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UK Gov't To Review Hundreds of Websites, Axe Many of Them 92

Posted by timothy
from the scarce-resources-infinite-desires dept.
krou writes "The UK government is to review all of its 820 websites after the Central Office of Information revealed that for 2009-2010, the government spent '£94m on website development and running costs and £32m on web staff,' which each site visitor representing a cost of £11.78 to the government. 'The UK Trade and Investment website averaged 28,000 users per month but cost over £4m ... 16% of government departments did not know how their own websites were being used by tax payers, and almost a quarter were not aware of the running costs.' There was also anecdotal evidence of departments bidding against each other for search terms on Google. The review is to be carried out by Cabinet Minister Francis Maude, Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander, and Digital Champion Martha Lane Fox."
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UK Gov't To Review Hundreds of Websites, Axe Many of Them

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  • YRO? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MessedRocker (1273148) on Friday June 25, 2010 @08:46PM (#32698750)

    I'm not sure what this has to do with my rights online. This pertains to an internal governmental review of *its own* websites, not other people's.

  • by JansenVT (1235638) on Friday June 25, 2010 @08:50PM (#32698784)

    As a web designer / developer I am always bewildered by the obscene costs I hear for government websites, especially given their terribly below level of quality and usefulness.

    People with government contracts must really milk it for all it's worth.

  • Re:YRO? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 25, 2010 @08:50PM (#32698786)

    Slashdot is mindless libertarian central. Any story that can be twisted to make it sound like the government is incompetent gets an immediate green light. Naturally, the fact that *every fucking private corporation on earth has the same kind of problems* never comes into it. The next time you see a story on slashdot where there is some obvious corporate incompetence, ask yourself why there is no tag labelling it "corporations" as there is always a "government" tag added to these kinds of stories.

  • Re:YRO? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by JansenVT (1235638) on Friday June 25, 2010 @08:56PM (#32698830)

    While /, may be considered "libertarian" by some, this story is still useful. The actual monetary costs of web technology on the taxpayers is an interesting figure. The story is not necessarily saying that the money is wasted or that the government is evil for spending it on web2.0 twitter-enabled blogosphere enhancements to their local police station website.

    (that's just what we collectively imply)

  • by sco08y (615665) on Friday June 25, 2010 @09:10PM (#32698930)

    As a web designer / developer I am always bewildered by the obscene costs I hear for government websites, especially given their terribly below level of quality and usefulness.

    People with government contracts must really milk it for all it's worth.

    I worked for a small company that did a website for a local government agency years ago, around '97 I think. They wanted all kinds of bells and whistles so they could go to their bosses and show them what an awesome web site they had. It was designed far more to please government insiders than to be useful to taxpayers.

    I don't think we were milking them, rather, they didn't know what they wanted or needed, and it certainly wasn't our job to figure it out. They also didn't have any plan, really, to maintain it or scale it up or have it go anywhere. From going on to six years working in or around the government, that's just how they do stuff.

  • by AlpineR (32307) <wagnerr@umich.edu> on Friday June 25, 2010 @09:22PM (#32699006) Homepage

    Is £11.78 inherently too much to spend for a web site visitor? When I need to renew my vehicle registration, a web site visit that let's me do it online is certainly worth more than that to me rather than spending half a day at the DMV. For some business-oriented sites that deal with licenses, £11.78 per visitor could certainly be worth bringing in a few more £1,000,000 per year businesses to town.

  • by Chelmet (1273754) on Friday June 25, 2010 @09:26PM (#32699038)

    they didn't know what they wanted or needed, and it certainly wasn't our job to figure it out.

    Erm, as far as I'm concerned, that's exactly your job. Its what a requirements capture is for. I feel quite offended by this attitude of yours - you're the expert. If I went to an architect and asked for a floating house, it would be his job to tell me that that's not what I really want, and to work with me on something more appropriate, rather taking the money and running away before my wife gets home.

    I hope you enjoyed the coke you snorted off hooker's cracks with my tax money.

  • Re:YRO? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by value_added (719364) on Friday June 25, 2010 @09:32PM (#32699074)

    The actual monetary costs of web technology on the taxpayers is an interesting figure. The story is not necessarily saying that the money is wasted or that the government is evil for spending it on web2.0 twitter-enabled blogosphere enhancements to their local police station website.

    The story does suggest, however, that the number of users per month is a valid enough metric. I'm not sure I agree with that. The Trade and Investment website certainly isn't geared toward Joe Public, so if it's used primarily by trade or business groups, popularity with anyone but a meaningful few (those who make deals) is meaningless. The same would apply to a site that provides detailed or complex economic data. If only a handful of researchers visit the website, but each provides summary analysis to thousands of people (the news media, for example), should the website be considered "unpopular"?

    Transparency is generally a good thing when it comes to government. So the more websites the better. Compared to other government expenditures, I'd suggest the cost of website development is equivalent to a few red staplers. Besides, I think we'd all agree that the employment of developers and IT staff is preferrable to hiring more counter clerks.

