Inside Inside Government


Posts tagged with "new features"

Sprint ending 25th June

Despite the best of intentions, we didn’t make as much progress on the transition tool last week as we hoped. Overspill from the previous sprint plus a couple of urgent things that came up during the week pushed the transition tool work down the list. 

So the dominant theme for this week’s sprint is, once again, transition tooling, plus there are a handful of stories we need to deliver to support HM Treasury’s use of the topical events format for the coming spending round. 

You can see all the stories we’ve prioritised for this sprint listed in the Backlog column on Pivotal Tracker.

During the sprint that’s just ended we also: 

  • Fixed all links from detailed guides that still had /specialist-guides/ in their URL
  • Enabled agencies and NDPBs to have organisation profiles for their high profile units  (aka “sub-orgs”). Previously the system only allowed these to be associated to a parent ministerial department. 
  • Added opening hours and access details to the API for worldwide offices’ contact information. This API is used to surface the embassy and consular contact details from Inside Gov on other parts of GOV.UK, like the travel alerts service. Knowing when the office is open is usually helpful to people before they rock up there.
  • Cleaned up a handful of dodgy URLs that had typos or bad slugs in response to requests from departments. Currently there’s a long wait for any such requests, for which we’re sorry. Longer term we hope to provide self-service tools for this so we are not a bottleneck. 

Foreign language only documents

Translated editions of documents have been a feature of Whitehall for some months now. To date, the only way to have a document in a language other than English was to first have an English document and then create a translated edition. 

But now we have released a feature that permits the publishing of Worldwide location news articles without there having to be an English version.  

The steps involved are:

Create new Worldwide location news article > Select ‘Designate ‘foreign language only’ document’ > Heed warning > Make document > Save 

It is as easy as that. But use sparingly because you can’t add subsequent translations and URLs get a numerical ID rather than a meaningful, human-readable slug.

The product team aren’t keen on this one. Pressures was applied to a replicate a feature of the previous FCO platform but we didn’t think the user need was at all clear. There is definitely a need to translate content but we can’t see why that content shouldn’t also be in English.

We’ll keep a keen eye on its usage and performance.

Jun 7

Smart markdown tool for inserting contacts

Inserting contacts into pages just got lots easier. 

Instead of going to the organisation admin and copying the contact reference markdown to your clipboard, you can now just start typing and then pick the relevant contact from a list. 

Here’s how to use it. 

1. While editing any field that supports markdown, begin typing the markdown command to insert a contact, like this: 


2. A dialogue box will appear, listing a few contacts, like this: 

3. Continue typing to filter the entire database of organisation contacts and bring up relevant matches. For example, if you type “defra”, it will show all the contacts belonging to Defra:

It will also return matches for the title of the contact itself, for example here is what happens if you type “FOI”: 

4. Click on the contact you want to insert, and your markdown command will be automatically completed using the relevant contact reference number: 

5. Finally, it’s a good idea to click the “preview” toggle to double-check it’s the contact you wanted. 

This is the first step towards making the markdown editor smarter. We intend over time to extend this kind of functionality to make it easier to insert attachments, images and internal links into pages. 

Feedback on how you get on using this is extremely welcome before we roll it out further. 

Jun 5

Good news and bad news about email alerts

First the bad news.

As many of you will have noticed, we experienced a nasty bug today which meant that email alerts were going out with only the format name and change note for each content item, without a title or summary. 

We spotted it yesterday evening, fixed it this morning and deployed the fix to production this afternoon. All content that was published between  those times will have been affected. 

We’re very sorry for the hiccup. It was caused by unforeseen conflicts between apps following an upgrade to the version of Rails we’re using on the main whitehall app. We’ll do a post mortem and make sure we learn from the mistake. 

Now the good news

As of today, email alerts will now be going out at around 4pm each day  to subscribers who have chosen to receive daily alerts, and at around 4pm on Sundays to those who have opted for weekly alerts. (Immediate alerts continue to be immediate, natch). 

Previously the daily digest alerts were hitting inboxes in the morning which meant the information (from the previous 24 hours) was already fairly stale. 

A 4pm delivery time is optimal according to the wisdom and experience of those good folks who ran the former info4local service. Sending the messages at 4pm means information lands in people’s inboxes in time to read it on their commute home, and it includes all of the same day’s updates up until the moment the email went out. 

Whitehall is getting personal and other new features

Some of the Whitehall team may have been taking a well-deserved holiday but the team has kept plugging away on some cracking new features, performance enhancements and tools to aid the transition of ALBs.

Here are the highlights for publishers:

We can see what you’re doing

We are now tracking the performance of admin using Google Analytics and this is helping us better understand how admin is used and how its performance can be improved.


Getting personal

Now when you log in to admin you are presented with a personalised dashboard featuring your draft documents and your organisation’s force published documents that need reviewed.


Add this

The admin nav now features a + button which you can click when you want to create a new document.

