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back to article Cabinet Office moves step closer to killing Directgov

A beta build of the Cabinet Office's single domain website project has now been opened up for public scrutiny. The previous incarnation of the site - Alpha.gov.uk - has been killed in the process. It has now morphed into the capped-up-cos-we-mean-business GOV.UK. The incumbent Directgov is expected to be sent to the knacker's …

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Bronze badge
Big Brother

Lining up the pencils

The mantra of the clueless crat

"If we can just get everything filed neatly all our problems will be resolved."

Still - at least this bit of navel-gazing only cost OPM1.7m *

*Other People's Money

Big Brother will be watching you as soon as he has organised his CD collection alphabetically (or was that last month).

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FAIL

Mwahaha

See that big button at the top that says BETA? Try clicking it...

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Anonymous Coward

I have noscript

I see no button and no warning about the site being misleading.... :-)

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Powermapper report...starting from Bank Holidays page

Category Benchmark against sites

Overall Quality

6 pages with quality issues worse than average

Errors

1 pages with broken links or other errors worse than average

Accessibility

2 pages with accessibility problems better than average

Compatibility

0 pages with browser specific issues better than average

Compliance

4 pages with compliance or legal issues worse than average

Search

5 pages with search engine issues worse than average

Standards

0 pages have W3C standards issues better than average

Usability

4 pages with usability issues worse than average

Totals 10 pages and files checked

The evaluation version is limited to checking 10 pages and images.

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Thumb Up

That's pretty good for a beta then

Still not sure how I feel about full page images. The National Maritime Museum use them too: http://www.rmg.co.uk/

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Anonymous Coward

Gotta love the double standards

Who that's visited the site saw the banner about cookies and the fact that it's a beta site?

If so did you notice the option to say you didn't want cookies dropped on your machine as per the EU Directive that will be enforced this May, hardly setting a good example is it.

I still get the impression it's just a site to allow some developers to flex their coding muscle, could DirectGov have been redesigned at less of a cost. Does the 1.7m mean that all the sites that were decommissioned when the new Government took over mean that the savings made have been blown on a website (again).

Wouldn't you love to see the business case for this idea, bet it doesn't stack up.

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Cookies

Yes, I did notice that. Actually I thought the modal 'closing this signals your acceptance to cookies' was rather a clever way of setting the policy to 'accept cookies or piss off'. Might use it on my site.

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Anonymous Coward

Modal warning

Signals acceptance that the site is a Beta, not that you accept cookies. A real-world cookie-acceptance message would need to be a lot less customer-intimidating

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Silver badge

Re: Cookies

'closing this signals your acceptance to cookies'

You only see that if you have javascript enabled. No JS no popup.

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Rob
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@Chris 3

Unfortunately that isn't compliant with the EU directive, the audience still needs to be able to view the website without any cookies being dropped otherwise you are moving into Discrimination legislation. I'm pretty sure the ICO won't be happy if websites are holding people to ransom..."accept our cookies or piss off" is not the way to go.

I think the reason they have done it this way is that they desperately need the analytics for obvious reasons and unfortunately the analytics cookie is in the firing line as well, even if it is used for decent purposes.

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Most other websites evolve over time, not sure where the compulsion to 'replace' directgov with brand new content in a brand new domain comes from.

By all means refresh the design and content but there's no need for the dramatic language, as if a new domain name is going to magically make eveything all spiffy and new.

Imagine after 8 years Amazon decided that their site had gotten muddled and mis-targeted. Would they pension off the old site and domain and launch a new site called AMZN.COM?

Of course not. Improvements would be incremental, the impacts of UI and layout changes would be tested and refined as they matured and generally the site would improve over time.

Full marks for appearing to be sticking budget thought, even if it is comically high.

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Anonymous Coward

Coincidentally

All the beta site's static content is delivered via Amazon's Cloudfront service.

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Go

RE: Imagine after 8 years Amazon decided that their site had gotten muddled and mis-targeted.

One might argue that's already occurred.

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If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Directgov is in need of tidy up and a prune. But it works well enough.

This smells of desperation to spend money on something/anything for the sake of it.

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Silver badge

Breaking it

What this new web site will do is to break links that other web sites have to directgov - they keep on doing this, it is a pain.

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Trollface

cookies

I thought all euro websites needed to as explicit permission before using cookies now?

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https

Nice to see it will be that much harder for the lower phorms of life to track what I'm up to.

This may just be something they are trying out on the beta, but if the final gov.uk uses https *throughout* the site, it's setting a splendid example to others.

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Silver badge

Starter for 10

Okay, it's pretty enough, and a nice BIG font for the visually impaired, but Directgov must have tens or hundreds of thousands of pages of current and useful archive info (tax rates for 2009 etc) - does the 1.7m squids budget cover converting all those pages to the new megasystem?

