Last night at a little before 9pm the latest ‘launch’ from GDS Towers took place and professionally this was very much the deliverable I had the most interest in.
INSIDE GOVERNMENT (more cap-tastic action!) was formerly known as the ‘Whitehall’ project or occasionally refered to as the ‘corporate publishing platform’ and it is the activity that Neil Williams left his role at BIS to product manage. It is perhaps less ‘glamorous’ than the public facing work that GOV.UK has focused on so far but for those of us working in digital/web teams on the edges of Government it is the project most likely to directly impact us one way or another.
The first thing that is noticeable is that it is *very* beta. Much more so than the previous release but there is more than enough there to get a feel for things and to see the [near] future of departmental websites and potentially many, many more public sector sites.
So what are my immediate takeaways?
i. The design is extremely sparse. Once again readability and clarity are the focus which I like but I think it might be considered a bit stark by alot of people. [That said I like it]
ii. There is even less ‘branding’ to differentiate the Departments than I expected – a prominent title and a single colour (plus there choice of photos for the large ‘homepage’ carousel) is the only difference.
iii. I’m not clear how the navigation structure will cope with any depth or whether it is intended to be that ‘flat’? The way is works in some of the ‘About’ pages seems less than intuitive to me.
iv. The search is again very clever and it is clear that this kind of ‘intelligent auto-complete’ needs to be considered on any new site.
v. The way the structure is output led rather than Department led takes a little getting used to (i.e. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-armed-forces-covenant-interim-report-2011) but I can see the benefit of uncoupling things from Departments that may change or vanish.
My main impression is that it is a major achievement and there is alot more about it I like than don’t and imagine it will go through a number of iterations before it leaves ‘beta’ and will only get better each time.
For me though the real interesting information came in a blogpost from Neil a little after the launch. Anyone who knows me knows I have issues with ‘content management systems’ and have become increasingly frustrated over the years and have high hopes for this project to help resolve some of my frustrations – if only by demonstrating a better way of doing things.
There were a series of quotes in this post that really made me want to peak under the bonnet as soon as possible. Things like;
a custom publishing engine properly tuned to the needs of multiple users and publishers
make the software as simple, flexible and intuitive as possible
and most of all
On average, publishing to GOV.UK was 2.5 minutes faster than WordPress and 11 minutes faster than Directgov.
[though I did hear a rumor that the publishing engine is using Markdown in which case I'd bring those times down big time as I never remember the syntax!].
So congratulations again to Neil, the team from Go Free Range and everyone else who was involved. Look forward to the next installment :)