Direct.gov.uk

Directgov
Directgov logo
Slogan Public services all in one place
Commercial? No
Type of site Government information
Registration No
Available language(s) English and Welsh
Content license Crown copyright
Owner HM Government
Created by UK government departments
Launched 1 April 2004; 10 years ago (2004-04-01)
Current status Offline
Replaced Ukonline
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Directgov was the British government's digital service for people in the United Kingdom, which provided a single point of access to public sector information and services. The site was replaced along with the Business Link website by the new Gov.uk website on 17 October 2012, with the old websites redirecting to the new.

The content was developed by government departments, working with a central Directgov team. This team has now become a part of the Government Digital Service supporting the Gov.uk replacement site. The main outlet was via a website, though content and services were also delivered via mobile.

Directgov received more than fifteen million visits a month, from around eight million unique users.[1] In September 2007, the site received its one hundred millionth visitor since its launch in April 2004.[2]

History

Launch

Directgov was launched in April 2004, replacing the Ukonline portal. Rather than just providing links to government departments as UK online had done, Directgov carried its own material, designed around users’ needs. The first three sections were for motorists, disabled people and parents.[3][4]

Since 2004, the site has grown from 300,000 visits a month to over ten million, and involves 18 government departments.[5] DirectgovKids was launched in March 2007.

Departmental responsibility

In April 2006, Directgov moved from the e-Government Unit (eGU) within the Cabinet Office to become part of the Central Office of Information (COI), an executive agency of the Cabinet Office.[6]

As part of the Transformational Government strategy, an annual report was published in January 2007 stating that hundreds of government websites would be shut down "to make access to information easier" for people. In future, most government information will be streamlined through two main "supersites" – either Directgov (for citizens) or Businesslink.gov.uk (for businesses).[5] It was reported at the launch of the strategy that of 951 websites, only 26 would definitely stay, 551 would definitely close and hundreds more are expected to follow.[7][8] About £9 million a year was expected to be saved over three years by cutting back on sites that do not serve a useful purpose.[7] However it emerged shortly afterwards that this was misleading, as a large proportion of the "blacklisted" sites had no plans for closure.

On 1 April 2008, Directgov moved again, from the COI to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), in a machinery of government change.[9]

By the end of the fourth quarter of 2009 Directgov reported traffic statistics of circa 20 million hits a month of which over 8 million are unique users.[10]

A national TV and radio advertising campaign was launched on the 4 January 2010 featuring a number of celebrities including Suggs, Honor Blackman and Kelly Brook.[11]

On 20 July 2010, Directgov was moved back to the Cabinet Office from the Department of Work and Pensions.[12] On 1 April 2011 Directgov became part of the Government Digital Service, overseen by the Public Expenditure Executive (Efficiency & Reform) which is co-chaired by Minister for the Cabinet Office, Francis Maude and the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander.

Replacement

On 13 September 2012, through a notice on the Directgov homepage, it was announced that the GOV.UK project, built by the Government Digital Service, will replace Directgov as the primary website of the UK Government on 17 October 2012.[13] Directgov was closed and redirected to the new website from that date.

Services

The website was primarily an information resource, providing users with officially written advice and information targeted to specific topics (e.g. motoring, money) and audiences (e.g. disabled people, parents). It also provided directories of government departments, agencies and local councils. There was also a Welsh language version of the site.

Document applications

Over time, access to online government transactions and public services were added to the site. The site linked to a number of online transactions and forms such as applying for a passport, buying a television licence, car licensing, registering to vote, and completing a Self Assessment tax return form.

Local services

From 2006, users in England were able to find out about a wide range of services provided by local councils in their area, from reporting illegally dumped rubbish to renewing a library book. Direct links to each type of service were collected from every local authority through the Local Directgov programme.

Budget documents

In a strategic partnership with http://www.direct.gov.uk/spendingreview which hosts the full documents.

Directgov ceased hosting documents for the Budget from 23 March 2011, with HM Treasury becoming the sole government host. Directgov focused instead on providing information for the public on how the Budget could affect them.

Alternative versions

A separate website branded as DirectgovKids was designed to help children aged 5 to 11 find out about the world around them, by exploring the places and people in their local community. The Flash animated site is based around a cartoon globe, with interactive buildings including a police station, a town hall and a school.[16]

A version of Directgov for mobile phones was available by typing direct.gov.uk/mobile into the phone's browser.

Directgov was also available through analogue teletext pages as well as digital interactive television on Freeview channel 106 until 1 July 2010, Sky until 22 December 2010[17] and Virgin Media until 31 March 2011.

Directgov also provided a service that covered country wide customised maps for Blue Badge Holders with different base colours reflecting councils policies on Blue Badge Holder's parking. In addition to council policies this service also would pin point the location of different features specific to the disabled community.[18]

Social media and article comments

Directgov was active on Twitter,[19] Facebook[20] and YouTube.[21]

In April 2010 Directgov launched a "Comment on this Article" feature on each page allowing users to give articles one of five ratings ranging from "Very useful" to "Not at all useful". Users could also leave comments of up to 500 characters about how a page could be improved, but were asked not to include any personally identifiable information. Directgov collected the data from the comments feature for use in customer insight and product improvement, a published an overview of monthly ratings online.

Criticism

In 2005, several internet activists affiliated with mySociety wrote Directionlessgov.com to demonstrate that they could build something better in under an hour, by using a simple web page that linked to the Google search engine. Directionlessgov was later upgraded to compare the results of Directgov’s own search engine with the Google results side by side. In discussion, one of the authors wrote:

To me the [point we are] making is not that direct.gov should be licensing Google's search... it is that direct.gov should not exist at all - in practice everybody types what they want to do into Google. With the budget saved... instead optimise text and titles on government websites i.e. do some Search Engine Optimisation. Run user tests to find the terms that people search for when wanting to do things that government can help them with. Arrange that Google, Yahoo! and MSN searches for those terms take them to the correct site.[22]

In an interview with The Guardian newspaper in August 2007, the Chief Executive of Directgov, Jayne Nickalls, responded:

Directionless does work a lot of the time. But it misses the point that Directgov joins up information for the citizen in a way that they understand. If you do a Google search you will get the information from a number of places and the citizen has to do the linking up for themself.[23]

References

External links

  • Archived website at The National Archives
  • Directgov disabled people and carers
  • DirectgovKids
  • Directgov Budget Twitter widget

Video clips

  • YouTube
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