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back to article Cabinet Office ends website test

A Cabinet Office test of a single website for British government information ended on Friday. It is expected that Francis Maude's department will be making more announcements about Alpha.gov.uk later this week. So far the test website has cost the Cabinet Office £261,000. On conclusion of testing the Alpha.gov.uk domain, the …

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FAIL

I vistied the link and nearly killed myself....

2.To design & build a UK Government website using open, agile, multi-disciplinary product development techniques and technologies, shaped by an obsession with meeting user needs.

Oh just f**k of will you.

Here's what it should be.

2. To build a website where people can find stuff they want.

Not hard is it you marketing twat?

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£261,000 !!!

Who designed the site, the Russian Mafia? I would ask for a breakdown of how my tax was spent.

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Thumb Up

@Ian

£261,000 for a 3 month project recruiting and paying 16 people, and dealing with infrastructure sounds quite reasonable actually. For temp positions I would expect a few contractors which means that you have to pay the agents thier cut as well, all in all it could have been much worse...

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Bronze badge

I disagree

£261,000 for a website that looks like a Wordpress template is taking the piss. Why doesn't the government actually use competent IT staff (presuming they have any) that are already on the payroll to create such websites instead of contracting such work out? As for infrastructure there are plenty of hosting companies out there that would charge less than £1K pa to host such a site dependent on traffic. (500Gb per month).

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Pint

@adnim

Irrespective of what it looks like, the staff costs are going to be there. You may disagree with the technology used, or not like the theme they have created but to be fair it doesn't burn your eyes out when you look at it, the markup is reasonably tidy and it does what it set out to do. They also note that they did a lot of UX and I know for a fact that setting up a proper UX lab (with things like cameras tracking eye movement as people use the site so you can see what they are looking at and record it) is not a cheap business.

I've seen a lot more money pissed up the wall on things that are of questionable benefit with no input from stakeholders at all. IMHO it's at least a step in the right direction.

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Flame

As one such IT staffer...

...I have to agree.

Our hosting and dev budget (for a smaller team, admittedly) is much less than £261K. I suppose some cognitive dissonance could be setting in and we're actually not that competent, but hey.

All aboard the great public sector consultancy gravy train. Toot, toot.

Anon, obviously.

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FAIL

@Mark 8

"They also note that they did a lot of UX and I know for a fact that setting up a proper UX lab (with things like cameras tracking eye movement as people use the site so you can see what they are looking at and record it) is not a cheap business."

And that is where the fail is, they didn't have to set those labs up they could have found one of the many already established and paid to use their services, it's what normal people usually do. But this is the gov groovy gravy train and a bunch of techies wanted to play with expensive kit so they made the justification to fork out a pile of dosh on kit that would be used for limited amount of time (probably along with some plush office furniture and coffee machines).

I agree with your assessment on the £261000 being a reasonable amount when you take into account staff wages and working in London but the other big fail was spending any money on this prototype in the first place when they shoudl have set this test up all in association with DirectGov which si already well established and linked in to all Council websites across the country and already has established user figures and output to digital TV. Let's face it the Alpha site was just a bit of slap on a bunch of info DirectGov already has.

So here we are again, the government wasting money on IT projects that didn't need to be.

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FAIL

What, like Direct.gov is better?

Direct.gov is a nightmare to navigate and use. I'd rather use something like Alpha.gov than Direct.gov. Sorry... but it's true.

And yes, Alpha.gov was supposed to eventually take all the content that was on Direct.gov and all the other .co.uk, .gov.uk and .org.uk sites that every smartass in UK government registered and put it in one good place that was easy to use (UX was important), easy to navigate, and would give users what they needed - fast.

How many times have I found myself in a loop in Direct.gov that took me to a page, then took me to another page, which then took me back to the page where I started initially. That's bad design.

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Why does anyone use Directgov?

I never bother - just put my query into my search engine of choice and await results, which are usually pretty much what I was looking for. Any single government website is a waste of space - much better to improve the individual sites so you can actually do what you want on them (including filling in all forms online and signing digitally).

