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Careful with the admin links

When linking from one Inside Government [Whitehall] document to another the pro-tip here is to go to the document list in admin > locate document > right-click ‘copy link address’ > paste this into the document you are creating.

Don’t copy-and-paste previewed URLs because we do not rewrite those links automatically.

For example:

BOO HISS

https://whitehall-admin.production.alphagov.co.uk/travel-insurance?cachebust=1362409293&preview=139044 

HURRAY 

https://whitehall-admin.production.alphagov.co.uk/government/admin/detailed-guides/189802

Note that the correct link contains ‘admin’ and a number, as opposed to a human-friendly and readable slug. Nor does it have all that nasty cache busting going on at the end.

We have seen a number of recent Zendesk tickets reporting this incorrectly as a technical bug.

*UPDATE*

if you are linking from one Whitehall page to another (regardless of status) it is advisable to use the admin url because this protects it against frontend changes.

Just to be clear, you can use admin URLs to link from document to document:

  • Policy
  • Publication
  • News
  • Consultation
  • Speech
  • Detailed guide
  • Priority
  • Location news
  • Case study
  • Statistical data set
  • Fatality

Whereas public URLs should be used when linking from documents to:

  • Document series
  • Organisation
  • Policy team
  • Policy group
  • Role
  • People
  • Topic
  • Topical event
  • Worldwide organisation
  • Worldwide location
  • Field of operation

Instructions on this distinction are also provided in the ‘Formatting help’ when creating a new document.

Hi Elizabeth Brown at PHE here - thanks for updating the style guide to explain the position on FAQs. Will be a big help. Can you please correct the link to it? Right now gov uk designprinciples styleguide#faqs shown in What's New doesn't work. Also - the indent after the bullets in the FAQ text runs the whole length of the page. Cheers. EB

Anonymous

I’ll pass this on to the team managing the style guide. In future, using https://www.gov.uk/support/internal to report issues with the style guide will ensure it gets to that the right team faster.

Hiya - Elizabeth Brown from PHE here. Can you please remove the 'follow' and 'join Tumblr' buttons from your header? They completely obscure the search button, which makes it tricky to actually search the blog for content. Doubtless they'd go away if I either followed or joined Tumblr, but I figure reading your blog twice a week is sufficient at present.

Anonymous

We’ll most likely move this blog to the GDS blog platform soon but if we decide to change the Tumblr theme beforehand we’ll keep this feedback in mind. There is a good chance that there’s not much we can do about this because it’s a feature of the Tumblr platform, rather than theme.

GOV.UK blogs - how to get one

[This post is by Graham Francis]

We want to make it as easy as possible for people in government to blog about their work. Blogging helps to open up government; dialogue with our audience improves our own thinking; and often through our work we learn things which can help people grappling with similar problems.

Last month, we launched the GOV.UK blogging platform with a blog on government history.

Now, we’d like to tell you a bit more about what’s involved in getting your own GOV.UK blog.

Read More

What happened when we changed the Inside Government nav

[This post is by Ashraf Chohan]

On 9th April we made major changes to the Inside Government navigation bar by 1) exposing the sections rather than nesting them and 2) moving the search query field to the left.

This was in response to user testing that suggested users were having difficulty finding some content, such as consultations which had been in a drop down under publications. 

I’ve done some analysis of the impact that this had on pageviews to the different sections. I’ve looked at the data two weeks prior to the change and two weeks after the change, avoiding the Easter holiday period ("Get involved" and "Worldwide" were omitted as they were not live through the entire period)

  • With more departments being converged there was an increase of 78% of IG pages in the second period. IG in total had an increase of 144% in pageviews, the pages being measured had a total increase of 66%.
  • There is a great distribution in the percentage change of the pages featured in the header. The “Statistics” link has benefited the most with an almost 500% increase in pageviews.

image

  • Views of the “Topics” page has actually decreased by 30% but there may have been other factors involved. It may have been that topics was being utilised by users who were trying to find their way to sections now exposed by the new nav.

Because the new nav bar also meant a change in the position of the search query field and I asked my colleague, Tara, to look at the impact that had. 

Tara found that searches for publications and consultations dropped most visibly, suggesting that those nav links have made a difference.

The exact terms ‘policy’ and ‘policies’ decreased slightly, but numbers were low so not very significant, whereas longer terms containing ‘policy’ or ‘policies’ increased by 22% and 24%. Some other terms also increased, but by less than the total Inside Government searches (about 25%), so really they all still dropped slightly. 

