back to article New site hits beta, flashes SINGLE typeface to punters

The government has released the beta version of its new digital portal – Gov.UK – with a search-focused homepage and a batch of fresh content. The site – which will pull together all government services in a smooth, sexy web package – is slated to go fully live by the end of 2012; the soft launch today is to test out features, …


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  1. benjymous

    The navigation buttons at the bottom have a mind of their own on Chrome - they run away and hide off the bottom of the page.

    1. Rono666

      Same on palemoon. You just know it's only going to be IE friendly

      1. Bumpy Cat

        Firefox fine ...

        It actually looks and works fine on FF. Probably they aimed for IE, FF, Safari and may get round to Chrome and Opera later ...

      2. Jonathan Richards 1

        Tryit it with different browsers

        @Rono666, who wrote: You just know it's only going to be IE friendly

        No, not so. I just tried it with lynx, and it works just fine. I can indeed 'get in, find what I want and get out'. I wish that the Meteorological Office would adopt some of these design principles.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      It will go live and then,

      Crash and crash and crash and crash....

      A quality piece of Gov IT

  2. Detective Emil

    Stop SHOUTING!

    Talking of typefaces… please fight your sudden desire to SHOUT in your headlines. Thanks.

  3. Buzzword

    Nice idea, but....

    It's all very well having a simplified interface, but when the underlying laws and regulations are fiendishly complex then it's not a great deal of help. The Revenue's pages on IR35 alone would take up a ream of printer paper. Benefit and tax credit recipients often have to resort to Citizens Advice or similar agencies to help calculate what they are owed. Putting a pretty skin on it doesn't change the underlying complexity.

    For simple things like renewing your car tax I can see it being useful though.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Nice idea, but....

      No shit, Sherlock.

      A website is a like a car. Only joking. We know that car analogies are like a car: they don't work.

      A website is like a helpdesk. It can give you a lot of the basic information and redirect you to a specialist when you need to know more.

      Although I'm not keen on Javascript for some of the navigation, it's not essential to the function of the site and the basic principles are right.

      - Almost entirely text only. The graphics are simple, small and helpful but not essential.

      - Consistent, simple sans serif font.

      I'm also not keen on some of the spacing, but it's a reasonable compromise in preferences and the layout worked OK, though not perfectly, in my Galaxy 4.0.

  4. The Wegie

    Javascript for navigation. Sigh. It looks really ugly with noscript turned on.

    As for the typeface, given that Cabin isn't part of either the Windows or Mac Os X standard font libraries, how many people are ever going to see it in anger?

    1. Tom Wood

      Web fonts

    2. Chris 3

      Javascript, yes well how many people actually have it turned off?

      And regarding fonts - presumably everyone who has a browser modern enough to support Webfonts, which is anyone with IE 6 or better.

      1. johnny19

        Actually Webfonts were supported by IE in v5 IIRC. It was all the other browser vendors and the w3c that didn't adopt it as a standard for a long time. Shocker!

        Anyway, that font is awful, it really doesn't alias well on Windows.

        Also their attempt at responsive design is pretty half arsed, if that is even what it is. Have to admit it is a step in the right direction though.

        HMRC website next please, that monstrosity was written in the dark ages.

    3. Wensleydale Cheese

      It's Wordpress

      @The Wegie

      "Javascript for navigation. Sigh. It looks really ugly with noscript turned on."

      I know it's just a beta site but the font comes from and at first glance the Javascript, css and images seem to be sitting on a mixture of and sites.

  5. Michael Hutchinson
    Thumb Down

    The font looks shockingly bad in Chrome.

    1. Wensleydale Cheese
      Thumb Down

      The font is awful In Firefox on Linux too. Faint grey on a white background isn't good for my poor old eyes.

      It's OK using FF on Windows 7 though.

      1. Bumpy Cat
        Thumb Up

        Also using FF on Linux, and it there's no colour issues.

  6. Tom Wood


    doesn't look like Cabin (

    Looks very like the Transport font used on roadsigns. Which is great on roadsigns (which is what it was designed for) but is not so good for paragraphs of text on a web page. It makes the whole thing look a little like a book designed for toddlers.

