals, because our audiences are more likely to engage in conversations with real people.
We’ll also be retaining a handful of spaces we use to present engagement around our policy priorities, such as the Dementia challenge. These sites won’t compete with Inside government for explaining policy, but they will provide us with a place to present active conversations from multiple sources around a theme, and occasionally to host some of those conversations ourselves.
And we plan to make full use of the GOV.UK blogging platform when in arrives at the end of April.
Other departments have faced the challenge of reviewing their mainstream content at the same time as their corporate content. But health and care information and services for citizens will be provided by NHS Choices and it’s successor, so we haven’t addressed that here. We don’t have any mainstream content on GOV.UK.
Moving our content to GOV.UK has provided a very welcome spur to reevaluate why we do what we do with content. I’m not sure the teams of people editing content across government realise quite what a radical solution they are working towards. And we might not see quite how radical it is until all the policies of every government department and organisation are presented together next year.
It has sometimes felt uncomfortable ceding control of our content and our content formats to a much bigger machine. I’ve made many promises based on the promises of others, and that’s not always an easy position to be in. As I write this, we’re about to press publish on a crucial piece of content, using a format that hasn’t been used before, with a preview function that doesn't work yet. But I’ve retained my faith in the method and the people, even when it takes us down to the wire. Ctrl F5 in the morning.