diamond geezer

 Tuesday, February 16, 2010

London's government has a new website. It's the same website that London's government had last week, only it's different. There's a new font for a start. Expect to see a lot more of that. And there's a new layout, and new content, and a whole new interactive style to Boris's City Hall website. There's even a weekly blog. Not so much a change, more a transformation.
Bye bye old site, first launched in 2001 and hadn’t seen any significant upgrades since, and hello to clearer layouts, easier to use navigation and more accessible and relevant content.
Now the site actually launched in 2000 [flashback], and started off looking like this [flashback], and saw a significant upgrade in 2003 [flashback], but they're right, it's not restructured much since [flashback no longer available]. As for "easier to use navigation", the jury's out on that. I know I've had seven years to get used to the old structure, but I'm not finding the new structure easy to navigate at all.
We’re not saying this new site is perfect, it’s not, that’s why this is a soft launch. But it is a good first step towards achieving our goals of using digital channels to engage with Londoners, give Londoners access to our work and enable conversations to happen that just wouldn’t have been possible before the advent of Web 2.0.
I'm glad they admitted that the upgraded site isn't perfect, because it saves me mentioning it. It's been launched before it's ready, before all the pages have content, before all the links actually link somewhere. A pedant might argue it hasn't been user-tested properly, but I'm sure there comes a point where it makes sense to launch whatever, and allow the public to make the most of the great majority that actually works.
All of these sites are built on Drupal, a free open-source content management system which is cheaper to develop on than proprietary systems and has a huge community of users with whom we will be able to share resources.
Now that explains a lot. The old london.gov.uk was a bespoke site, suited for only one purpose, and must have required a dedicated team to post and support and maintain. The new site's more modular, more off the shelf, so should be cheaper to run and easier to innovate. But I've seen other Drupal-style upgrades before. Tower Hamlets went all off-the-peg this time last year, and the resultant site is blander, sparser and far less inspiring than the bespoke site which preceded it. It wouldn't surprise me to hear that the latest version of the London 2012 website is run by Drupal, and the godawful Radio 4 programme database, and various other generic content-presentation platforms. The future's in shareable chunks, not interdependent link-trees.
We’re not going to spend lots of time telling you about what you’ll find on this site but we do hope you will browse around and see for yourself. And if you find any broken links or worse still any nasty bugs, please drop us a line and we’ll fix it.
So look, rather than me pick holes in the new london.gov.uk site, let me instead ask what you think.

If you've found any broken links or nasty bugs, do mention them here: buggy comments here
If you have any other moans and gripes, do post them here: moany comments here

And let's keep the comments box at the bottom of this post for positive messages of support for London's beleaguered civic website developers. Thank you.

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