The Directgov supersite has been labelled "Not Me Gov" at a hearing of the Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC). PAC chair Edward Leigh MP made the accusation at a hearing on the National Audit Office report, Government on the Internet. He questioned the government's plan to reduce the number of websites with an increased …
Actually not that bad
It was a shock to me as much as anyone, but as a contractor who's relatively recently (this summer) set up a limited company and had all the resulting tax to deal with, I have to say that the government web stuff is actually pretty good. Sure, it's not very user-friendly, and it's fragmented into a whole bunch of different areas that don't talk to each other (representative of the government departments involved), but actually you can get just about everything done online. And what you can't get done online, you can download the relevant forms to print out yourself.
And for another thing, I've been getting my TV license online for several years now.
It's less useful for personal tax stuff though, so this is something they can improve. But it's not quite as bad as this article makes out.
They're all crap
Have you ever tried to find anything on a Government web site? They're all crap. They all follow different structures, styles; different naming conventions (what kind of moron describes a page as "output127.asp"?) with about half a dozen web sites covering the same thing. They don't have any consistant approach and finding stuff is almost impossible. Worse still, on many of them you can't actually do anything useful when you do find them. The only one that's genuinely good is the Office of National Statistics (www.statistics.gov.uk) as it does what it says on the tin.
Amazon, easy to use?
Is he trying to say that Amazon site is easy to use? I wouldn't call that site very usable. Or was the statement more along the lines "the standards are so low in the Intertubes anyway, so we're not really that bad.."
Enough with the "choice" crap
FTA: "It suggests that better information about choosing schools of hospitals would be helpful to the public."
I'll save them some design and coding time - I choose to have the same provisions of healthcare and education availabe to all people in all areas. If one school/hospital starts failing, then increase funding/replace management as necessary. Now stop pissing about with websites and get my fucking country fixed.
Also, it's not surprising that government sites are ranked as easier to use than something like Amazon - that site has more functions to be misunderstood. When you don't do anything, you don't do anything wrong either.
There's an element of truth here, on the other hand
1 - if you deliberately seek to pay less than the private sector you get worse staff. Maybe doesn't matter for doctors and teachers and everyone else who generally has to work for the government, but in IT, you end up with worse IT in government than outside. 2% payrises all round again next year?
2 - commercial websites are set up to sell stuff. That's what commerce is about. Government departments are not set up to sell stuff. In fact, anything which can be done by the private sector is done by the private sector. Government gets left with the tricky stuff that companies can't do. So, government websites aren't as slick at selling as commercial ones, well who'da thunk it?
3 - people can't find information on public sector websites. "I am a taxpayer and you are a public servant so you have to tell me what I wan't"... even if the request is ridiculous. Maybe you can't find the information because it doesn't exist or government hasn't committed to provide it.
4 - you can't do anything on government websites. See 2 and 3. Why does a department have a pointless website - because ministers demand that they have a website whether they need one or not.
5 - government websites are all different. Well knock me down with a feather. Why can't the DVLA have exactly the same style and layout as the ONS, when all corporate websites are identical? No, wait a minute, I've just thought that through...
6 - "and called for the money saved by putting information online to be channelled into the personal approach preferred by many people." Or, the savings could go to meeting the efficiency savings demanded by ministers and saving the Finance Director from a grilling by the PAC. Decisions, decisions...
7 - "Now stop pissing about with websites and get my fucking country fixed" ... is the correct answer. Now give that man a vote and tell him to use it wisely.
Hey, it's past four o'clock and I am a civil servant so I'm off....
Constant change and rotten search engines - incompetence or malice?
The Department of Health changed from doh to dh a few years ago.
I don't know how many of you use it - I'm a GP and I do.
When they changed , they did *not* change the links lower down - and it became, yet again, impossible to locate anything useful without major effort and imagination.
Like "Where would I put this if I *didn't* want it found?"
Most other government websites (apart from those which want to be useable such as car tax and TV licenses) are equally opaque in my experience.
The reduction of numbers of websites won't help: being .gov, they are likely to change the URLs in such a way that the information will be impossible to find - or even to know whether the information needed still exists.
Does anyone know whether the government has heard of forwarding when a website changes?
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