    Other than that, the layout looks nice.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Typeface

      You're just trying to grab key pieces of information and the sans serif is fine for that. As they note, it's in and out as quickly as possible.

    2. /dev/null

      Re: Typeface

      Yes, looks exactly like URW Transport. Trebuchet MS would have been a good approximation that would have avoided this webfont nonsense for most people...

  7. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    Not displaying on Windows?

    Can we keep that feature please?

    Ducks to avoid incoming missiles.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Well, judging by the number of items returned from the search, they're certainly not infringing Apples 604 patent.

  9. Tom 7 Silver badge

    Designed for the users needs???

    First law of computing: Designers say no.

    You will need this feature in release two... No you really will, it wont make any sense now but when you too realise that design feature x34 is vital to obtaining your first name you will be happy to spend 1/2 hour avoiding typing in your address into four fields so we can find out where you live. Yes I know we can do that with a post code lookup up but that wouldn't give the user experience of actually getting the fucking job done,,

    1. Hieronymus Howerd

      Re: Designed for the users needs???

      You what?

      1. Tom 7 Silver badge

        Re: Designed for the users needs???

        In my experience its very easy to provide simple, logical, clean interfaces for the user to input and access data on a system via webpages Then 'designers' and managers get involved and within minutes the interface become stylish, fitting the designers plan for the companies latest advertising campaign and the managers purchasing of some bit of software and these things take precedence and the user is fucked.

        Even setting up the interface so it can all be parametrised and style sheeted so the appearance and layout can be changed on a whim without redesigning the workflow every five minutes doesn’t work.

        I love the idea being put forward here but a lot of powerful people are not going to let themselves be made unemployed just because they are totally irrelevant in the information exchange between customer and database. I'd rather fill in a simple working form in comic-sans in a minute than a turgid overblown design exercise that looks great while the latest style is in vogue but takes 1/2hr to negotiate while graphics and marketing make their mark. And for many people style is so much more important than function.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Designed for the users needs???


          As a widely visible (and risible) example, the new improved Met Office website could, as another reply already noted, benefit a great deal from user-focused simplification.

        2. AdamWill

          Re: Designed for the users needs???

          That's a nice screed, but it seems rather ill-suited to the occasion. Have you looked at the site? It's not at all over-designed; it's basically just columns of text with very minimal graphics. Your whole thing about "a turgid overblown design exercise that looks great while the latest style is in vogue but takes 1/2hr to negotiate while graphics and marketing make their mark" doesn't relate at all.

  10. John Savard Silver badge

    Taxpayer Dollars

    I looked for information about the typeface, and found that it was a Google Web Font, which means it's free. Not only are they being considerate to web surfers whose computers or data links are slow, they're also considerate of the taxpayer!

  11. mr-tom

    Not working as intended - search function deeply flawed

    Searched for "Knob"

    No results returned.

    Expected results included articles and pictures about Tony Blair.

    Please go back to the drawing board.


    D. Cameron.

  12. twelvebore

    Font choice

    Not sure how to take this.

    Is this the ultimate sign of Mr Cameron's austerity measures kicking in? The size of the UK public debt means that our government can only afford one font license now?

    Is this a left-over from Mr Brown's premiership? One Font To Rule Them All, One Font To Blind Them?

    Or is it Mr Clegg's influence? Looks good at first glance, but in doesn't work in any real-life? But at least it's scrupulously fair, in that it's equally crap for everybody.

    On the bright side, at least it's not Comic Sans.

    1. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: Font choice

      If they use just one font then its very easy to override that to the font of your choice in your browser.

    2. J.G.Harston Silver badge

      Re: Font choice

      It's irrelevant what fonts the guvernment want to use/can afford, it's the font on *my* computer that's relevant, and whether *I* want to/can afford to use it.

  13. Ambivalous Crowboard

    It put cookies on my computer, and I wasn't given a choice about this

    Given that this is now breaking some ambiguous law that is obviously very important, who do I sue for infecting my privacy?

    1. Jonathan Richards 1

      Re: It put cookies on my computer, and I wasn't given a choice about this

      It did? I visited the site with Lynx, which always and without fail gives one the choice of accepting or rejecting cookies, and it didn't try to set any for me.

