Thursday, 15 January 2009

Website review:

Thanks to Emma Mulqueeny, I know that the government has launched a new website to consult and engage with citizens about its white paper on social mobility. It's a really good site which demonstrates a clear understanding of the benefits of social media and how people are using the internet. There are things that it hasn't done - but it's brave and innovative by government (and it's not often that it's possible to say that).

The strengths of

1. All the important information is easily accessible
In our review, we could find everything we needed within one click - and everything else within two clicks.

2. Use of multimedia content
The site uses video to help make its case and personalises this - there's almost no 'man in suit talking to camera'.

3. Sharing
All of the material can be shared using the main social networking tools: Digg, Facebook, Delicious, Reddit and Stumbleupon

4. Content for bloggers
There's a special page of content for bloggers which includes embedable video, case studies, links to external coverage (including challenging coverage) and detailed background information.

5. Pointing the user elsewhere
Rather than re-creating conversations that are already happening (or trying and failing) the website clearly points users to some of the main places where social mobility can be discussed - and these are mostly external sites.

6. The social mobility map
A great way of getting personal stories, easily, that (presumably) feed into the consultation.

The weaknesses of

1. The domain name
It's a shame that the main domains are taken. But does little for search optimisation.

2. Too much content on some pages
In particular requires a lot of scrolling.

3. No blogger outreach
I've not seen any evidence of blogger outreach, despite having read over 10 blogs reporting the launch of the white paper. It's great having the material but the days of a 'build it and they will come' strategy are dead. You need to push out the content - particularly when it's this good.

4. Page titles
Another missed SEO opportunity.

5. What are the questions?
Presumably the white paper is consulting on social mobility. But this isn't clearly sign-posted from the website. And there's nothing like controversy to interest online users - but it's a bit general on

6. Where are the other debates?
What an incentive to get involved if you could see (and knew that government was going to look at) newspaper comments sections, Facebook groups etc.

7. How do you motivate users?
The site feels as though the government is trying to build support for social mobility. But there aren't any widgets, Facebook groups, petitions or polls to engage readers (although maybe civil service rules permit this).

There may be more weaknesses of than strengths in our list. But that shouldn't detract from what a massive, innovative and brave step forward this is for government and for that, it should receive significant praise.


Mark Pack said...

Useful review. I'd add one other weakness - (as opposed to doesn't appear to work.

It's only a tiny piece of configuration, but well worth doing, particularly given that - as this blog post illustrates - people often refer to web addresses without the www.

Steph Gray said...

Thanks for the review Matthew - I was one of the team involved in the launch.

On the whole, pretty fair I think - I've also written up some reflections at:

It's worth bearing in mind that Government organisations are constrained in their use of domains - you can't just register But the SEO and page length could indeed have been tightened up. There was some blogger outreach, but only a bit, given time and resource constraints, and this being one of the first times we'd tried this kind of approach.

We'll keep listening and learning :)

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