It’s part of the work to reduce the noise in admin (if you want the old school flavour, it’s still there on the ‘Documents’ page).


It had been the case that editorial notes, change history and any fact checking was all mixed in together in one list on the right hand column when previewing a document in admin.

We’ve now introduced tabs for each of these to help differentiate between them. 


You’re in the lead

The lead organisation field is automatically populated when you create a document based on your user account.

Topical material

It is now possible to associate publications and consultations to topical events. This association is managed and displayed in the same manner as topics. 

Attention to detail

Departments dealing in a lot of detailed guidance can advertise the fact on their homepages.

Control this by editing your organisation and selecting the categories under which you have guides; these categories then display on the org homepage under topics.


Time of delivery

You can specify the exact time a speech was given or a publication was released.

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

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. 

Search by slug in the admin interface

In the admin interface, where you can filter documents by title, you can now also enter a slug. 

The slug is the bit of the URL after the last slash, eg all of the bold bit in

A small thing, but a useful one. 

Contacts, contacts, contacts

We’ve been doing a lot to improve the handling of contact data lately Here’s some new information about the stuff we haven’t yet told you about, and a re-cap of what we have. 

1. All contact information should now be added as ‘contacts’ under the relevant organisation’s profile.

This is so that:

a) editors can manage the data in one place and insert it wherever users need it around the site (see this previous post for instructions on inserting contacts into other pages with a simple markdown command)

b) we can build services within GOV.UK which use the data, such as a single form for FOI enquiries (which is on the product roadmap)

c) we can later provide an API for others to use

To be clear: from now on, please do not write contact information into pages as text. You should always create the contact under the organisation, and then insert it into the page using the markdown command. 

3. Editors can now have complete control over which contacts will and will not show on their organisation’s homepage.

There’s a button next to each contact, which looks like this (it says “remove from home page” or “add to home page”, depending): 


4. We will imminently be killing the “+ others” link on organisation homepages. 

All the contacts that the editor has selected to show on their organisation’s homepage will now show, so that none of them are hidden.

5. Editors can also now control the order in which contacts are displayed on their organisation homepage.

Do that by dragging and dropping under this tab:


6. We will imminently be pulling out FOI contact information into its own block on organisation homepages.

As per this previous post

7. There is a corporate information page called “media enquiries” which you can use to list all your press office contacts on a single page.

Create the page, add text and insert the contacts using the markdown command.

(You may have noticed that this last feature has existed for about a fortnight, but we needed to give editors control over which contacts appear on their org home pages before it was possible for them to put each press desk in as a separate contact, hence only telling you about it now).

May 8

Scheduled publishing now works for updated editions of published documents

The scheduled publishing feature does two things: 

1. Publishes the document at the specified time

2. Sets the cache expiry time on all the index pages where the document will appear to the specified time, so that the document appears in relevant places across the site at that time

It works well. Bar a few early hiccups, the scheduled publishing function has been reliably publishing new documents at their exact preset times for the past 5 months. 

However, we recently discovered that departments also need to schedule updates to existing documents. 

Version 1 of the scheduled publishing tool was not designed with that in mind.

Newly published documents are not cached - they appear instantly when they are first published. However, existing documents are cashed for up to 30 mins. 

So to make this work, the scheduled publishing robot now also:

3. Sets the expiry time on the document itself if it is not a first edition

That change went live on 23 April. So you can now schedule updates to new things or existing things, and it will all work. 

(A slight note of warning: you should continue to avoid trying to visit the URL of a new document that has not yet been published, because that will cause a 404 to be cached for up to 30 mins. We wrote about that before here, and there’s a ticket on the backlog to make the problem go away). 

May 8

Featuring without tagging

We made a change recently so that it is now possible to feature any document on an organisation or world location page without it being necessary to tag the document to that org/world location.

We did this because we saw a few examples where it was misleading to show a tag - for example this speech about immigration was tagged to one world location (because they wanted to feature it). We’ve removed the tag since. 

You should, obviously, continue to tag documents thoughtfully to the orgs, policies and world locations they relate to, so users can follow the threads of how everything joins up. 

Related to this, we also made a big change to the admin interface for featuring, so it is now easier to filter and search for the document(s) you want to feature using the familiar documents list layout: 

May 8

A clearer FOI journey

We’re working on making the journey easier for users seeking to request information under the Freedom of Information Act.  

Here’s a mock up of how FOI information will appear on org pages from later this week: 

The 2 FOI links that were previously under the ‘corporate information’ heading (‘How to make an FOI request’ and ‘Our FOI releases’) have been moved to sit above the FOI contact details, as clear step-by-step instructions.

And we’re making sure that the FOI information for each organisation is not hidden behind an “+others” link. 

For this to work, editors in departments will need to tell the app which of their org’s contacts is the one for FOI requests (or to add one, if there isn’t one already). The admin for doing that doesn’t exist yet but you can expect it later this week. Keep an eye out for it, and please make sure the you do this for your organisation and any agencies and sub-orgs.