  • by MichaelSmith (789609) on Friday June 25, 2010 @09:45PM (#32699152) Homepage Journal

    they didn't know what they wanted or needed, and it certainly wasn't our job to figure it out.

    Erm, as far as I'm concerned, that's exactly your job. Its what a requirements capture is for. I feel quite offended by this attitude of yours - you're the expert. If I went to an architect and asked for a floating house, it would be his job to tell me that that's not what I really want, and to work with me on something more appropriate, rather taking the money and running away before my wife gets home.

    I hope you enjoyed the coke you snorted off hooker's cracks with my tax money.

    The Government employees paid to design projects like this are themselves on the take in a different way. They want to use the project as enhance their reputation. Key to this is having lots of bells and whistles. Flashing lights help too. If you can get the Minister a media opportunity then your career is looking up.

    The customer is always right, and frequently corrupt.

  • Yes, well... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by djupedal (584558) on Friday June 25, 2010 @09:48PM (#32699172)
    This 'revelation' is simply another illustration of how bureaucracy works.

    No one should be surprised to find competing layers of effort, working from silos, oblivious to duplication of effort when they look at this.

    It's a symptom, not the issue. It's how govt. works.

    Good luck making any effective changes at the delivery level...
  • Re:YRO? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by cynyr (703126) on Friday June 25, 2010 @09:49PM (#32699174)
    i think "site" and "server cluster + infrastructure + bandwidth" are getting a bit mixed up here. I see no issue with have large numbers of sites as you suggest, but does a site that gets 28k people per month need a whole data center? could it be combined with a few other low traffice sites and save on costs?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 25, 2010 @09:53PM (#32699196)
    nice girl and all, but you sure this is the person to fix any of this?
  • by psych0munky (1673632) on Friday June 25, 2010 @10:10PM (#32699276)

    They wanted all kinds of bells and whistles so they could go to their bosses and show them what an awesome web site they had. It was designed far more to please government insiders than to be useful to taxpayers.

    Here, here!! I work as an IT architect for a provincial crown-affiliated corporation here in the great white north (Canada...and no, I don't drive a polar bear to work), and although we are not "fully" government, I see the same damn thing day in and day out from our business people. It is a shame...and when I remind them of taxpayer money going to support this and the fact that simple is better (we cater to non-techy crowds that live predominately in rural areas, so we need to keep things light enough for slower than broadband connections anyways) there is usually acceptance. The problem, it seems is the abundance of middle-management and IT people uneducated in web-technoolgies that the business people usually talk to. The developers and operations guys that no better are very rarely given the chance to talk to the business people making the decisions anyways.

    they didn't know what they wanted or needed

    Sounds familiar, but that is why we go to outside vendors for help.

    and it certainly wasn't our job to figure it out.

    Seriously? And is this company you worked for still in existence? If so, do you still work as a consultant, or are you now internal IT somewhere? I don't mean to be attacking, but most of the time we go to market simply because we lack the experience in-house to help the business figure out what they need. The consultants that we bring in that cannot help us usually don't get invited back (no internal staff that just do what they are told, we seem to hang on to and let the people who can actually help the business figure things out, we let go (of their own accord or not)...weird to me..but I digress). Granted we do have the occasional contract where we are just looking for warm bodies to do what they are told, but those are rare. Being a good consultant includes helping your client figure out what they want/need.

  • by LostCluster (625375) * on Friday June 25, 2010 @10:32PM (#32699384)
    There's a way... have the home office that owns both divisions control the Google AdWords account and let them declare redundancy when there's two divisions doing the same. (What "declared redundant" is British for what us Americans call "laid-off"? I guess that's the point...)
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 26, 2010 @01:10AM (#32700096)

    It is the architect's job to get you to give up on technically impossible ideas. It most certainly is not his job to tell you that you do not, in fact, want those huge and expensive skylights or granite walls.

  • Re:Yes, well... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Hognoxious (631665) on Saturday June 26, 2010 @05:23AM (#32701026) Homepage Journal

    It's a symptom, not the issue. It's how govt. works.

    Big corporations - especially ones that have grown through acquisition - aren't that different.

  • promoting chips? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by pbhj (607776) on Saturday June 26, 2010 @08:37AM (#32701700) Homepage Journal

    It's not the contradiction that gets me - it's that anyone in gov thinks that it's necessary to promote eating chips.

    Every town has several chip shops, most pubs and restaurants serve them, all the supermarkets sell them surveys show that people are eating them several times a week and some people at every (non-breakfast) meal time. They are considerably less healthy than other options ... so government are spending money promoting them and hiring (C-list) celebs to do videos and such.

    There can be no one in Britain that lacks knowledge of chips.

    The other more general issue I have is that the gov do individual tendering and have individual web departments to manage all those sites - they should just use a standard couple of CMSs across gov. They don't need to brand everything or have bespoke sites all the time. They should be providing information not marketing things to us.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday June 26, 2010 @04:00PM (#32704228)

    But it is his job to figure out WHY you want massive skylights and granite and to find out whether there would be a better way of doing it that would satisfy the same underlying wants and needs.

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