The government has moved an alpha version of a pilot website - which could replace all .gov.uk URLs - to beta.
Alpha.gov.uk - which resulted from Martha Lane Fox's review of the government's digital services offerings - could replace all government websites with a single URL.
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The Alpha.gov.uk website was developed using agile software development techniques, crowdsourcing and cloud computing.
The Alpha version has been available for comment for the last few months. Tom Loosemore, deputy director of the Cabinet Office's Single Government Website development, said in June: "We were set the challenge of shifting all government websites to a single domain while being user-sensitive. The best way to do this is to build a very early prototype and get real feedback from real people," Tom Loosemore told Computer weekly last month.
Public testing of the beta version is expected in early 2012. The project's future will not be decided until the beta-stage testing is complete.
A single URL for government online services will cut costs and simplify access to government information and services. Francis Maude, minister for the Cabinet Office, said running over 400 government websites as individual sites doesn't make sense.
"This will not only make it easier for the public to find what they want but it will also be better value for taxpayers, as this project could lead to annual savings of £65 million. We have been clear that the days of vanity websites are over - we have radically reduced the number of existing websites and introduced strict rules for those that remain," said Francis Maude.
In her review, Martha Lane Fox said people shouldn't have to wade through the complex government structures to find what they need. Today's announcement of the beta release takes us one step closer to a single government domain.
According to Tom Loosemore's latest blog post, the core objectives of this beta are:
- Public beta test of the site delivering the mainstream, citizen-facing aspects of gov.uk.
- Private beta test of a shared gov.uk "corporate" publishing platform, aimed at replacing most of the activity currently hosted on numerous departmental publishing environments
- First draft of a gov.uk "Global Experience Language", to provide clear, consistent design, user-experience and brand clarity for those developing sites for the single gov.uk domain.
The deadline for delivery of all three is early 2012.
Loosemore said: "After digesting feedback from the Alpha.gov.uk prototype of a single domain for government, there's now a clear next step towards the gov.uk 'revolution' recommended by Martha Lane Fox's review and supported by Francis Maude and his fellow ministers."