  14. Pen-y-gors Silver badge


    impressive biiiig buttons with icons that don't particularly add to the user understanding - and what happens when there are 500 different topics on the site - a home page with 500 massive buttons that scrolls down for 20000 pixles?

  15. Herby Silver badge

    This of course begs the question...

    Will it work on Surface?

  16. Coofer Cat
    Thumb Up

    Credit Where it's Due

    I have to say I'm quite impressed. This is "front doors", and it does exactly what it should. Sure it's got some rough edges (well noted above), but come on - Facebook and Google don't do better than this when they beta something as broad and complex this.

    As a general rule, which has never been wrong before, the government can not do IT. Ever. I'm sure this is no exception as they probably paid too much for it, it probably won't have obvious functions in it, and it definitely won't integrate with local council websites. However, it's a step in the right direction.

    As someone noted above, whilst the front doors might look simple, the government is far from simple inside. Hopefully this view of simplicity will inspire the zillions of departments and ministries to simply their worlds too. If they even do it by 1% it'll have been worth it.

    Given the choice of this or same-old, same-old - I'll take this every time.

  17. J P
    Big Brother

    Single sign on?

    If you follow the links to "submit tax return" it still asks you to log in to the HMRC site separately. Is this a good or a bad thing?

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The mother of all websites

    This is going to replace every citzen-facing Government website. Of course, the primary-school interface will scale to encompass thousands of widely different topics. Yes, it will.

    For non-citizen facing content there'll still be Another navigation paradigm. If it's not on one site, it must be on the other. Clear?

    This is the Government Digital Service's (The Department for Teaching Granny how to Suck Eggs) centralising agenda. Ignore the fact that Government merrily spews out yet more websites to cover the weekly release of yet another purchasing framework. One day, all this is going to, a) make sense, and b) save money.

    The 'make sense' part will come some time after comes out of beta and world + dog have had a chance to say, 'What an unusable pile of shite, I'll just use Google'.

    The 'save money' part - well, for that, you have to know what the alternatives really cost, and how much you've spent. And as the National Audit Office report makes clear, GDS haven't a clue. But, hey, what's £90million over the last 3 years? (That doesn't include the cost of the new beta website or any other GDS playpen initiatives).

    £90million - money well spent.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The mother of all websites

      I'm replying to myself because I'm too angry to stop ranting there.

      DirectGov's not working, so let's make DirectGov2.

      "Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results."

      It's like trying to cure anthrax with smallpox.

  19. Andalou

    surely some mistake

    "Iterate. Then iterate again."

    A typical governmental waste of taxes - using a redundant tautology

    1. Just_this_guy

      Re: surely some mistake

      "Redundant tautology"? Is that some kind of jokey jest?

  20. Just_this_guy

    Don't just rant! Feed back!

    I hope all you folks up there with bright ideas are using the Feedback button on the site to let them know how to improve things.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Don't just rant! Feed back!

      I have, many times, but feeding back that the fundamental philosophy of the whole enterprise is 100% wrong somehow fails to add "scrap it and start over" to their to-do list.

      1. AdamWill

        Re: Don't just rant! Feed back!

        I thought 'scrapping it and starting over' is what you were *complaining* about?

        it's almost as if you just want to rant about the government, were determined to do so whatever the site looked like, and wouldn't give any government enterprise any credit for being any good ever. But that couldn't possibly be the case...

  21. taxman
    Big Brother

    Use of Google fonts?

    Just where is this machination of data residing?

    And having it fully loaded by end of 2012?

    So no Department will have their own web site by then?



    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Use of Google fonts?

      And for those who don't get the Dot-P reference, just think of £35million spunked on a later-junked centralised CMS and web-hosting platform. Hey, if we add that to the bill, we are up to £120million.

      Now, some people might think that's a lot of meony to spend on a website. But don't worry - it's going to save us all loads of money, one day.

      So this is the third try at how to make a simple thing complicated, take control away from those who know what they are doing, splurge loads of money, and provide jobs for a bunch of opinionated blowhards with no record of delivery.

      I need a lie-down

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