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Anonymous Coward

Does the budget cover converting all those pages?

No. And there's no CMS, so, if you are a government agency, you'll need to have the National Internet Service convert and maintain all your content for you.

No doubt there'll be a stylishly designed Change Request form

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Anonymous Coward

.. and the appropriate fees .. Any idea who will be lining their pockets with the conversion work?

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Anonymous Coward

I dunno, but did some user testing on new web based user registration service for a large government agency a week or two back - they can't add any extra help buttons because their third party contractor charges too much...

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J P
Stop

Changing Links? for a paltry £1.7m all in? Take a look here: http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/transparency/spending-over-25k.htm

for what HMRC spend on IT each month. Serco pocketed £4m give or take in December for "website design". That's _monthly_ . Aspire billed £3m in December for coding and another £10m for software support.

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Anonymous Coward

"This is a test website, so may be inaccurate or misleading."

The real thing, on the other hand...

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Go

Nice to see that the code's open: https://github.com/alphagov

So all you naysayers, how about cloning the repos and fixing the stuff you don't like, and trying to submit patches. You're all clever enough to poke holes, but are you clever enough to fix them?

Would also be very interesting to see how they react to third party patches, and the govenment's reaction to getting work done for nowt.

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Anonymous Coward

The holes are in the strategy

And that's not open to change

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Happy

justme

lucky that you are not in the good ol' USA. 15 to 20 years for encouraging nefarious characters to "break" a government website.

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Anonymous Coward

here's what they say about cookies....

To make this site simpler, we sometimes place small data files on your computer. These are known as cookies. Most big websites do this too.

To make this site simpler... right.

And because other big websites do this too... right.

They improve things by:

remembering settings, so you don’t have to keep re-entering them whenever you visit a new page

remembering information you’ve given (eg your postcode) so you don’t need to keep entering it

measuring how you use the website so we can make sure it meets your needs

Ah yes, ALL for the benefit of User, you, you and YOU sir, yes, wipe this smirk off your face, because, while don't use cookies to track you, or your habits ("to improve our services") - we still know where you live!

btw, that google sat image's a bit washed, too much sun perhaps? ;)

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Thumb Down

GOV.UK repeating the same mistakes as DirectGov

When will they realise that the internet is about incremental change rather than doomed from the start overhauls every year or so?

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More centralisation nonsense

Too much stuff on one site, difficult to navigate and anything useful, deliberately hidden i.e. "free road tax criteria for the disabled" "carers credit" etc etc

The beta site is horrid, all style and no substance, it looks like myspace meets a bad record label site.

More iof our money spaffed on vanity projects, all whilst we are "broke" and "have nothing left" and "disability benefits are unsustainable" meaning many disabled people in work will end up stuck at home, living in squalor as they will lose their care allowance, which pays for someone to help them bathe and eat etc all because ATOS decide over a highly trained specialist that they "don't need the help" "are putting it on" etc

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This post has been deleted by its author

Alert

From the pop-up on first visit - "N.B. This site uses ‘cookies’ and Google Analytics" - should it?

The Crown and blocky "GOV.UK" text in the top-left hand corner rather look like they were 'inspired' by the wartime "Keep Calm and Carry On" poster. Whilst government isn't cuddly or soft, I think I'd prefer it if the style they used was rather less harsh - no need for all caps SHOUTY text, for example - the all lower case "directgov" might be a bit naff now (arguably it always was naff), but it looks a bit more friendly than the in-yer-face "GOV.UK".

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Childcatcher

Personally

Personally I think the direct.gov.uk site is incredibly well-designed and is extremely clear and easy-to-use.

I also don't see the sake of updates for the sake of updates - for example, Gmail's latest "new design" has made the interface half the speed of the old one, and has included mystery meat navigation on the buttons. Progress? Nope. Because they wanted to? Yeah, probably.

I like the use of the unit of currency called "OPM". That's quite appropriate. For £1.7m I'd make the government a fucking awesome website. Shame this one's popped up.

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FAIL

another grandiose project

I assume the majority of the money has been spent on the back end systems cos the front end looks like a child has put it together using an old copy of ms front page.. at least the bbc beta site looks like some thought has gone into how to communicate with its audience. maybe they can use the bbc cms and focus on the engine for integrating dept databases.

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Bronze badge
FAIL

Oh wonderful. Millions of broken links world-wide when everything direct.gov.uk/* disappears. Do they not have any idea of what the whole point of URIs are?

Of course not, they're government.

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It's not as if you can do redirects is it?

I'm sure they'll redirect everything rather than giving you a 404.

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Bronze badge
FAIL

"...to government services and information..."

"Housing Benefit" ... "Pay your Council Tax" ... "Local Libraries" ...

Ah, so they're also abolishing local councils then.

