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Cabinet Office ends website test

We built it...they didn't come

A Cabinet Office test of a single website for British government information ended on Friday.

It is expected that Francis Maude's department will be making more announcements about Alpha.gov.uk later this week. So far the test website has cost the Cabinet Office £261,000.

On conclusion of testing the Alpha.gov.uk domain, the project's leader Tom Loosemore admitted in a blog post that "the 100,000 users of the prototype were simply not representative of the diverse audiences who need gov.uk to work for them".

He said a small user panel had been drafted in to represent "young and old, experienced and novice users" of such a service, which helped his team pinpoint some of the issues with the site.

Principally, it seems the prototype team was heavily preoccupied with getting individual landing pages right, rather than working on browse/category navigation within Alpha.gov.uk.

In other words, searches via Google were the prominent test motivator, because Loosemore said so many people arrived on the site from there.

No further funding has been confirmed for the project yet, but tellingly its blog has now shifted into the Cabinet Office's Government Digital Services website, which has new sections for the single domain website and identity assurance.

"The ID Assurance team are working on accrediting and approving third party identity to facilitate digital transactions between citizens and government," noted the Cabinet Office.

As The Register has previously reported, a prototype for ID assurance is expected in October this year.

There's also a section on the site dedicated to the 9 million pensioners, low earners and unqualified people in the UK who have never plugged into the interwebs.

Late last week, the government's new digital boss Mike Bracken launched the overhauled e-petitions website on Directgov, the existing website for public services in the UK.

"First product of Government Digital Service. Agile, open source & quick," he said on Twitter.

The ambitious aim is for Maude's department to knit all these disparate pieces together online. Maude has claimed such a move will help cut duplication and drive down costs.

Separately, the Cabinet Office minister announced savings of £150m from 2010/2011 budgets for the government's big IT projects. He attributed much of the decrease to a halt on contracts and various spending freezes across UK.gov.

Maude added that £300m of the money had been saved "by applying greater scrutiny to our ICT expenditure, departments have stopped or reduced spend on low value ICT projects."

We asked the Cabinet Office to provide us with a more detailed breakdown of those stated IT savings, however at time of writing it had not got back to us. ®

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