I really like the thinking behind the corporate publishing bit of the single gov.uk domain.
I like the simplicity of what the departments participating in the beta have been asked to do so far: to describe what the Government’s objectives are, and what each department is doing to deliver them. That’s the core of what departmental websites should be doing now.
A lot of the content currently sitting on departments’ websites won’t have a place in the beta yet. That doesn’t mean it won’t have a place in the single domain, but if it’s not there yet, then that probably suggests that it’s not central to the government publishing machine.
We’re not a full participant in the beta at DH, but we have been contributing some content to the emerging platform. You have to use your imagination a bit to contribute content. There are lots of unknowns, there isn’t a beautiful solution to work towards, everything is a work in progress.
As a participant, your view of your role probably depends on how far you believe there is a problem that needs to be solved, whether you have confidence in the method, and how far you trust the people involved.
It’s probably a difficult time for some of those participating, and for those who run government websites but aren’t yet involved in the beta. I imagine there are lots of people who will be feeling quite defensive about the websites and the digital content that they have nurtured and fought for over years of pre digital-by-default struggles.
My advice, for what it’s worth, is to suck up the uncertainties and embrace the changes. Digital channels should always be improving, and I think there are lots of reasons to feel excited about these particular changes.
But you should expect lots of uncertainty along the way. Expect a user interface that you can pick holes in, expect methods for managing content that are less complete than those you use now, don’t expect an out-of-the-box GDS template for your current digital masterpiece.
But also, expect things to develop and improve rapidly, and for them not to stop improving. And expect to see evidence that new approaches deliver measurable benefits for your users, because that’s what the method promises.
(By the way, if you do digital stuff in the health and care system and would like to know more about how all this will affect that, please get in touch.)