Only searches containing ‘statistic’ definitely increased, by 28%. 

Other good news is that changing the design of the search box has reduced the number of users clicking the search button without entering a search term.

In summary, I think that this analysis points toward the changes to the nav being positively received by users. But we’ll keep an eye on it and keep tuning it as we go.

Some upgrades to HTML publications

  • HTML publications are now labelled with their sub-type, so it’s clearer what you’re looking at if you land there from Google/directly
  • The link text that takes you to the parent publication page on GOV.UK is a bit clearer (it reads “See more information about this publication” instead of repeating the title as the link text)
  • Consultations now also support HTML versions

A statement about statements

We were asked this: 

Hello,

Re: WMS + commentary

Aware there’s a content type for WMS and GOV.UK search under ‘speeches’ results in a lot of WMS’, however as these are published in PDF form on parliament.uk, are there guidelines on deciding when they should be published on GOV.UK?

Current DH motto is not to publish things twice in public domain. Recent example was the Care Bill, where we linked to the publication in a news article.

So when do we/do we not publish?

Many thanks as always!

The honest answer is that we haven’t given a great deal of thought to this. We’ve created a format to support the existing behaviours of departments, which is (as I understand it) to publish *selected* written/oral statements to parliament, on the basis that they need to be findable from the relevant policies, and so that they go out in relevant email alerts etc. 

I also vaguely recall that there used to be a bit of a delay between statements being made in Parliament and Hansard coming out. Not sure if that’s still the case. 

I have in mind that in future we should hook up with Parliament to make a join between Hansard and GOV.UK, but haven’t got as far as planning the details of that. 

I’d like to know what others think about this. I agree that duplication of published content is to be avoided, and that it’s probably a bit opaque as to why some statements are published and others are not. 

Killing the name of

We’re planning to drop the name “Inside Government” from the front end of the site in about mid June. 

There’s mounting evidence that the label hinders more than it helps. Most users barely notice it, and those who do tend to think it implies “internal to government” rather than “workings of government”. 

Mid June feels like the right time to drop the name and bring the sections of GOV.UK closer together, because:

  • we’ve completed transition of the ministerial departments and are now a fully operational ‘single domain’ proposition
  • we’ll be moving to a more unified search experience
  • we’ll be rolling out a more unified homepage 
  • many of the arms-length bodies joining us in the coming year are, as the name says, operating at arms length from government and the Inside Gov name is a bit at odds with that

The propositions of mainstream and everything under “/government” are still very different beasts, and we need to be careful to help users avoid mistaking the policy for the service. 

It’s likely that we wil try out some other forms of words that signal the difference more explicitly than the Inside Gov name, for example  ”departments, policies and announcements”. We’ve not worked out the details yet. Your views are extremely welcome. 

We know where you live

If you’ve published any new content since yesterday late afternoon you will probably have noticed that we are now pre-filling the “lead organisation” field with your organisation. Given that the app already knows where you live, it’s a no brainer that we should infer that the document is led by your org. 

It’s just a small thing, but hopefully will speed up your workflow a little; and it’s an example fo the ways in which we will gradually be making the admin smarter. 

Working off the grid for the next two weeks

For 2 weeks starting today, we are switching mode to give the team some space to breathe. 

It’s been an intense 9 or so months, with prioritisation mostly driven by transition deadlines.

So this past week we’ve been taking a step back, talking as a team about the things we’d most like to prioritise to make our own product better, and have written them up as cards on the window by our desks, Kanban style, which we’ll be working through for the next fortnight.  

The cards on the window include many things that you’ll care about too, like faster performance of the admin interface, the beginnings of some major improvements to the publishing experience, and figuring out how to implement a better model of publications and document collections.

We’ll also make some headway on stuff that matters more to us, like repaying technical debt and building tools to automate some of the manual transition work we did for the departments, to make ALB transition achievable. 

So things will look a bit quiet on our public project backlog for a fortnight. We’ll only be putting a trickle of your most urgent support requests through there. Thanks in advance for your patience if this means you have to wait a bit longer for something to get done. 

The stuff on the window that we don’t get through in these 2 weeks will most likely feed back into the online backlog afterwards. 

Please use the support form!

With 24 depts and 31 other orgs now live on the site, it won’t surprise you to hear that we get a lot of support requests, questions and suggestions.