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Anonymous Coward

Fix the gateway

I'm less bothered about the websites, more about the gateway to pay tax and do other important stuff. Isn't that still Microsoft-only? Nice handout from the Blair administration..

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WTF?

Can't believe that there are so many Luddites on a tech website

It's a website that will bring together a lot of the government websites under one well organised site rather than each department wandering off and doing their own incoherent thing. I really can't see what's wrong with that.

Maybe there is an understated reluctance to deal with new things from all net-savvy people - whenever Facebook changes similar comments pop up.

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Anonymous Coward

OK, I'll bite

There's already a website that does this - Direct.gov. Problems with the new initiative are:

Outside talent has been drafted in to sweep away all the working UK gov websites, and centralise them in a new megasite. However, they don't have the domain knowledge that has accumulated within the agencies, and haven't done the groundwork. Once you dig, you uncover lots of tricky exceptions. There's no glamour in dealing with those, so we can then expect the superstars to tell the incumbents, 'OK, we've done the hard bit, the rest is up to you'.

The mega-platform is fully buzzword compliant but the transactional websites must interface with a variety of legacy back-ends. Often that means the new platform will need expensive bespoke middleware.

The mega-site approach was taken rather than one of developing toolkits, standards, and guidelines. So, agencies can't use their existing teams to make changes, but must request them from Web Central, with a consequent huge impact on time and costs. As the new platform has no CMS, this applies not only to functionality but to simple text changes.

The strategy is flawed as the megasite approach only works for the mass audience of undifferentiated customers. There are many communities who need to interact with Government and the same portal won't work for all. Imagine a home page that says -

- Looking for a job?

- Need a TV licence

- Want to buy a second-hand aircraft carrier?

- Can you decommission a nuclear power station?

Clearly, almost every agency still needs it's own website - as illustrated by the fact that the Government Digital Service hosts its own blog separately to their new beta.

So, all the supply-side shortcomings of Direct.gov replicated for a few incremental improvements on the demand side. This plus the second-coming of the megaplatform fiasco - the government tried before and spunked £35million on something called DotP (Delivering on the Promise) before quietly canning it. But some of us remember…

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If there really is no CMS then, you're right, that is a problem. As for there being a lot of transactional websites, then that's a problem that I think most big organisations have and if the new website has to fall back to microsites to deal with them then that's a shame but a necessity - hopefully there are guidelines for how they should be integrated if there comes a time when a transactional website get updated.

At some point more transactions need to be done online - dealing with government workers in person or over the phone is a painful and slow process. If this is a step towards that then that's great.

Don't get me wrong, I don't think any new site is going to fix everything, but I'm also not in the doom and gloom camp (who, if they are bored, should find some more fodder at the new BBC Sport website).

Maybe it's a good start or maybe it will go nowhere. It's a beta, we don't know yet.

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Silver badge

The government should not be running IT projects

1.7M they spent. I wonder which page cost the most money.

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Thumb Up

It's working fine.

Just tried the search box...

'... Sorry, we couldn't find any results for "competent civil servants".'

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Anonymous Coward

Wow another .gov website..

...oh golly how exciting. Full of more lies, half truths and propaganda! How much of my hard earned money did they spunk on this bloated crapfest then? Still on the bright side I suppose it gives Anon something to aim for.

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Anonymous Coward

Didn't get past

enthusiastically fingered behind closed doors.

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Emj
FAIL

It's a bit crap really - visually, looks like any number of ripped off WordPress templates. Surely for 1.7m they could have come up with something, well, new? IMHO it just doesn't feel official or governmenty

<goes back to the "renew your task disk here, honest" website>

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Thumb Up

Today I'm being positive

I said on my rant blog that Betagov will probably never get launched and it has been. So, I was proved wrong -

http://directgovmustdie.blogspot.com/2012/02/betagov-launch-how-wrong-i-was.html

In the meantime, here's a heartwarming message from the people who brought you Directgov mark I, in case you thought £1.7 million was a waste of money -

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uf6wgmGCWMA

I'd Be Be Betagov Guv Guv!

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Anonymous Coward

Cut out the high wastage levels of the past.

@AndrewCarr - Kudos for selflessly advocating using smaller outfits, rather than bigger players such as your employer.

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Silver badge

"Global Experience Language" The acronym for that is obviously GEL. My experience of things described as GEL in the past suggest that it will be extremely hard to get through in order to reach what you might want.

As for the usefulness of the site, unless someone has written a fantastically-detailed spec, there's usually a huge usability difference between software written by a software engineer with a spec and software written by someone with in-depth knowledge of how people are likely to use it and which are common operations or sequences of operations. It will be interesting to see how easy it is to perform common tasks on the new site.

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Anonymous Coward

@Number6

Yes, I'll be watching keenly for when they actually get around to adding their first transaction

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