on the wall of the Public Office

on the wall of the Public Office

Saw this statement on the way out from the workshop (illustrating a point from one of the case studies). Hammered home the point to me that website rationalisation is about them not us.

  1. I assume that research has been done into how many people use search engines such as google as their first port of call for govt information and how direct.gov.uk will compare against the other sites in providing that information.

    My first random test was searching for a doctor in my local town.

    DirectGov: I had to follow links to get a list of surgeries.

    Google: Top result was a list of doctors in my home town from a tourist site. An NHS site was second but it was an empty search result.

    It may not say much about the direct.gov.uk vs multitude of .gov.uk sites at present but it does show that direct.gov.uk has a long way to go before being useful. Is standardising on something that performs poorly a good idea? Ir do the multitude generally perform that poorly? Are the drivers of this project going to allow the better performing websites to stay independent? A bit like foundation hospitals?

  2. I’m sure it has! No doubt a fair chunk of their traffic is deep links in via Google, as are everybodys.

    Good example Shane, and shows the scale of the task ahead for them. I’m not sure if it always performs as badly but rationalisation should at least raise standards and consistency of search engine optimisation which are extremely variable across government sites. Guess the outcome will be that content owners who currently operate separate sites will instead ‘own’ parts of DirectGov – the good ones raising the standards for everyone else (I’m not privy to any of this, just guessing).

  3. Just noticed that the number of links is missing from the DirectGov test. It was FOUR.

  4. Four links to get to the information from entering the homepage? Where did DirectGov come in the natural search you did on Google as a matter of interest?

  5. Four clicks from the search results. So five from home page.

    Where did DirectGov come in Google? You are joking aren’t you? I got bored of looking after 5 pages of results.

  6. You ought to try to search on http://www.directionlessgov.com – this gives you two read-outs, one which gives you Directgov results and one which gives Google results. It is pretty self-explanatory and backs up Shane’s point about how far Direct gov needs to go before it gets useful.

    The other issue about how many people just use Google anyway is interesting. Research conducted by Plymouth Uni assessing the impact of the take up campaign ‘connect to your council’ showed that, even after a spend of £5m, the average direct.gov.uk referral to any given local authority website during the analysis period was 0.666%. The overall average Google referral in that period was 24.44%. The average direct access (using council’s own url) was 52.81%. Government would do much better to operate in collaboration with the natural inclinations of service users, rather than mandate the ‘entry point’, even if that does seem to make sense in theory.

  7. That research sounds interesting. The Google referral isn’t surprising, in fact I thought it would be higher. The direct access figure is larger than I would have thought too.

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