It’s not sustainable to deal with these requests directly by phone and email, especially with the hundreds of ALBs soon to join the site.

From now on, if you call or email us directly about something that the support form is intended to deal with, we will ask you to resubmit it via the form.

Sorry if this feels cold and bureaucratic. That’s not the intention. It’s so we can help you better. As it stands, lots of important things are being missed because they are lost in busy people’s inboxes, and we need to be able to see the trends in the kinds of things people are asking about frequently. The appropriate team members get alerted when support requests come in, and we are trialling an SLA for response times for different types of request.

The form is here: https://www.gov.uk/support/internal (internal to government only)

You should use it for all of the following things:

  • telling us about new user needs
  • requesting new features
  • reporting bugs or issues
  • requesting analytics reports
  • requesting short URLs (guidance coming soon on this)
  • requesting redirects
  • general feedback

Basically, anything which you think requires an action on our part should be raised through that form.

Should you need to escalate or chase progress on a support ticket (*only* once the expected resolution time has elapsed), you can do that by emailing Jenni Moss. Jenni is the single point of contact at GDS for this purpose.

Please use multi-lingual publishing features for translated content

In February we added features that enable you to publish translated editions of documents (how to do this is explained in http://inside-inside-gov.tumblr.com/post/44215691162/worldwide and http://inside-inside-gov.tumblr.com/post/45412650932/ability-to-translate-into-welsh).

Our implementation of multi-lingual publishing provides effective visual cues to users, paths for search engines and workflows for publishers. But recently we’ve come across instances where publishers have overlooked these features when publishing translated content.

When translation features are not used, it introduces a number of problems that can only be undone by unpublishing the content and starting again from scratch:

  • using English language ‘templates’ for non-English content means users and the web might well regard the page as no better than gibberish
  • users who find the English or translated documents aren’t notified that alternative language versions are available
  • no locale is provided in the url to verify the language (e.g. .es for Spanish or .cy for Welsh) 
  • translated content is not indexed properly in search
  • it means unnecessary steps for publishers when creating the document(s)
  • it puts the responsibility on you (rather than the app) when making updates to remember that there are parallel documents that also need to be located and updated 

This mainly concerns FCO and Wales Office at the moment, but I raise it here because other orgs have expressed an interest in beginning to publish translated editions of documents.

Imminent stories on our backlog will expand on the translation features by allowing translation of additional format types (eg. detailed guidance) and the publication of documents without there having to be a canonical English edition.

Style and publisher workshops: numbers and lessons

(This post is by Simon Kaplan). 

By then end of May over 390 of you - departmental and agency web editors, statisticians and press officers - will have attended 1 of the 16 different GOV.UK style and Publisher workshops held over the last 5 months. 

After each workshop, we’ve usually mailed out slide packs and written answers to questions you’ve asked.  We’ve also made sure you all have access to the style guide, Publisher instructions and a guide to Inside Government content formats

Why did we say attendance was obligatory to get Publisher accounts? Why should web editors with a fair amount of experience on departmental websites need workshops on style and web publishing? 

GOV.UK is ground–breaking because 24 departments are publishing information on the same or similar subjects to one domain – that means a change in the way we work. 

Also, we wanted to make it clear that we’re really committed to opening government up to all those who want to know about it. That means writing in plain English, having a consistent style and using the right content formats for the job. We also outlined why and how we’re going to do spot checks of newly published content put up there by departments.  

It’s been a hugely useful experience for us on Inside Government. You asked questions and gave feedback on the style guide (why aren’t FAQs allowed, how can you write detailed guides about technical subjects in plain English) and proposed for improving Inside Government (an asset library please, improvements to publications). We really want this interchange to continue.

We hope those who attended found it just as useful. There’s been some really good constructive feedback. We’ve fed this in to plans for training that’s been planned for the agencies and arms length bodies, including ideas like:

  • a training suite with laptops so that people can try out the publisher tool as part of training
  • more regular workshop sessions so that as many people as possible can make them
  • practical sessions for writing to style as part of the training
  • videos showing people how to use Publisher

We want to implement as many of these as possible – resource permitting. We’ll also be talking to departments about devolving the training function to web teams now all of you have made the transition to GOV.UK.

A big thanks to all the presenters and the GDS secretariat team who helped organise many of the workshops (and persuaded us recently to start using Eventbrite to book places on the workshops rather than a fairly cumbersome spreadsheet). 

And of course to all of you who attended.