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Meh

@SP

Your right DirectGov isn't that great to navigate, but you don't need 260000 to realise that or improve it. To be honest it's a public services site it's more likely that customers will search for what they want rather than navigate via menu's to it.

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FAIL

ID assurance

Surely they can come up with a less sinister names for this next round of ID cards

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Silver badge

100k?

I amazed they got that many, this is the first I heard of it.

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FAIL

£261 grand?

Just had my first look at the site and you can't be serious.

You'd get the same result if you appended ".gov.uk" to whatever the user searches for, bounced it off Google and re-skinned the results.

That can't be what they've done though, or it would be a bit less sh*t. Somebody's having a laugh.

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Anonymous Coward

Open?

Once again, the open government developers are congratulating themselves on their achievement. This time, it's for building a website in which you can a) submit posts and b) vote on other people's posts. Well done all!

The e-petitions website is not open source. It's been built with Ruby on Rails (of course...) but the code hasn't been released. Meantime, there is a perfectly good open source platform for democracy websites, MySociety.

So, they haven't looked around for an existing offering from the community, they've spent good money on reinventing the wheel, and they haven't contributed back. It's the Big Society in microcosm.

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The title is required, and must contain letters and/or digits.

This http://alpha.gov.uk/ is the Alpha site

The site linked above is http://digital.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/ a completely different beast

The design is sound, and it's an alpha, not a finished, polished design.

The coding is sound, and, see above...

The content is sound, and, etc.

Wait for the Beta before you wade in too heavily...

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Anonymous Coward

Some confusion...

I agree, there is some confusion as to what's being discussed. There are 3 separate entities -

The Digital Government blog. Hosted on Wordpress.com using a 50quid template. No issues there!

The e-petitions website, which is a reinvented wheel that does less, but at far greater cost, than an already available off-the-shelf open source offering, (but hey, it uses Ruby)

Alpha.gov.uk, which can't decide whether it's a lab for website consolidation, or a prototype for garnering feedback on the UX, but does neither job very well (but hey, it uses Ruby and etc, etc)

By the way, to all those who comment that they can host their website for (some paltry amount)/month... come back when you've built a real website where you care about resilience and data integrity, and have to interface with some unfriendly core systems. Until then, clam up.

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Joke

EXPERIMENTAL PROTOTYPE There may be errors, inconsistencies and inaccuracies.

Somes up central goverment policy really..

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Facepalm

@adnim

I work in IT, and will not do websites for my employers. Fix computers and that, sure, but websites are someone else's job. Normally someone who can talk marketing blx and thusly translate the nonsense about agile blah blah into some kind of requirement.

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FAIL

£261k...`

And how much of that was wasted on temporary interim managers with little or no clue about website design???

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Anonymous Coward

Bitching and moaning

Historically, government has needed to outsource IT because the civil service pay grading and career structure is completely unfit for the purpose of recruiting and retaining technical talent. There are good people in gov IT, but they're there by accident rather than design.

Having seen tens of millions of IT spend spunked by the Cabinet Office to deliver precisely fuck all in the past, the £250k for a website that you can play with and slag off seems like a big step in the right direction.

I'm sure a passionate, talented spod in a shed could, with sufficiently a open and documented back end, produce something better for less, but in the real world the simplest way to convince reasonably talented people to do reasonably decent stuff is to pay them reasonably decent money.

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Silver badge
FAIL

Our local council is no better...

...they just paid AUD25,000 for a "new site".

1. For the 25k they got a new content management system that required staff retraining. The CMS is open source so the supplier paid zero dollars for it.

2. A slightly modified template that they have used on other similar sites (changed the header graphic)

3. It's on shared hosting with 102 other sites.

4. It's often unavailable. It was down for over 90 minutes a few days ago. So were all the other 102 sites.

5. Will only allow PDF downloads if you have certain versions of Adobe Reader and browser plugin.

6. No new content on the new site and a whole lot of the old content has gone walkabout.

7. Old site was 100% HTML/CSS/accessibility compliant. The new site has 75 errors and 82 warnings on the home page.

Some companies and government buyers should be ashamed of themselves. And preferably fired and locked up.

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