Out with the old and in with the new – how we’re preparing for GOV.UK

In April 2013, GOV.UK will replace all central government corporate websites, becoming the single place to find information about what the government is doing.

For the first time, government information and services will be presented in a way that puts the needs of citizens ahead of those of departments.

What we’ve done already

Like many other department websites, www.dh.gov.uk has already changed significantly over the last couple of years. We moved from a clunky corporate publishing machine focused on press releases and official publications, to a site that enables people to engage with us on policy formation. We are able to talk with, and seek the views of the health and care workforce better than we have ever done before.

Unlike some departments, we didn’t use the general election in 2010 as an opportunity to archive all our content and start again. Perhaps we should have done. Instead, we developed our jazzy engagement content on WordPress, but sat below it- just out of view – were thousands of pages containing older, static content. Some of this content was migrated from a previous incarnation of www.dh.gov.uk, and was so old that when it was written, Stephen Dorrell was Secretary of State for Health and football was ‘coming home’.

In August 2011 we switched to WordPress for everything. We later decided to archive all of the old pre-Wordpress content. Where necessary, and when there was a genuine need to re-write some existing content, we would do, making it better, more user-focused and easier to find.

Moving to GOV.UK

In preparation for the move to GOV.UK, we now need to look at tackling the 12,000 plus publications still sat on our site. The only content we’ll be automatically migrating is stuff that was published since May 2010. We know there’ll be many older publications left behind that will still reflect current policy, but they will still be available via the National Archives.

And as we turn our focus on identifying, and re-writing content for GOV.UK to fit with their editorial style guide, we’ll also be taking a very close look at the department’s corporate plan and objectives to make sure the new content  is focussed on government priorities, as well as user needs.

With changes to the health and care system coming into effect at the same time as we move to GOV.UK – including the creation of new bodies like Public Health England and the NHS Commissioning Board – it is a good time to start afresh.

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