Web standards and guidelines for UK Gov websites

Are here: http://www.coi.gov.uk/guidance.php?page=188

Don’t get too excited, much of this is still in consultation (opportunity, folks, to get involved) – for example, the following:

  • Using social media (in consultation)
  • Metadata (in consultation)
  • Minimum standards for web metrics (in consultation)

Sadly, I am unable to fathom how to contribute to these consultations, but someone will know – I know many of you would have some great insights into this, so I will work alongside you to find out how to be included in the consultation.

I am disappointed, and I so SO did not want to be, that the section on domain name guidance and use of a dotgovdotuk url is still in the dated and a bit wonky section of the Cabinet Office website. I know many of the individuals involved in developing this, and I promise you that this apparent belligerance belies the passion of those involved in developing the new standards in light of website rationalisation and convergence.

In my own opinion only, I believe that it is a simple message: no content is to be published online for citizens or business, unless through the adequately funded Directgov and businesslink.gov.uk. Saving the public purse from a hammering through unnecessary website deployment. (That means, you and I no longer have to fund the near on 1000 websites published by the UK government – each with their own design and marketing budgets (it can add up quite quickly)).

Yet it is a very difficult message to deliver. I could bore on about how hard it is to join policy makers with their communication teams, and to establish enough of a relationship to even discuss online delivery of what is happening – my explanation: it is as hard as trying to explain a rave to your parents (for those born in the 70s/80s). Neither party is too fussed by the detail, but both want the outcome to meet our needs, whilst successfully avoiding our worst fears.

These guidelines are the detail, the ‘yada yada’… but they are key, paramount to success. We need to understand the (un)spoken rules – let’s just clarify them and get on with it. But as ever, the devil is in the detail (I really did not want to use that phrase but hey ho) – and probably there is an element of JFDI and if there is a fallout – manage it. (But what fallout will there be, other than brand arguments and ownership concerns? This is the public sector – there is no argument).

Frustration all around.

My reason for posting about this is to show you where the guidelines will be published and to encourage you to keep a close eye on this. Please do join in consultations where you can, and please don’t use it as a stick to beat the beaten. There will be some super cool stuff coming out of this huge change – and this change will benefit us all.

Who could do with a ‘tell us once’ policy and delivery channel that works? All of us, birth, marriage and death – pretty salient and definitely doable… if we can get this absolutely right from the start.

Let’s get on with it.

PS Anyone who knows any more, please let me know, particularly on the status of the consultations.

24 responses

  1. Andy, thanks a mill… Adam is doing a superb job at making this stuff a reality and I am glad to see him ref’d in your links. It is simple though: online comms needs to be customer-needs-based, save the public cash and be an exemplar of accessibility. The ambition is great, delivery simple – what takes effort is changing the way things have been done to date.

    Bring on the Community empowerment agenda I say 🙂 not only can we have simple and easy routes to inform those who need to know about what we are doing – but enabling true democracy through being able to use this openness to engage and affect policy. The night is young 🙂

  2. I understand @51m0n is involved in one of the consultations and I have been asked to feed into the consultation on the Digital Inclusion Task Force (CLG / OTS).
    Any good ?

  3. When she has done her homework, cleaned the house, made supper, cleaned the car, had a bath, run my bath… then I might actually let her write my blog post again 🙂

  4. Well “Tell Us Once” is moving forward, albeit slowly, but it is gaining traction. DWP now have the lead so we now have alignment between DIrectGov and “Tell Us Once”.

    The first pilot should be this year. And there are the local government pilots at Southwark Council, Wolverhampton City Council and Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council.

    And yes, we should indeed focus on users rather than structures when building online services but that’s something we all need to understand. 🙂

  5. Let’s hope for our sakes that they are forever ‘out for consultation’ i.e.- not finished and published but organically developing as conditions change. That would be nice.

  6. @Jeremy – Easy to see that you don’t have any of these on your forward job objectives! 🙂

    But you are right, any of these can only be a snapshot and why are we recapitulating behaviours from the Gutenberg world in the web age?

  7. Well, my thoughts exactly. The civil service code is perfectly clear on acceptable behaviour, I see no reason why it should be any different in online engagement. Trying to shove online engagement through rigorous processes and checks/measures is going to firstly make the conversation way too stilted and secondly compound the potential accusations of ‘spinning’ information. (This refers to the Using social media guidelines only). I believe that the metadata guidance is extremely clunky at mo and out of date, so I applaud that review and I am intrigued by the web metrics one – which promises to measure success of online engagement not only through MIS, but also through measuring the satisfaction of customer – now this really IS fascinating, and if cracked, will hopefully be available in opensource as everyone needs this. (Well, people like us who care about this kind of stuff :))

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  9. Gosh. Andy Mabbett. I’m getting Small World issues again. Hi Andy!

    I think the government web stuff is moving in the right direction, albeit somewhat slowly. Surely it wouldn’t be too difficult to put a web policy in that required hosting through DirectGov? The thing is that a standalone website as part of a marketing campaign makes a lot of sense at first glance.

  10. G’mornin’.

    Andy Mabbett (see comment #1) directed me over to this post, as I was involved in co-ordinating the PSWMG response to ‘Delivering Inclusive Websites’, which had been in consultation from approx November last year until it was published on around the 5th June.

    Whilst I don’t think they are likely to meet Jeremy’s ‘always subject to consultation’ requirement (comment #9), the Delivering Inclusive Websites one doesn’t see itself as fixed and final – because it commits to a review of the D.I.W. documentation within 6 months of WCAG 2.0 becoming a formal Recommendation by the W3C.

    Froma personal note, I also feel that the COI did listen to the guidance and some of the issues raised were taken on board — not all of them mind you, but certainly some — so I would suggest that other people show a willingness to take part in the consultation and pass your information on to them. as they’ve shown a willingness to listen.

    Or, if you don’t want to do it yourself, and you work in the public/voluntary sectors, why not [warning, blatant plug approaching] pop along to the PSWMG forum, join up and get your voice heard as part of the PSWMG message?

  11. Jack, I completely agree and thank you for this. I believe that people are very keen to join in on the consultations, the problem is that it is not clear how to! Perhaps the PSWMG is one way, but for those not in the public sector there should also be a route – we just cannot find it!

  12. As it happens, I don’t work in the public sector anymore myself … so if you hear of a voice for those ‘not directly working in the public sector but still interested in it’, let me know 🙂

  13. Am I missing the meaning for something being out for consultation? I thought that meant it would be available somewhere for people to feedback on before the final is laid in Parly, or published or whatever? Prob me being thick

  14. Formal consultations are indeed bound by a number of rules. I would point to the appropriate page on the Cabinet Office website but it seems to be down…

    Ah it is up, but running very slowly, and you probably don’t want to see what they have done to the front page picture of your heartthrob.

    Hmm, oddly enough http://www.consultations.gov.uk points at the BERR people. But Direct Gov to the rescue – http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/Dl1/Directories/PublicConsultations/DG_10035668

  15. Pingback: Social media in government - can’t we lead by example please? « Whitehall Webby - digital media in government

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