back to article Gov tries to work out if anyone is visiting its websites

The government is trying to get a grip on its sprawling estate of websites by taking the revolutionary step of actually verifying how much traffic they generate. The Central Office of Information says it is "driving forward a programme of work to assess the value for money of government websites to the taxpayer". It has taken …

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oh dear

now they will realize the most viewed site is the petitions and they ignore that !

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Stop

But more importantly...

...Does anybody actually care?

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Hits is meaningless

measuring hits is pretty meaningless. a single web page can be made up of any number of unique files (hundreds even). it would be more informative to know the number of unique visitors per day, week, month.

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Is this the same government that demanded data retention?

Type your comment here — plain text only, no HTML

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@oh dear

"now they will realize the most viewed site is the petitions and they ignore that !"

Not so. A while back, I signed a petition for the automatic screening for prostate cancer in men above a certain age. Ahem.

I recently got a response from the petition saying more or less that I, along with thousands of other men can go and fuck ourselves - we're not getting the screening.

Well at least they replied.

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Anonymous Coward

Que more annoying "surveys"

Most of the time you visit a .gov.uk site and all you get is....

.gov.uk website - <popup>Would you like to take part in our survey to improve the usability of our website?

me - <click> No

me - <clicky clicky>

.gov.uk website - <popup>Would you like to take part in our survey to improve the usability of our website?

me - <click> No, I'm trying to find out about wheelie bins!

me - <clicky clicky>

.gov.uk website - <popup>Would you like to take part in our survey to improve the usability of our website?

me - <click> "X" button

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Alert

Humans vs bots

I wonder if those (already pathetic) figures have been adjusted to exclude hits from spiders, search engines, scrapers, spambots etc.

It's not easy to do this precisely - but just removing GoogleBot , Yahoo! Slurp and a few other obvious user-agents gets you a fair way there.

It depends on the topography of the site, but ours serves about 20K page impressions per day - under 40% going to human eyes.

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Why do they have any?

Why do any government departments need a website? Surely that is what DirectGov / Government Gateway are for?

All of them are just a complete waste of money and should be scrapped forthwith. Great control and rationalisation could save a fortune!

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Pirate

Visotirs or residents?

Quite easy for a departmental or agency website to clock up a lot of hits by the organisation itself checking on things. Or are the numbers given unique visitors *not from gov.uk*?

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Google analytics or Consultants ?

It certainly sounds like another opportunity to piss away millions on "web analytics" consultants. Perhaps they'll try to design and build a converged site analytics engine sepcifically for government sites. What's wrong with the simple idea of creating a google analytics account, with converged assessment and reporting of visitor numbers - all for the total cost of free (as in beer).

STOP this waste.

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Oh dear indeed

Although this has prompted me to go to Google Analytics to find my daily readership is back up to, erm, eleven people.....

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@Lionel

Actually, I believe it fluctuates between the Met Office and Direct.gov, both of which pull in 10M+ hits a month. Each.

Mind you, if they work out which sites are getting sod all hits, consolidation to Directgov would be faster and easier - less sprawling web presence for the Gov, no need to have a team of web admins/content managers/editors etc for those small sites doing very little [and as such, wasting huge amounts of cash for no real benefit] as they can just be dropped straight in to the Directgov site, and have a departmental editor on site [rather than an entire IT team] to handle content through a single CMS.

Image that. A Government IT project that isn't wholly retarded, and that might actually encourage efficiency rather then promote bloat - who'd of thunk it? :-0

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deja-vu

"doesn't know how many websites it has, how much they cost or if anyone is using them..."

doesn't know how many MP's it has, how much they spend or if they actually do anything.

...can we have a gordo icon please?

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not suprising

Given they take such evident pride in making their sites hard to use, and even harder to use for what you wanted to do - especially anything involving finding out what they are up to or what stats they are using.

Mind you, having said that I have recently used their web taxdisc ordering facitlity which was top notch (other than the colours and interface) - assuming they do get round to sending me a disc...

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Equally abysmal in the colonies

The provincial government in Ontario (Canada) has attempted to take control of their public-facing websites with some positive results. Branding consistency is on the rise. I have no idea about the site stats, tho.

What's really in shambles is the hodgepodge of INTRANET sites. Thousands of sites on dozens of different platforms. No easy or consistent way to search. A politically suicidal task to even attempt to fix.

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Expense

"Nor does it know how much these websites costs or if anyone is using them. The committee's guesstimate for the total cost of the .gov.uk estate is £208m."

You couldn't make it up, could you? If the guesstimates are to be believed (and they seem to be all we've got) then each site is costing over £80k/year. Does the Telegraph know?

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Anonymous Coward

Environment Agency

I'm doing some contract work for the EA and their site is lovely.

Especially useful if your property is in a low-lying flood plain.

or if you want to find out about pollution levels in your local area...

www.environment-agency.gov.uk

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From 10M to c2000

I tried to find out what it takes to report an asylum seeker (dodgy claim, working cash in hand etc) on the Borders Agency website.

Gave up.

Site written by Civil Servants.

For Civil Servants.

I imagine an AC or 2 could comment on wheather these sites are popular ideas coming from newly promoted management planks who "Want to make an impression."

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Coat

@AC 17:03

"Especially useful if your property is in a low-lying flood plain"

What information am I likely to need?

All I would need is the phone number for my insurance company - again. And the need of an emergency mobile because my home phone is 4 ft underwater.

@Liam P

I know how you feel :-)

But at least mine didn't cost the taxpayer anything

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Anonymous Coward

Ernest Gowers is spinning in his grave.

Spouting laughable guff like "driving forward a programme of work to assess the value for money of government websites to the taxpayer" is probably one reason why hardly anyone visits some gummint websites.

For example:

1) "Driving forward" - the 'forward' isn't necessary because they're hardly going to suggest they're driving the programme backwards;

2) "Driving" - the word 'driving' is being misused because programmes aren't 'driven' - they're created. How would you even go about 'driving a programme'? Does it have an engine attached to it or something? Come to think of it there seems to be a driving-related theme going on in this article: “We are determined to drive up the quality of government websites to ensure they offer excellent value for money for the taxpayer, and a better user experience.". Can't we just have increased quality instead of driving it every-bloody-where? Is there be some kind of chauferring system for quality which I'm not aware of? Does it ask to be taken to the lapdancing club of an evening; is it a considerate driver or am I in danger of being run over by a rogue website quality as I walk home one evening? Surely there are other things we could do with quality besides driving it around?

3) "to assess the value for money of government websites to the taxpayer". Why not just say "to see if government websites are of any use?". In fact why couldn't this chap say "We're going to find out if government websites are of any use"? If that's not what his work aims to achieve then what's the point of the 'programme of work'?

Statements like the examples above are full of words which make a brief, easily understandable sentence sound long-winded and pompous. This is fine if you're trying to fill out your English essay because you're a bit short on ideas, but a waste of time if you're trying to communicate quickly and simply with the majority of people.

If the gummint want to know what they can do to improve visits to their websites they could do worse than make everyone read Sir Ernest Gowers' "Plain Words", or just get them to visit http://www.plainenglish.co.uk/.

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