Transformational Government: Closure of Dft Websites
Thank you for your letter of 7th February in response to the Cabinet Office's Transformational Government announcement of 10th January.
You asked for a memorandum setting out:
· details of Departmental plans to ensure long term online access to its research and policy documents;
· Confirmation that no such information will be deleted from Departmental and Executive Agency sites; and that any migration of information from websites due to close will include all such material.
· The Department's position on the loss of bookmarks and links from other websites following changes in URLs.
I have pleasure in enclosing our response and can assure you that we have no plans to restrict access too or remove current content. We are however working very closely with the Cabinet Office to improve how information is made available to business, the public and others to improve user experience.
Transformational Government: Closure of DfT Websites
DfT Response to Transport Select Committee Letter of 7th February 2007
Introduction to Transformational Government
The Government's objective is to have strong, strategically effective communications and service delivery via the internet, designed around the needs and lifestyles of citizens.
Ministers commissioned the main central government departments to review their websites and develop plans for their rationalisation and the migration of content to the Directgov website for citizens and the Business Link website for businesses.
The rationale is that services enabled by IT must be designed around the citizen or business, not the provider, and provided through modern, co-ordinated delivery channels. The working assumption is that all customer information, self-service transactions, campaign support and online services should converge on Directgov (http://www.direct.gov.uk) and Business Link (http://www.businesslink.gov.uk) as the primary online channels.
Implications for DfT
The review by DfT and its Agencies of current websites identified 65 separate websites across the Department and Agencies as follows:
We considered the content of each of these to examine whether material should be focussed on Directgov or Business Links and were invited to categorise our websites into nine categories proposed by Cabinet Office. The DfT entry in the Transformational Government report showed the following:
What Does "Closure" Mean?
There has been some confusion both within and without Government about "closure."
The overall objective of transformational Government is to preserve and enhance access to information and services by putting them on a smaller number of high quality sites focused round the needs of customers where the information can be more easily found.
Within DfT, we are embarking upon major rationalisation of our website offering rather than formal "closure" of sites. Breaking down the table above:
· The two sites in Category A that have already closed are:
o Vehicle Licensing Online
o Vehicle Licensing Online (redirect)
Material from these sites has been moved to Directgov
· The four sites in Category B that we have agreed to close are:
o DVO Group (Driver, Vehicle and Operator Group) e-Community
o Road Safety Resources database
o Theory Tests
o THINK! Seat belts
Material from these however is being rationalised by being incorporated into the parent domain. (www.dft.gov.uk)
· The 30 sites in Category C consist of websites such as About Transport Direct, WebTAG: Transport Analysis Guidance, CFIT: Commission for integrated transport and websites associated with the THINK! road safety campaign such as drugdrive, cyclesense, The Academy and THINK! itself. Again, our plan is not to formally close these. The various THINK! websites will be combined into one portal providing road safety advice in one location. Other websites will be brought into the DfT domain. For example, the Transport Direct background information website (www.transportdirect.gov.uk) will continue to exist at www.dft.gov.uk/transportdirect. Information contained on this website will not be lost and the closer association with the parent/sponsoring Department will enable more people to find and make use of the content. Detailed discussions will be held with site operators and other stakeholders about the timing and form of migration.
· The category D sites include the DfT site, the majority of material on it is primarily aimed at local government and transport professionals and so not suitable for migration into Directgov or Business Links. Similarly Executive Agency corporate sites will continue but in slimmed down form as much of information for motorists will form part of Directgov. PSX(E) will need to consider whether individual executive agencies should have their own corporate sites - for executive agencies which do not have a separate legal status an alternative is to have something in the form www.dft.gov.uk/dvla or www.dft.gov.uk/highways .
· Category F, G and H sites
Discussion is ongoing. We are awaiting cross-government clarification on the status of these sites.
Our ability to rationalise websites within DfT has been helped considerably by our purchase of a new Content Management System in June 2006. Our express aim in procuring this new CMS was to rationalise our online presence and improve our customer offering. We have developed a site that is now more geared to the needs of our users.
The old DfT website had been criticised for mirroring the internal structure of the Department making it difficult for most users to find content. A usability study in November 2005 provided valuable information on how visitors use the site and provided the basis for a new, customer-focussed means of navigation.
In contrast, the new DfT website works by allowing users to filter content according to subject areas, the type of user (transport professional, parents, local authorities), dates, keywords and geographic location in a similar vein to leading websites such as Tesco and Ebay.
The new site has been designed in accordance with Cabinet Office rules relating to accessibility. It has been configured to allow compatibility with screen readers, which enables visually impaired or blind people to access the site and has been built to allow disabled users to navigate easily without using a mouse. In addition to third-party testing of the accessibility of code used on the website, user testing has also taken place with disabled users. Access was granted for users with a range of disabilities to access the site from their homes. They then completed a range of tasks which were analysed to show where the site was most and least effective. The results from this testing exercise show that the new design is much more usable than the old site.
As part of the CMS, we have also purchased a licence that allows the Department to migrate and manage all departmental and Executive Agency websites within the software. This enterprise licence will enable DfT to rationalise these sites, managing them through a single contract on a shared platform. This will vastly reduce running costs and the number of sites we have to maintain. Work is also ongoing to host and manage our Agency websites through this contract once public and business facing content has been migrated to Directgov and Business Link and existing management contracts expire.
DfT policy is to keep information publicly available within its corporate website and our current rationalisation programme will not affect that. For example, information originally stored on the Strategic Rail Authority website has been transferred to www.dft.gov.uk, thereby keeping that resource available to the public. Chief Information Officers are currently investigating options to store archived websites through National Archives. Pending the results of their investigations, DfT intend to continue with its current policy.
The migration of content from one site to another normally entails mapping each document on the original site and providing destination information on the new site. This can then be used as the basis for bookmark re-directs. This works well providing content is not subsequently moved. Websites continually need to be updated, restructured and amended; once the location of a document changes, the re-direct fails to work because the path is broken. Due to the size of Departmental websites (www.dft.gov.uk has approximately 37,000 pages) it is not practical or feasible to maintain re-directs as content is re-positioned. Re-directs are only of any real use immediately after the initial content migration. Bookmarks will need to be updated and reviewed periodically to ensure validity.
Department for Transport