Government launches alpha version of comprehensive .gov.uk website

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Government launches alpha version of comprehensive .gov.uk website

Karl Flinders

The government has made an alpha version of a website - which could replace all .gov.uk URLs - available for comment from the public.

Alpha.gov.uk - which went live at midnight - is the result of Martha Lane Fox's review of the government's digital services offerings.

In her report to cabinet minister Francis Maude in October, Martha Lane Fox recommended all government digital services should be under a single URL.

"The user should not have to navigate the departmental structure of government before finding the service or content they need. On the web, this implies the adoption of a single internet domain for central government," said Martha Lane Fox.

If more people use online services to acquire government support - whether it be related to setting up a business or replacing a lost passport - billions can be saved.

Usability was at the top of the agenda for the team building the site, which included six software developers in a total team of 14. Half of these were from the government and the other half from the private sector.

"Government services have to be so good that people want to tell their friends about them," said Tom Loosemore, who is head of the team developing the website. He said the best way to improve usability is to build an early prototype to get feedback from users.

To demonstrate the usability, the alpha version will feature 100 of the most common requests - such as "I need a new passport?" and "What is the minimum salary?" - that government websites receive.

It then takes users direct to what they want through asking them simple questions. It uses geo-location technology to pinpoint where the request is being made, to help it provide the right information.

The alpha version, which will be available for comment for two months, is built on Amazon's cloud computing platform.

Moving all government websites to one place will cut government publishing costs, currently £130m, by an estimated 50%.


Test Alpha.gov.uk here >>


Martha Lane Fox’s recommendations
Make Directgov the government front end for all departments’ transactional online services to citizens and business, with the teeth to mandate cross-government solutions, set standards and force departments to improve citizens’ experience of key transactions.
Make Directgov a wholesaler as well as the retail shop front for government services and content by mandating the development and opening-up of application programme interfaces (APIs) to third parties.
Change the model of government online publishing, by putting a new central team in Cabinet Office in absolute control of the overall user experience across all digital channels, commissioning all government online information from other departments.
Appoint a new CEO for digital in the Cabinet Office with absolute authority over the user experience across all government online services (websites and APIs) and the power to direct all government online spending.

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