The hopeless gov.uk website

In October 2012 the UK government quietly launched gov.uk to take over from direct.gov.uk and businesslink.gov.uk and apparently other departmental websites.

It cost 18.5 million (in order to save money) and is riddled with errors, omissions, bad grammar, a hopeless search facility and most of the content seems to be written by the office junior who treats everyone like an idiot.

There is a great thread on the UKBF will give you some idea of the issues. The main problem is that anyone following the advice could end up in trouble – and that’s not what we expect from a government website.

Here is what they think over at the register and economia.

The Idiot’s Guide

To give you a flavour of the nonsense on the site here are some examples. Note that these are the exact words on the site!

Buying and selling your home

Buying or selling a home normally takes 2 to 3 months. If you’re part of a chain of buyers and sellers, the process can take longer.

Enter your postcode to check whether your property’s in a disadvantaged area.

Setting up a PLC

Where to send your form

The address you need is on the form.

VAT guidance

You can’t charge VAT on exempt or ‘out of scope’ items.

Exempt goods or services are supplies that you can’t charge VAT on

The law on leaving your child home alone

The law doesn’t say an age when you can leave a child on their own, but  it’s an offence to leave a child alone if it places them at risk. Use your judgement on how mature your child is before you decide to leave them  alone.

Wow!

Even more rubbish

The site also uses Google analytics to monitor visitors. Google are in all sorts of trouble over privacy issues and is a well known tax avoidance company. There is no need to to use GA, the government already has its own data collection service.

All the really great content from businesslink has gone missing but the good news is that it is still available in the national archive.

If you want to do your car tax online you end up back on direct.gov.uk anyway so the new site hasn’t taken over from anything really.  Same if you want a passport, you end up on the ips site.  So much for gov.uk replacing departmental sites. A quick check reveals that the cabinet office, Justice, HSE, MOD, DWP and everyone else still has their own websites.

There is a search facility but it is useless.  I did a search for ‘contact numbers’ and the top result was ‘personalised vehicle registration numbers’. Another search for ‘ofsted’ offers me ”register as a childminder’.

Apparently they had loads of consultants helping them with this including that well known expert: Martha Lane Fox founder of Lastminute.com (who went bust).

Update: just found this marketing BS on the website fonts: digital.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/a-few-notes-on-typography  How much did that consulation cost? Completly pointless – all they had to do is use the same fonts everyone else uses all over the world.

How much did it cost?

The orginal estimate was for £261,000 back in 2011. This has rocketed up to £18.7 million just to launch. Apparently the old websites cost £36 million to maintain. There are no figures on how much the new site will cost to maintain.

The running costs of the old site were miniscule compared to the £18billion general government spend. And because they haven’t even begun to incorporate the department sites the costs will no doubt increase  costing just as much to run as the old sites.

What is the point of gov.uk

The idea is good: bring everything together under one website. Direct.gov.uk did that pretty well anyway so I’m not sure how the new site is an improvement. You can get to the content quicker but that could have been sorted on the old website. In any case the new content is so poor that it’s a joke.

And since none of the other departmental sites are included there are no savings there and it actually makes life more difficult for users.

It’s also very frustrating that they don’t answer feedback messages and you can even add a comment to the government blog as you have to be logged in to wordpress, twitter or facebook.

Great idea let down because it’s tried too hard to be a one size fits all portal and fails.

Hoplessness is now Official

After the dissatrous integration of UK Visas and Immigration into guff.uk it turns out the Government Data Service BS machine did get it all wrong as suspected by everyone else. Have a read of this excellent analysius from The Register: The Inside Story of govuk.

Add your comment

  1. Hiarywom said:

    Thank you for your article,
    Why is it that governments who seem to have endless budgets for a website design end up with the worst websites in the world. In Australia we have the same issues they spend a fortune of our money and end up with something that just doesn’t work at all. as a tax payer i can only shake my head in bewilderment that we allow them to get away with it.

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