‘Harder, opaquer, slower’

OK I’m less than convinced that ‘opaquer’ is really a word but you get the point 🙂

When you visit the latest iteration of GOVUK one of the first things you see is the strapline ‘Simpler, clearer, faster’. I like it. Alot. It nicely sums up what GDS are trying to achieve and just generally is a decent goal for any public sector website.

A recent post of the GDS blog has someone from the Driving Standards Agency talking about how they took that phrase and other lessons GDS have been sharing and rethought their Youtube videos to some success. Its a nice case study and I think a fine example of how the informal sharing from GDS is cascading through the public sector.

That said I find myself with a bigger issue and to be honest GDS is a part of the problem rather than a solution (for now anyway.)

I need to deliver a new website [very] early in 2013. Its not a huge site by Gov standards – a little under 2,000 pages and about 50k uniques per month. Nor is it that complex consisting almost exclusively of HTML pages and an awful lot of PDFs.

One of the problems is I still don’t really know how GDS, the single-domain etc is going to effect us. It might well pass us by but that isn’t clear yet and even if it does what does that actually mean? I’m planning a new website, building wireframes, drafting a content strategy, testing a proposed new IA, thinking about the design but is it going to be valid or will it be superseded in a matter of months? I’m not a lazy guy (well not in work terms – exercise and housework is a whole different ball game!) but its a great deal of work for nothing if the hammer comes down.

Not to mention we are looking to select and implement a new CMS – for more than one partner organisation – at a time when GDS are building a custom web publishing solution.

I’m aware the folk at GDS have got a lot on their plate and a big part of this is about the timing I’m sure but we have our own looming deadlines and with every passing week I grow more twitchy. At the moment other people are taking a more blinkered approach and are probably benefiting because of that but that isn’t my nature – I am just too nosey!

From a personal point of view I’d welcome GDS ‘sticking their oar in’ to any project I’m involved in – I’m like a broken record when it comes to the need for digital leadership and I think they are best placed to provide it and I could sure use a little guidance..

3 responses to “‘Harder, opaquer, slower’”

  1. Hi Matt

    It’s sometimes painful for us in GDS to read things like this, but it’s also a good wake-up call, so thank you for sharing the pain! Neil Williams and his team have mostly been focusing on helping departments get in shape for the forthcoming move to GOV.UK, but we’ve also been doing a lot of thinking and planning about how we can help agencies and ALBs to prepare for the move (although the timescales are a bit longer than for depts there’s a lot more of you out there!). We’ll be relying heavily on digital people in Whitehall depts to help with the transition (and they are the unsung heroes of the process) so they’ll probably be the people you hear from directly most of the time. I’m hopeful that we’ll have some clear timescales for you and everyone else quite soon, and I think Neil W has reached out already to see if there’s any tactical advice we can offer in the meantime. But please keep letting us know when we get things wrong – we really want to make this work, and the more feedback we get the more we can iterate and improve!

    Thanks and kind regards,

    Etienne Pollard
    GOV.UK Programme Director

  2. We have a similar issue; closing down and potentially moving a medium-large NHS web estate in support of the Health and Social Care Bill. But it’s not very clear what we should be moving *to*… a new site? A gov.uk subdomain?

    I’ll be really interested to see what comes out of this. But like you I have an uncomfortable feeling that whatever happens won’t come soon enough for our purposes.

  3. Etienne

    Thanks for the comment. Its not as if I think you (GDS) have got anything wrong – you clearly have to prioritise the Departments and like you say there are an awful lot of us in ALB/NDPB land! I’m also grateful to the help people like Neil and Daffydd at GDS and Tim at BIS have always offered.

    I just think the whole process could do with being a bit clearer – who does what, who is making the decisions and who will those decisions be communicated to? TBH it probably feels a bit more ‘opaque’ because everything else has been so clear and open.

    I really am a big fan of what GDS is trying to achieve and just want to make sure we do it justice in our little corner.

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